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Being Alone Ain’t So Lonely

I distinctively remember the first time my husband broke the news. I was standing over the stove, stirring mac and cheese, while my two toddlers’ diaper-clad tushes jutted out from the side of the clear storage container we then deemed the “Toy Box.” Tiny hands tossed Lego Duplo blocks, neglected stuffed animals and small board books around the room with reckless abandon.

“For how long?” I asked, my spine stiffening. I could barely lift my eyes away from the swirling macaroni for fear he’d see the fat tears forming.

Back then, the words, “I’ll be traveling next week,” had a profound effect on me. On the one hand, they made me feel twitchy and murderous. The love I felt toward my husband turned to immediate, deep-seated loathing when I knew he’d be gone for a few days. I had visions of him eating an uninterrupted meal at the hotel restaurant. I imagined him going back to his hotel room to put his feet up on the bed, the biggest concern being what to watch on the television.

These words also left me feeling panicked and depressed. The monotony of the endless routine — wake, meal, play, nap, meal, play, nap, meal, meltdown, sleep — made me shudder. The thought of another night with whiny Calliou and his family who never changed their clothes, those abysmal hours between 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM where there was nothing to do but prepare for the wrath of little people too tired to be awake, and the 1,483rd reading of Goodnight Moon made me want to get in the car and drive away. And not come back.

If you said I’d one day welcome those words — “I’ll be traveling next week” — I’d have called you a liar. But now that my kids have grown and become more independent, I relish the opportunity to do the single parent thing for a few days.

Why the change of heart? Let me break it down for you:

1. When I’m by myself, I am free to embrace the slob in me.

While I don’t quite make the cut for the new season of “Hoarders,” I am not the neatest person in the world. But my husband knew that going in; it’s not like I tricked him or anything. The heaps of clothing in my bedroom, the countertop collection of dirty coffee mugs, the pile of shoes near the door were all pretty good indicators that I was not 1950s housewife material. I was sure to set the bar exceptionally low when he married me.

And while I make every attempt to keep my slob tendencies in check — marriage is about compromise, after all — the reality is that it feels good to have a few days every so often to let ’em loose.

So when my husband travels, my dishes get what I like to think of as a “spa treatment” in the sink. Who doesn’t need a good soak? The clutter spills from one room into the next. IMHO, finding things is a helluva lot easier when you have stuff laying around in plain sight. Opened bags of goldfish and pretzels are left scattered on the kitchen island. I find it provides my children with the optimal grazing opportunity. I have half of a king-sized bed on which to throw my clothes; I don’t have to worry about them getting in the way of making the bed, which my husband does daily. I mean, why bother to make a bed when you are going to sleep in it in a few hours, right? To me, it’s an exercise in futility.

2. When it’s just the kids and me, I don’t have to worry about meals.

My husband doesn’t expect dinner every any night of the week. While I consider him a MacGyver of sorts — he can make a full dinner out of canned tuna, hot peppers, rye bread, and ketchup with his Swiss Army knife — I just think it’s a nice gesture to have something for him to eat when he comes home from work. But when he’s away, I don’t have to think twice about it. My kids think they’re being rewarded when I break out the Kraft macaroni and cheese bowls. They still haven’t caught on that “Cereal for dinner!” is code for Mommy is too lazy to turn on the stove top or oven. I avoid the 5:00 PM “What-the-hell-am-I-going-to-make-for-dinner?!?” panic without the aid of pills or wine.

3. When I am parenting solo, I have more time for myself.

My children’s bedtime routine is a shared responsibility for my husband and me. While we start the process at 8:00 PM, the truth is that nobody is in bed until at least 9:00 PM. I don’t know what happens, but things somehow get loosy-goosy with my husband involved. I think the problem is that he’s fun. A little too much fun. But when he’s away on travel, all you hear are crickets when the clock strikes eight. Sure, one child sometimes goes rogue and escapes her bed for “an extra snuggle,” but I shut that shit down. And fast. I literally gain an entire hour to do absolutely nothing. And that time alone is glamourous. I’ll fill and subsequently abandon virtual shopping carts, take online quizzes like “Which Friends Are In Your Mafia Family?” and then retake them because I either don’t know or don’t like the friends Facebook picked, use guides to figure out my stripper name, and click on links to discover what I’ll look like when I’m old. I can cozy up in bed with my bowl of ice cream and container of rainbow sprinkles; I can scrape the spoon against the side of the bowl without disturbing anyone and even go so far as to lick the bowl without any raised eyebrows or subtle head shakes.

Yes, I’ve grown to embrace those times my husband travels. But what’s the best part of it all? When he returns home of course! I simply adore him and enjoy his company immensely. And besides — I need someone to help with all the dirty dishes and clutter that accumulated while he was away!

(Incredible Artwork provided by the very talented Jessi Olarsch. For commissions please inquire at  jessiolarsch@gmail.com  and for prints please visit www.society6.com/jessioart )

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