I don’t get out much.
And that’s fine. No, really. I mean, yes, I’d love more regular outings sans kids with my wife, and I’d surely appreciate more solo time to read and write. (Read: to nap.) And yes, just a couple hours ago I had one of those archetypal moments SAHMs often refer to when dreaming of the day they get to use the bathroom alone and in peace. (And yes, I just wrote that last sentence while my eldest darling stopped by the computer desk just long enough to blow a birthday party noisemaker in my ear.)
But life being what it is, it just works out that way, most of the time, and I’m okay with it. But this week is different. This week, la dra. and I are sort of changing places.
In a few hours, in the pre-dawn darkness, I’ll be winging my way toward Austin, Texas and the inaugural Dad 2.0 Summit, where I’m proud to be among an amazing array of speakers and panelists. I won’t be back until way past the bedtimes of all my family members on Sunday night. That’s three nights—and two weekdays, which my wife is taking off from work.
That’s right. I’m going on a business trip, and she’s staying home with the kids. Freaky, huh?
When The Pumpkin was three and I was working outside the home, I was gone one night to speak at a digital journalism workshop, but I left on a Sunday and the next day was a regular preschool and work day. A year ago, I was privileged to rep parentbloggers on a panel at an Asian American bloggers’ conference, and was gone two nights; that time, I left after the school- and work-day was over on a Friday and came back Sunday, and my in-laws came on Saturday and stayed until Sunday.
While la dra. and the girls will go down south for the weekend to visit la dra.’s family and celebrate our nephew’s fifth birthday [Happy birthday, Moose! Sorry I won’t be there!], Thursday and Friday will be my wonderful partner’s first real solo at-home-parent experience. La dra.’s been going on multiple business trips a year for advocacy, activism, and education, and when The Pumpkin was younger, and especially when it was just her and I was at home, it was no big thing for all of us to go with her. But now, with her in second grade and having to miss school, and with The Button, at three years old, getting more and more independent [read: harder to wrangle], it’s easier for her to go solo for most trips. Last year, she spent an amazing week at two family medicine conferences working on advocacy, leadership development, and legislative lobbying; that was the longest I’d gone solo. More typical are trips like the one she took last month, which, like mine this week, was Thursday to Sunday.
I know that it’s a stereotypical trope for an at-home parent (usually a SAHM) to worry about leaving their work-outside-the-home partner at home with the kids overnight, and then to be happily surprised when they return to an intact home and uninjured children. I am so not doing that. I am, however, leaving my wife with a detailed list of what happens on a weekday when she’s not at home, from when to leave to get to school on time to what kind of snacks the girls eat in the afternoon. And I also know that, as a SAHD, my kneejerk reaction to reading a post by a SAHM who leaves her husband detailed instructions when she goes away would probably be similar to the reaction of dads across the interwebs to the current Huggies fiasco (for example, see this post by the moderator of my Dad 2.0 panel on dads and community). And please, please believe me that this is not like that. (Heh. That sounds exactly like what someone would say if it was exactly like that.)
You see, I’m the kind of person who puts toothpaste on his wife’s toothbrush because he’s the first in the bathroom, or routinely unplugs his wife’s cellphone in the morning and puts it in her work bag, or puts his kid’s homework folder in her backpack. And this is by no means a humblebrag or anything, because the kind of person who routinely does these sorts of things out of love and caring is also the kind of person who, as a result, has family members who forget their stuff because they’re used to it already being where they need it. And thus, the checklist.
I am also the kind of person who does all the laundry and dishes so that my wife can concentrate only on enjoying her time with our daughters during her first experience of SAHMishness. (Okay, that one is sort of a humblebrag, so sue me.) I am glad that she will be able to take The Button to her parent-participation kiddie-gym class and The Pumpkin to her gymnastics class, both of which she never gets to go to. I am glad that she’ll be able to go to both The Pumpkin’s class play and her oral language competition. I am glad that she’ll get to meet the other parents that only know me (though I’m confident that no one will ask her, as they might if the situation were reversed, if she’s babysitting today). I am glad she’ll get this time she usually doesn’t get. And I am so thankful to her that she’s enabling me to go to this conference, an early birthday present of sorts (yeah, I’m turning 38 on Tuesday).
That whole thing about how I don’t really need time to myself, at the beginning of this post? Yeah, screw that. I do need this. More and more, I’m catching myself losing my patience with my girls, overreacting, yelling when I shouldn’t. I’m so used to our daily routine, I don’t want that to become part of it. I don’t want to expect too much out of a couple days (well, actually, at three nights and four days, the longest I’ll have ever been away from my wife and two daughters all at the same time) away, even amongst my peers and colleagues—dads, bloggers, writers. But I hope I return a little calmer, less tired, refreshed, ready to give my girls the patience they deserve, and ready to refocus and recommit to my own writing and my own creativity.
Oh, and full of Texas barbeque.
Good night, everybody. The next few days should be fun.