It is ironic that I use this picture for this post – as it was taken by my husband. We really enjoy the time we do get to spend with him.
I’m not really sure what I should call this thing that I’m doing, existing with a husband who travels for work M-Th every week, and is often working away from home 6-7 days/week. I’ve read enough posts written by actual single mothers to understand why it is hurtful and inaccurate for me to co-opt the phrase single motherhood. My partner provides monetary resources that afford me the luxury to work from home as a photographer and blogger while deciding when and how much to outsource childcare. He might not be physically present, but at the end of a hard day I am able to talk through the highs and lows of my day with him. When our children present challenges I have someone to brainstorm solutions with. We debate together, vacation together, make goals together. It’s been hard for me, but nowhere near as difficult as it would be if I were an actual single mother.
Taking on so much of the parenting load has been really difficult for me though, especially since parenting isn’t really my forte. We have no family in the area, and that means no breaks from the kids unless we pay someone. On weeknights I’m trapped in my bedroom (literally, since my oldest thinks that if I am awake and moving about that gives him license to stay up and move about his room), while my girlfriends in the area meet-up for movie nights and book clubs as their spouses watch the kids. We’re slowly building up friendships in the area, but haven’t made it to that perfect point where you don’t even bother knocking as you walk in the front door.
In short, it’s been challenging for me, with lots and lots of tears.*
The point of this post is to say that I needed something to describe my situation. Adopting consistent verbiage would help me accept where I’m at and give me a way to talk about it with others. I didn’t know of anyone else who had blazed that trail already, so I went with solo parenting. Single is the word our culture uses to describe someone who is not in a relationship, but solo is a word we use to talk about people who are alone. My husband is frequently absent, and so I am alone, though I am not single. Most of the time, I am a solo parent.
It’s important for me to talk about this, because the more I do so the more I realize how common it is. It’s very helpful for me to hear the stories and coping strategies employed by women in similar situations. The idealized 9-to-5 working schedule just isn’t an option for everyone, and I don’t think it is productive to be reductive in our discussions about work-life balance and career strategies.
I am growing daily, getting better at it with time. And I love living here! There is no other location in the world where I would rather live than Silicon Valley. I love the opportunities I have, and the way I’m living my life right now. If I want to have all of those things, traveling husband and solo parenting are also part of the equation.
What do you think, is there a better phrase to describe what I’m doing?
ETA: Lots of comments already about how we should get more help – babysitters, a nanny, maybe even an au pair. I would love that, specifically for one or two evenings each week, but our spending in other areas means we can’t afford it. Maybe you can tell all of your friends to hire me to photograph their weddings or lifestyle sessions, and then I’ll be able to pay to have some girl’s nights?
*I’m in weekly therapy now. No more breakdowns!