When Gaz announced that he was off to Slovakia for a week with work, you can imagine my reaction. A WEEK?? How am I going to cope with all four children twenty-four hours a day by myself? Because its one thing having them all day while he’s at work, but at half past four I am safe in the knowledge that he will walk through the door and I can go for a wee, a shower and maybe even a sit down. But on my own? How would that even work? And where the hell is Slovakia anyway??
And so off he went, despite a last bid attempt to hide his passport (which actually backfired as being woken up at 2am to ask me where I had hidden it wasn’t quite the hilarious prank I had envisaged) and I was well and truly on my own.
So of course the following day I woke up with a cold that appeared over night like a slap in the face as though to say, guess what? This week is going to be even harder than you ever imagined!! And by a cold I don’t just mean a sniffle, I’m talking about a full on head cold that felt like an axe to the head every time I bent down to pick up a child, a toy or clean up yet another spillage. I was sweating, shivering and desperately in need of a good few days in bed. Instead I faced a week of riding solo sponsored by paracetamol, sinus spray and antiseptic throat lozenges.
And I never said that it was easy having four children, infact it’s impossibly hard at times, but never have my children been more hard work than they have this week. It’s like they realised that Daddy was away, sensed that I am weak and between them they have plotted my downfall. I can just picture them rubbing their chubby little hands together with a menacing smirk on their faces, let’s try our best to destroy Mummy’s last shred of sanity!!
Let’s spill our drinks, refuse to eat our meals, scream for broccoli and other foods that we don’t even like, let alone want. Let’s poo on the couch, on the floor, in our pants, stick our hands down our dirty nappies and make Mummy spend half her week cleaning up our bodily fluids. Let’s cry the entire night long, cough until we make ourselves sick and refuse to sleep anywhere but in Mummy’s bed where we will sleep diagonal, toss and turn and gouge Mummy’s eyes out when she finally manages to grab two minutes sleep.
Let’s fight, scream and slap each other, argue, bicker and cry, swing from the blinds and leap off the couches. Let’s shout for Daddy at 2am on repeat, wake up at 5am on the dot and scream “I want Cbeebies!” until Mummy loses the will to live. Let’s one of us be ill, need the doctors, the hospital, let’s even throw in an emergency chest x-Ray. Lets undress ourselves as soon as Mummy has dressed us, declare that we are hungry, poorly or can’t possibly sleep without a specific teddy bear that Mummy has no chance of finding.
Let’s clamber all over her, hang from her legs, pull on her already screwed sciatic nerve, claw at her chest, neck and face. Let’s do the exact opposite of everything that she tells us, laugh in her face when she tells us off and run and hide in opposite directions so she has no idea who to chase first.
Let’s break her down until she is reduced to tears and then let’s scream, the most high-pitched screech we can muster, for three hours solid without stopping for breath. Let’s promise to be better behaved and two minutes later break our toys, smash a glass or draw on the walls with felt tip pens. Let’s scratch, bite and kick when we are told off, throw back our heads and wind Mummy so that not only is she crying, but now she can’t breathe either.
Let’s open the front door so that the dog runs away and Mummy has to run through the streets in her mis-matched pyjamas. Let’s repeatedly dip our hair in our cereal/bolgonese/yoghurt so that Mummy has to wash it twice in one day and then let’s scream blue murder each time she does. Let’s empty every pack of baby wipes that we can get our hands on, smear ourselves in vaseline, time every wee for those few moments that Mummy takes off our nappies and make sure that the washing pile exceeds the heights of Everest.
Yes, let’s do just that.
And they did. And my sanity slowly slipped away from me and by mid-week I was a shell of the mother that I was a week ago.
And like it wasn’t hard enough being on my own, feeling tired, exhausted and ill, but when Gaz decided to phone me up and whinge about how hard it is for HIM being away, it was like a red rag to a raging bull. “It’s awful here”, he said, trying his best to disguise the fact that he was more than a little bit drunk, “You don’t understand how hard it is for me!”. And I sat there, listening to my children scream in stereo, thinking is he for real?? You’re over there in a luxury hotel, sleeping in your own bed, eating hot food, having two showers a day in the thirty degree heat? My heart bleeds!!! And as I hung up the phone, crawled into bed and overdosed on my sinex spray, I questioned how I had ever coped on my own.
Because it wasn’t too long ago that I was a single parent, for a good two and half years before I met Gaz. And as hard as it had been to parent a child whilst dealing with the breakdown of my marriage, I had survived it relatively well. In some ways I had actually found it easier! There was less washing for a start, less food to cook, less feelings to consider, one less person to think about each day. Lewis was four and so entirely self-sufficient, there were no nappies to change, bottles to make and he could dress, feed and look after himself. We spent our evenings leisurely watching DVDs, eating out at various restaurants and our weekends gallivanting around the North West. When people used to say to me, “Single parent? That must be hard!” I used to think, really? I’m having a ball!
But by the end of this week, venturing out was no longer possible. I was physically, mentally and emotionally drained and even if I had somehow found the energy, after a week of not washing my hair I couldn’t for shame let anyone see me out in public! When my own Mother felt the need to point out that my hair was looking “a little greasy” I realised that things were bad. And when Eva had her fifth accident of the week, still suffering with a stomach bug, and I found myself scraping poo out of yet another pair of trousers and questioning how one child can produce THAT much bodily waste, I realised that my life had hit a new-found parenting low. As I cried over ANOTHER spilled drink and took in the bombsite that is our home, I discovered a whole new respect for single parents and what they have to deal with every single day.
Because the truth is, it IS hard on your own and yet you have no other option but to get on with it. Juggling four children isn’t impossible, but it is undoubtedly the hardest job in the world. I salute all single Mums who cope with their children every day without the knowledge that at the end of the week their husband will come home and relieve them from it. It must be soul destroying at times to go to bed each night, absolutely exhausted, knowing that there is no chance of a sit down, a rest or a tiny bit of “me time” the next day. Because as hard as it is being a Mummy to my four, even with Gaz at home in the evenings and weekends, it must be ten times harder for those on their own.
And in a way, this week has taught me that not only do I need my husband to share the load and keep me sane, but that I kind of miss him when he isn’t around. And after months of resenting him the very air he breathes and plotting ways to suffocate him as he snored beside me during those long night feeds, having the chance to miss him has reminded me that actually, he’s not THAT bad. Infact, we make a pretty good team.
And I suppose, in a lot of ways, this week has shown me that when it’s absolutely necessary, I CAN cope on my own! With the help of my parents, good friends and Lewis, we found a way to muddle through. And actually, from the children’s perspective, we’ve had a really lovely week. We’ve been to playgroups, a party, a day out to the farm, we’ve visited friends, spent time in the garden enjoying the sunshine and watched more Cbeebies and eaten more chocolate than Daddy would ever allow!!
But thank god, after what felt like forever, Gaz finally came home, bursting through the door laden down with extravagantly wrapped gifts. And we all fell into his arms, covered him with kisses and cuddles and told him just how much we had missed him and begged him to never leave us again.
Who am I kidding? He brought me home a chocolate wafer biscuit that he had swiped from the hotel and I immediately ran upstairs for a wee, a shower and a well deserved lie down!!!