The past few days have been very different for me. In a good way.
Since Thursday my ex-wife has been at work conference and these things go on till late. Talks all day, dinner in the evening, talking about collaborations and mutually beneficial projects and papers, networking and shizzle like that. She’s not done this for a while as, well, you know from my previous posts, life has changed. It’s a massively important part of her job and she’s entering into a period where she’ll have to go to a few more conferences as the nature of her project is changing and some of these will be overseas.
Yeah, you do detect a big smile on my face.
This means I get to spend a lot more time with my children.
And so, while my ex has been at this conference, I’ve been picking the children up from playgroup, making them dinner, sorting out bath time, story time and bed time and tucking them into bed. Back in the SAHD-dle so to speak. And this weekend I was with them for the entire two days.
Over the weekend we did fun things because we fucking well could. Went to a soft play centre and had lunch in a restaurant. Played in splashpools and fountains and went to a fair. It was a lot of fun and us three children were all happy and sleepy come bedtime. Saturday night I think I slept with a smile on my face.
But tomorrow it will be back to normal as the conference is over. Their mum will pick them up from playgroup and we’ll go back to our usual routine. And I know, come 5.30pm I’ll be thinking about how much I just want to pick them up from playgroup and see their faces, hear their “Daddy! Daddy!” and hear from the leader of the group how good they’ve been. Hearing this from someone else makes my heart swell with pride. A feeling, as any parent knows, can’t be matched.
Doing this has made me realise how much I miss the old job, as a SAHD. And, actually, how this job fitted me very well. I got to spend time with the two most important people in the world but I know I’ve learnt more about them over the past few days than I have in ages.
And yet I also know I can’t ask my ex-wife if I can do this more often, because I know that she loves it too. For me to ask to do this two or three times a week, would deny her the opportunity of doing something she loves. I spent three years being a SAHD and she missed out on things like their first steps, first words and first tantrums. She missed out on time with them as they grew up.
Now my ex-wife takes them to playgroup, works all day and then picks them up and takes them home. She doesn’t spend all day with them like I used to. Every day she only spends two and a half hours with them, an hour in the morning and an hour and a half making dinner and doing bedtimes. To ask for more opportunities for me to do this would take something away from her.
Much as I want to. Much as I want to say ‘T&K are also my children. I want to do this’ I can’t. I can’t take this precious time away from her.
It’s so damn hard being a parent who can’t spend as much time with your children as you want, or as much as you did when you cared for them full-time. You look back and compare the time you used to spend with them and the small amount of time you have with them now. And at times you can’t help feel anything other than cheated. It wasn’t supposed to be LIKE THIS!
But it is. This is life now. Our children don’t love one or other of us more than the other, and thankfully my ex-wife and I are consistent with things like discipline, mealtimes, what they eat and when they eat it. We share a similar attitude to bedtimes and the amount of times the TV can be on, and we…
Actually it’s funny. A couple of weeks back T was playing up at dinner time and my ex-wife and I said the same thing to him at the same time. “If you don’t eat your meal then there will be no playing in the conservatory!” T got it in stereo, poor bugger, from two people who hadn’t agreed this but knew instinctively that this was the only way we could negotiate this scenario. It showed we were on the same wavelength.It showed something good. It showed that despite all the trauma and horror of the past 9 months we actually agreed on something!
I offered her a high five but she declined.
Tomorrow will be different. It’s probably why I was feeling a bit blue today. I knew today would be the last day of me doing this for a while, but I know that my ex-wife has missed this too while she’s been sitting in boring talks by boring speakers, because of what her job requires. I know how pleased she’ll be to see their faces, hear their “Mummy! Mummy!” and hear from the leader of the group how good they’ve been. Her heart will swell with as much pride as mine did.
We both want the same things, and sadly we can’t have them at the same time. But I’m lucky, blessed and honoured to be able to spend any time I can with my children. Some people aren’t as fortunate.
Thanks for reading.