SINGLE PARENTING VS CO-PARENTING
If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that for the first part of this year, I got to experience a whole new side of parenting, in the form of single parenting. Usually, a co-parenting family, our dynamic was tested on a whole new level, when Andy my husband, jetted half-way across the world for work commitments, and I was left solo.
As many say, the grass is greener, and for some families, changing up the dynamic is sometimes the only option, but for us it was a huge, but temporary, learning curve. The first year of parenthood for Andy and I was particularly hard. We argued most days, something which we rarely did before, we never saw eye-to-eye on routine, sleep, crying, feeding, pretty much anything relating to how you raise your child and it was incredibly draining. In hindsight, the three months apart probably came at a very good time for us. Don't get me wrong, we were and are still head over heels for one another, but raising a child is hard. Something no-one ever seems to admit to you before you have them!
For the first week, I cried every day. I was emotionally and physically drained, Knox is a particularly rubbish eater due to low iron, and this has a knock on effect on his sleep. I literally didn't know if I was coming or going and surviving mainly on coffee (and wine). I'm not one to feel sorry for myself, but after leaving the house fully unlocked and the door wide open, I decided I needed to get a grip and prove to Andy I could cope on my own.
As I mentioned earlier, Andy and I didn't agree on how to get Knox sleeping, many of our friends had suggested the controlled crying method, but for me, this wasn't an option, so my first and most important challenge whilst Andy was away, was to get Knox in a better routine so he would hopefully sleep. Prior to Andy going, we'd started a new bedtime routine with Andy putting Knox to bed and this was proving to work, but his sleep wasn't consistent, so I continued down that road and eventually Knox started to sleep. (See previous post on what we did here)
A few weeks in, we seemed to be getting into our new groove, when Knox was struck down by a horrible virus and had a temperature of 42 degrees. Now, more than ever, I wished I'd had Andy with me. The pressure of having to make the definitive decision as to whether or not to call an ambulance is something you never want to do as a parent. Knox was inconsolable and impossible to medicate in the state he was in, so, I did call them. When they arrived, in 10 inches of snow, they made the decision he was going to have to be assessed in hospital, he was to be taken in the ambulance, and I was to follow in the car. I hated that I wouldn't be able to console him on his way to hospital but, I had no choice. It wasn't until the ambulance crew realised they were stuck, that I had to drive Knox in our car. Five hours and two hospitals later, we were on our way home, with some stronger medication in the form of paracetamol suppositories. I chose not to tell Andy about the experience as he was trying to focus on his job and I didn't want to unnecessarily worry him. When Knox was better, I did of course share the news.
The thing that became abundantly apparent to me was that all of the milestones you often take for granted when you're both around, are the things you so desperately want to share with your other half when they're not. Due to work, Andy had missed Knox learning to crawl and now walk too. It sounds crazy, but you almost feel guilty for enjoying those moments, as you know how much they would mean to the person missing them.
In some ways, there are pros, there is only two people to think about. Two mouths to feed and that really means one, as I never really cook for myself. Two peoples washing, the house is tidier generally, but the pro's for me didn't ever mask the feeling of an empty home.
One thing I realised, is how much you take the other person for granted. Whether it's sitting next to them on the sofa to watch an episode on Netflix, a shared glance when your child does something funny, a cup of coffee brought to you in bed after a night of hell. All these moments made me realise how important working at your relationship is, and not forgetting why you wanted a family in the first place....because you love the other person. One of our great friends said if you and your partner can be united together, everything else fits into place, and this is something I still work at on a daily basis. I've learned that with a strong opinion and raging hormones (which are thankfully starting to stabilise) I can be very overbearing at times. Not through ignorance, but just because I'm so desperate to do the best, and be the best for Knox.
After making it through the best part of the three months, my worries turned to how Knox would be when Andy came back. Andy will openly admit that he and Knox's relationship wasn't like the movies, another thing I think so many fathers struggle with in the first year. You go from being a two in a bulletproof relationship, to three, with a very hormonal wife, who only cares about the wellbeing of her baby and the father is generally sidelined. So, it's a hard transition for anyone to adjust to. I'm sure some perfect mothers get it all right, but I like to be as open and honest as possible, and for me, it took Andy being away to realise that it was my way or the highway for the first year. Now, I try to remind myself that by taking one step back as a mother, we step forward together as a family.
Adjusting back into our family dynamic was a relief. The Stepford wife in me came out (for a few weeks) I batch cooked, had an immaculate home for Andy to return from work to and he and Knox have gone from strength to strength. I even made the decision to go away for a girls night leaving Knox with his dad and Nanny and Grandad Brown. Something that would have given me severe anxiety in that first year (not because I don't trust them, just because I get separation anxiety from Knox as he's been such a hard baby). To my surprise, I actually missed Andy and didn't even think about Knox.
My advice to new mothers stepping into that first year of parenting, remember to breathe, trust your gut, love and listen to your partner, take time for yourself (even if you don't want to), you will feel a million times better for it and parent better too.
My advice to new fathers, hug your wife, understand she is exhausted, hormonal and probably prone to forgetting you exist, but she does still love you! We're all still learning. Apparently it's better second time round....
If you're parenting solo, I salute you, it takes courage, patience and total dedication. I respect each and every one of you!
Most importantly we're all doing a great job, we all have the same end goal even if we get there different ways. That's what shapes us, makes us individual and makes the world a more interesting place. Don't forget to pat yourself on the back once in a while!