Disclaimer: This post is likely going to be dismissed as privileged. I’m happily married, my wife and I work together sharing parenting responsibilities, and I’ve only been a ‘single dad’ for 2 weeks out of the past month. Still, it’s given me a small window into the world of solo parenting and it’s that reality I write about here.
My favorite part of the day is from 3:05p to 3:20p. That tiny 15 minute window is my solace, my peace, my happy place. The rest of the day, from the time my alarm goes off at 5:20a to whenever it is I fall asleep in front of the tv around 9, is hectic. 3:05p is when I smile.
For two of the past four weeks, my wife has been in Italy. The recipient of some incentive bonuses for work, she’s been visiting wineries in Barolo, Veneto, and Tuscany. She’s foraged for truffles, ridden gondolas, sipped prosecco, and eaten all the pasta. I’m so happy for her. She’s worked hard to earn those rewards, she’s damn good at her job, and I’m glad she’s taking some time for herself.
But at the same time, I miss having time for me. This is the worst part about being a single dad with a full-time job: I’ve lost me.
My days look like this:
5:20a the alarm goes off and I go downstairs to prepare for my radio shows. For the next 90 minutes I’ll put together the information I’ll need to host radio programs in Edmonton and Calgary each day.
6:45a realize my time is getting short and I need to eat. While I inhale some yogurt and granola, and try to have a coffee, I’ll unload the dishwasher from the night before, and make the boys’ lunches.
7:00a our nanny arrives. With my wife out of town, and me starting work so early, we have a caregiver to help us for 90 minutes each morning getting the boys to school. She sits with them from 7 until 8:30, making sure they get to school on time.
At 7a I also run upstairs, wake the boys, get them dressed, have a shower, and get out the door by 7:15, making sure the boys’ book bags are put together, papers are signed, and lunches are all ready.
I’m at work by 7:45ish when I settle in to a studio to record my Edmonton program. At 9:00a I’m on the air for 5 hours live in Calgary.
2:00p I’m off air to do some office paperwork and production for the next day. By 2:40p, I’m down into the parkade and heading home.
3:05p This is my happy place, for the next 15 to 20 minutes, I just soak in the quiet of being alone. I make a snack, watch some sports highlights, and just .. sigh. The time is short, but I love it.
3:20p I’m out the door and walking to pick the boys up from school. Their bell rings at 3:30p. We might stop at the park on the way home, we might not, but usually we’re back around 4:00p.
This after school / before bed window is when it gets hectic. I need to nag the boys about homework, unpacking their lunches, and cleaning up messes. I need to make dinner, juggling driving them to activities on time and other responsibilities.
Dinner is on the table by 5:00p when I must commence the urging of my children to actually eat a small piece of meat and some vegetables in under an hour and a half. Then I chauffeur them off to soccer or dance or art, running back with one child while entertaining the other.
All the fuss stops around 7:30p, when I then need to urge them to get upstairs, brush teeth, finish off homework, and get ready for bed and reading.
By 8:30p, this is usually done and they ‘re asleep.
And I’m spent.
This is the time when, in my head, I’ll dive into my blogs, get some business projects accomplished, and be really productive.
But I’m beat.
And the laundry needs to be done. And the dishes. And the vacuuming. And the beds. And, and, and..
Once the boys are finally down my head is filled with fog. I end up collapsing on the couch, endlessly scroll the internet, reading clips on social media, tv humming in the background until I fall asleep in the living room soon after 9p.
And while I love those 15 minutes of me time in the mid afternoon, it’s not enough. I haven’t exercised once in the two weeks my wife has been away. I’m exhausted, stressed, worn down. I’ve put on weight, I have a shorter temper.
I can hold this world together for a week, but if I was put into this position for much longer? Things would start to crumble and fall apart quickly. The house would get dirtier, the laundry would pile, I’d be more tired, and .. wow, I can’t imagine.
I don’t know how single parents do it.
I have no time to look after me. Granted, my strict schedule for work plays a role in my inability to find time to have a walk at lunch. That lack of exercise and time to recharge me and my spirit has been the worst part about being a single dad.
It is no big deal looking after my kids for a week. I’m a dad, I’m a parent, I can do this. They’re happy, they’re healthy, they’re clean, they’re well fed, they’re exercised, they’re homeworked. Everything about them is fine, but me? It’s been a big deal to try and look after me this past week. It’s a complete sacrifice when you’re a single parent.