Monday, July 09, 2012

Reflections on "Occasional" Single Parenting

I confess: I am not the most graceful single parent. When we first started discussing the possibility of moving to Ecuador and taking on Operation Ecuador's Kumanii ministry, I first worried about living in such a remote area -- 3 hours upriver by boat from the nearest sizable town -- and the isolation that would result. Then, after Rusty's survey trip last November, when it became evident that Quito would be the best place for us to locate, for the first few years anyway, a whole new set of worries cropped up. Because, even though we live in the capital city of Ecuador, Rusty's work and the place where he will eventually focus the majority of his energy is in the jungle along the Cayapas River, an 8-hour journey away. And this will require him to do a lot of traveling and be away from home a lot, usually for several days at a time. And it means that I'll be left behind to hold down the fort and parent three boys single-handedly while he's away.

I don't like parenting alone. It's not nearly as much fun and a whole lot more work. I honestly don't know how real single parents do it, and I have so much respect for those that do it and do it well. My boys act up more when their dad is gone. Okay, so I act up more when their dad is gone, too! I find it harder to be patient, and I lose my cool a lot more. When you're a single parent, it's all on you. There's no one to spot you when you start to get frustrated, to back you up when you need to discipline, to play with the kids while you're cooking dinner, to supervise bathtime while you clean up the kitchen, to give the baby his bottle while you read bedtime stories to the older ones. You have to figure out a way to do it all yourself -- the kids and the meals and the house and the shopping and the running around to doctor's appointments and playdates and such. And as if all that weren't enough, I have to make my own coffee in the mornings! This may not seem like such a big deal to some, but Rusty has always been the coffee maker in our home. When he's not around, I either have to go without or make it myself -- and if I ever needed coffee, it's when I'm parenting solo!

I also don't like doing life alone, especially in a foreign country, in a new city, where I am still learning the language, still learning my way around. I'm not naturally independent or adventurous (really, I only live the life I do because I married an adventurer). It takes me a long time to feel comfortable enough in a new environment to want to go places and do things by myself. We've been in Ecuador less than 3 months now, and I don't even drive here yet, partially because I don't have an international driver's license -- it was one of those things that I just forgot to take care of before we left the States. But mostly because the very idea of driving our enormous truck with the manual transmission, in this busy city with these crazy drivers, is enough to scare the living daylights out of me and make me want to swear of driving and just take a cab everywhere. It is South America after all -- cabs are plentiful and cheap!

At the end of May and then again in mid-June, Rusty went out to Kumanii with two different groups. He was gone for a week each time. The first time, at the end of May, the boys and I went and stayed with my sister and her kids (Josh went to Kumanii also). Even though having 7 kids under the age of 7 in the same house for a week got a little, shall we say, chaotic at times, we had a great time! Julie and I both appreciated having someone around to help out -- when she needed to pick Michaela up from school, I could stay home with napping children; when I needed something from the store, I could leave the boys with her and walk over and pick it up alone. And we built in some fun girl-time by watching Season 2 of Downton Abbey together in the evenings after the kids were in bed. It was a great way to unwind at the end of each day.

The second time, in mid-June, the Marcums were already in the States on their furlough, so we had to figure out what the boys and I were going to do for an entire week on our own. We decided to stay at the Marcum's house again, due to their house not only being more comfortable (until the container gets here, it's like we're camping out in our own home), but also closer to good medical care in case of an emergency. I worried that it would be a rough week, but it actually went very well and we had no major problems. Of course, we were all glad to see Rusty come home at the end of the week. The boys were glad to have their daddy and wrestling buddy back. And I was glad to have my hubby, parenting partner, and barista back. Life's just better and a lot more fun when he's around!

Coming tomorrow -- I'll share some of the strategies I attempted to implement during my week of solo parenting.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, this year has been a lot single parenting for me. It really helped to start a bit of homeschool - it was a good way for me to spend quality time with Ellie. Teague and the boys were here a lot (or we were there). I think the hardest part for me wasn't the parenting but just missing my hubby. I feel good now about a decent amount of traveling for Danny, but I do think(and hope) it will be a little less this next term than during our first stint. (Can you believe we're on our second term!?) Love you, you can do it!