I’m leaving on a business trip in the morning; a week on the east coast at corporate headquarters. This is the 4th such trip in 6 months, much less than many people are required to travel, but a little too much for me and my family. Just getting things at home in order before I leave town is a major effort.
Don’t get me wrong, my husband is a fully competent parent. When I’m away the children get to school on time, they are fed, homework gets turned in, soccer practice isn’t missed, and they are tucked into bed at a reasonable hour, usually after having been read a book (ok, maybe no baths!). He doesn’t need written directions or schedules from me.
In fact, in the 15 years that we’ve been parents, our parenting and household responsibilities have, by tacit agreement, been fairly equally shared. We both know what needs to be done, we both expect to be very involved in our children’s lives, and we make it work without too much bickering. At the same time we’ve accepted fluidity as circumstances change. When my husband was between jobs, he took on all of the household chores – laundry, housework, shopping and making dinner, as well as child drop-off and pick-up. Now that he’s working extreme hours to grow his new business, I take on the lion’s share of the family responsibilities. We both know that in time, we will return to center.
But for now, before I leave home for a week I need to wash every piece of laundry in the house (to ensure that no-one will find themselves mid-week without clean underwear or socks), stock the refrigerator (so there is milk for cereal and lunches can be made each day), and – most controversial – write a list for my husband. Controversial because my husband takes pride in his family involvement. Unlike some of his fellow dads, he knows what the kids’ bedtimes are and each child’s food dislikes and favorites. But the significant difference between us is that my husband operates from day to day while I keep the family calendar and, along with it, a weekly to-do list in my head. I know that food needs to be prepared for a class potluck at the end of the week, the field trip form needs to be completed and returned this week, a gift needs to be purchased for a weekend birthday party, a special homework assignment is due at the end of the week and will require prodding, etc.
Trust me, I’m not a micro-manager. I don’t care what the children wear or even that they’ll not be bathed all week. In fact, other mothers enjoy reporting to me on the events that occured during my absences. “You’re husband was trying so hard (i.e. he’s inept), but it was so cute when A showed up at school on Wednesday with smiley faces stamped up and down her arms.” Hey, the family had a blast that week without me, riding bikes to school and having picnic dinners at the park. I can’t sweat an armful (or two) of ink!
So, I didn’t get to exercise today or relax and read a book. Instead I did many loads of laundry and made a dinnertime trip to the grocery store. Tonight I’ll stay up too late packing and tomorrow I’ll leave early for the airport. But for the next five days I’ll have no family responsibilities – I won’t have to figure out what to make for dinner that the majority will eat, I won’t have to get up at 6:30am to pack school lunches, I won’t have to race from work to school to pick up children before 6pm. I’ll have a week to be 110% focused on work (a rarity for a working parent) and will get to take care of myself too. I promise you more on that later in the week!