Eleven days alone.
…Not that I was counting or anything.
When Sam’s away, life becomes a series of numbers. Days counted down until his return on a calendar in my head. Stats that are immediately telling as to whether I’m happily coping or a sleep deprived mess. So, I thought it would be fitting to write this post ‘my week in numbers’ style.
11 days without Sam.
1 hour in a 24 hour day with no children awake or needing me.
2 evenings where Rory actually slept from 8 – 10.30pm leaving me with a glimmer of an evening to myself.
2 4am starts to the day.
6 interrupted dinners.
7 nights that Arlo slept all the way through without needing me for any reason.
0 nights that Rory slept all the way through without needing me for any reason.
2 takeaways ordered. (Pretty good by my standards)
4 engagements not attended due to lack of babysitters.
A million times I was asked “What time is dada getting home today?”
5 nights of fireworks. 5!! (The perils of bonfire night falling midweek).
1 new phone game obsession.
1 mini meltdown from me (speaking from past experience, the 8 day mark seems to be where I lose it).
264 hours where I was ‘with children’ all the time.
0 complete disasters.
Now that Sam’s back I can say this without feeling like I’m going to jinx the whole thing, BUT…
This solo stint was definitely one of the best I’ve had (despite being one of the longer trips, too).
I had really started to dread Sam’s trips away. It eats away at my thoughts constantly in the week leading up to him going, the days drag whilst he is away, and my first thought every morning is “Thank god we got through another night”. It feels like surviving – stumbling through a haze, rather than living my life. And I hate it being that way.
Usually, when Sam’s away, I am too anxious to eat or sleep properly. I feel that I need to be alert at night, to jump to attention as soon as one of the kids needs me. And it’s always only ever a matter of hours before someone will need me.
My mind races thinking about all the things that could go wrong, and I’m constantly tweaking my plan of action in case something does happen. I lose all appetite, so I neglect to eat. And then it’s a repeating cycle of no sleep, no fuel – spinning myself out until I feel there’s a very thin line between OK and breaking point.
I have written before about the anxiety and sleep deprivation I feel when Sam is away (I have two kids that don’t sleep well, even without the anxiety it feels like running a marathon). But it’s time to face up to it all, because Sam’s work trips are very frequent now. For at least one week a month, this is now our life. And I owe it to the kids and to myself to attempt to function as best I can and lead our normal lives when it’s just me at home. I will try my very best not to have my issues affect my children.
So, this time, there were a few differences.
As much as it doesn’t come naturally to me, as I get older, I can better appreciate the benefits of talking. I am currently seeing a counsellor and we are in the midst of overhauling and attempting to finally process the many things that have happened, the last five years in particular. Working through my specific anxieties is a part of that. Knowing that I have a dedicated person to debrief with seems to have made me feel more calm.
My usual routine is to push everything down, not make a fuss. I’m always “fine”. Mainly, this is because I don’t like asking for help and I’ve always just tried to do everything by myself as best I can. It’s not because I don’t like having help, it’s because I’m not very good at recognising when I’m not coping very well. There’s also a small part of me that insists on berating myself for feeling like I can’t cope with simple parenting stuff when I know single parents with three kids and 6 day a week jobs who don’t have any fall-back, like I do. But comparing myself to others isn’t going to change my struggles or the way I feel about my situation. Recently, I’ve allowed myself to make allowances for the things that I struggle with, at least to myself, taking time to be aware of the things that tend to set me off.
I guess this is another big part of my ‘Year of Me’, but it was a bit too big a topic to tackle in my last post.
I ate fresh food, proper meals, not snacks (scrambled egg, avocado, mushrooms, and asparagus were my staples – things that I can finish cooking in less time than it takes before a child that has just woken up will need me desperately), and I made sure to give myself an hour on the sofa each day, even if the kids needed something (they always do) and even if there were a million tasks I needed to do (there always are). And I slept better. Maybe as a result of the first two things.
Arlo made a big difference, too. When he sleeps well at night, it’s a game-changer. I can concentrate all my night time efforts on Rory, I don’t have to run between the two of them. It felt like we were on the same team, rather than exacerbating each others stress.
For now, I am holding onto the memory of the last 11 days. Reminding myself that it doesn’t always have to be overwhelmingly stressful and exhausting.