For much of my adolescence, I spent weeknight dinners and weekends with my mother, father, and sister. It gave a feeling of consistency and solidity knowing most nights the whole family would be home, gathered around the table, talking about how the kid next door is a future criminal or how the assistant principal is rumored to have a prosthetic leg.
Cut to my adulthood with my restaurant manager husband and that is not our reality. We typically get dinner together twice a week and I am typically putting the kids to bed on my own the remaining five. I remember lying awake with anxiety, pregnant, and in a new home alone with our toddler as he worked the closing shift. I remember breaking down when our newborn was two weeks old as my husband left for a manager meeting on his day “off.” I remember having countless arguments over the demands of his job taking him away from his family.
But now that the crazy pregnancy hormones are flushed out of my system and I am generally getting a full night’s sleep (thank freaking god) I can see the upsides to this life of mine a little more clearly despite my sole dinner companions on most nights being poor conversationalists and having terrible manners.
On the nights my husband closes, he does not go in until 4 pm. Have you left the kids at home with your husband on a weekday and went to Target by yourself? It’s blissful. There’s no negotiating in the Dollar Spot about what they will get if they manage to behave themselves as I frantically make my way from the dairy section to the diapers hoping they don’t see some flashy toy. There’s no awkwardly placing the cart in the middle of the aisle to be sure little hands can’t reach the shelves. There’s no string of replies to an inquisitive toddler asking “what’s that?” every nanosecond. It’s just me, my cart, and a list of things I know I won’t stick to. It’s damn near therapeutic.
When I am putting the children to bed on those same nights, it has its challenges. I, of course, am outnumbered and often exhausted. However, if I can make it through the routine of getting milk sippy cups, diaper changes, pajamas, and bedtime stories that often come with an encore performance, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That light? The glow of the TV as I hunker down on the couch to binge watch something not appropriate for the kids and not my husband’s cup of tea. Then I take enough melatonin to sedate a small horse, turn on the box fan to drown out any creaking in the house that sounds like an ax murderer, situate myself in the middle of the bed, and drift off to dreamland.
Not looking too far ahead, this is what works for us right now. I can bring one kid to their doctor’s appointment while leaving the other at home with my husband. I can spare myself cooking anything more extravagant than scrambled eggs for an audience of one on most nights. I can re-center myself at the end of a long day with some alone time. I can make myself a better mother because of it.