Holding down the family fort when your partner’s away



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I will be the first to admit I’m a spoiled stay-at-home-mom. I have the luxury of having a husband who works from a home office most of the time, allowing me to enjoy that coveted 10 minutes of bathroom time without an audience. Recognizing most SAHMs have little to no help during that busy morning routine, I feel doubly fudged when Greg does have to go out of town for work because he’s usually here. I am a one woman tug of war team and during a moment of weakness, the rope and my problem-solving skills are yanked away from me, trumped once again by Team Children.

Recently, I had a small taste of what it would be like trying to handle things on my own while Greg, was at a work conference in sunny Cuba.

I took on breakfast, hair-combing, teethbrushing, getting kids dressed, packing lunches, making beds, changing diapers and filling out copious amounts of school forms, in addition to collecting and taking out the garbage and recycling.

But alas, this week wasn’t to carry on without incident.

It was dark and stinky in the garage at 5:55 a.m. when I remembered to take out the recycling. I was a bit jittery about the morning creatures (raccoons, coyotes, bears) that might jump at the opportunity to visit an open garage, with that welcoming smell of dirty diapers and partially rinsed out yogurt containers.

I bent down to lift the bag out of the green bin and was hit in the head by the strategically placed golf ball on a string meant to prevent me from hitting Greg’s precious man stuff when I squeal home in the minivan.

I thought I was being attacked by a bat. Who wouldn’t? After a couple of swift high-kicks and frantic punches to the air, I managed to quiet myself and drag the bags to the curb.

I returned to find a seven-year-old who had lost the ability to put on socks unassisted and a four-year-old emerging from her bedroom announcing, “I’m wearing the dress I wore to Great Grandma’s funeral to school today.”

Hanna decided to pester the baby by using her plush, stuffed owl to peck at her face with the faux leather beak. Every once and again the hard plastic eyes made contact with the baby’s nose causing her to squeal with frustration. “What? She likes it!”

One Goth, one bare-foot seven-year-old and a baby with beak wounds and out the door we went. But not before the phone rings.

His timing is impeccable. I’ve set the alarm to leave the house, two-and-a-half kids are out the door, but I’m sure Daddy is calling to say good morning and wish the girls well at school.

I heard all about the delicious meal, the single malt and the Cuban cigars from the night before while I was left to protect our family, jolting at every sound thanks to the wrong decision to watch Dateline alone.

“What did you guys have for dinner?”he asked.

“Cereal.”

Did he sense a tone?

“Someone brought a magnum of champagne to celebrate our great quarter.”

It was like shooting me in the temple with the cork.

“Oh, and did I tell you this hotel has the most comfortable feather beds.”

I explained my situation to a couple of girlfriends who suggested I let the laundry wait and leave the toys on the fl oor rather than stress about trying to do everything. Oh girls, I am way ahead of you.

It seems when Greg goes out of town, things that are scheduled to break down usually do. This time, it was the humidifier, which, with all its techie buttons and doohickeys, has become the latest item on the list of things I should learn how to operate should anything happen to Greg.

At last, after a long week of meetings, the prodigal Dad returns. He finds us, through the pile of rubble and clothing, shivering like wee birds, and launches into the merits of the scotch and cigar he enjoyed the prior evening.

I’m not sure what they taught at this conference but Knowing Your Audience was obviously not on the agenda.


Liz Hastings is a frequent contributor to ParentsCanada and lives near Guelph, Ont. When she’s not hunting bats or rolling cigars, she’s blogging at teaandsnippets.com. She is also planning a trip to an undisclosed location – alone.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, July 2012.

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