I breathe in the cold brisk air. I can do this, I tell myself. And with one big grunt, I heave the garage door handle up with all the strength I could gather. Not one budge. A hot coal fire races around my belly. Every now and again, I forget that the c-section and tubal ligation I had was just five weeks ago. I should not be over doing it- doctors orders. However, it has been snowing hard for five days and I am aching to get out of my house – drive somewhere that is not here! . So far, it seems Mother Nature is not going to let us. The snow is packed up so high; I cannot get the garage open. Our only option is another walk, but we live in suburban Fraser Valley, the sidewalks are stacked with the leftover snow from the plowed streets
. My two-year-old daughter, Alexa, asks if we are going yet. I sigh as I tell her we are going to play in the snow instead. I layer her with more clothes and the five-week-old baby with more blankets. Carrying a sleeping infant in her carseat in one hand, and my toddler’s little hand in the other, we step back out into the white, white world.
I would sell my soul to the devil himself if I had help today. I am so tired and sore from the birth, and I know I just need some sleep. I congratulate myself for getting my tubes tied at the same time as the caesarean. I cannot do this again, alone. All our family members that used to live close have either moved or passed away. There have been two deaths this month- my maternal grandmother (heart attack at 94 years old) and a dear family friend (cancer). My mom died almost twenty – five years ago. My dad and I are estranged (long abuse story). My in-laws are spread across the country. I have friends, but they have their own families and the same weather predicament as I do. So when my husband walks out the door at half past six every morning, I am the village raising the girls until he returns home ten or eleven hours later.
My sister and her husband live an eight-minute car ride away. They are the only babysitters we have that we can trust and afford (free). They have their own lives and trying to start a family. My husband has one sister who lives a few towns away but they have not spoken in many years.
Before we had kids, our village used to feel bigger. When I was pregnant, I had many co-workers, friends and family offering help. I felt we would be okay with all the help around. But when our first baby arrived, the offers never materialized due to careers, pregnancies of their own, health (grandma and my godmom had physical ailments and could only be sympathetic on my baby issues) and a general freak-out amongst our friends who had never been around a baby. We were truly on our own.
And so, I have had to take my girls everywhere – from the hair salon to banks, doctors, lawyers, funerals, Weight Watchers and grocery shopping. I refuse to hermit myself and use them as excuses to not do things. That would be the easy way. This way I show them that you make the best of what you have. They are my life and I need to do things to keep our lives going.
Like when Michael had to leave for two days because of work again. I was scared to be solo parent for the next 48 hours. I prepped as much as I could by making extra bottles and meals. We were not as worried about our baby as she sometimes does not see him in the morning or night because she is a good sleeper. Our three year old is Daddy’s girl. The first day he left, I kept us busy in her usual routine. Thankfully, it was a pre-school day so she had play time and I had a tiny break with just one kid. I made a favorite dinner of macaroni and cheese. They both went down first night at 7:10pm. I was not sure what to do with myself. I had prepped so hard to have the house needs done that I actually had to do something for me. Girl Guides knocked. I turned them away (blame Weight Watchers). I crawled into bed with a book and was out at 9:30.
The second day was much harder. We did not have any plans and no friends were available to play. The girls were cranky therefore trying on my last frayed nerve. That night Alexa, (the three-year-old) was up screaming for daddy for six hours. After he returned and all was well, it perplexes me after all that, I have just as much done when he is home as when he was not at home.
It is hard to forget how her arrival wreaked havoc in our marriage in the early months. I was shell-shocked at the end of the day. He did not get up at night much with us because he is a heavy sleeper and works in construction. I did not want him sleepy up a ladder or roof. It got to me, the power I gave him to continue on the life he knew before and after our baby arrived. It was partly my fault; I encouraged him to have his weekly guys’ nights. I did not take any personal time for myself. He still expected me to be the old me. One night after I had been awake for thirty-six hours because Alexa was cutting her eyeteeth and would only sleep if I were rocking her. I could not wait until Michael got home. Alexa and I did not make it out of the house all day due to my lack of energy. I walked all three floors of our townhouse at least a hundred times. There was not one person who could relieve me so I could nap. Too tired to eat or even having a free hand to make anything, I just kept her as comfortable as I could. It amazes me that our neighbor did not complain about the sound. During the dinner hour, I missed Michael’s call because of her vocals; I checked the message and my blood boiled. I almost went to the bar he was stopping for a quick after work drink. I kept my anger in check for Alexa’s sake. I got her ready for bed and miraculously she went to sleep in her crib. I climbed into bed but could not sleep. The only sound was the traffic humming outside. I waited in the dark until I heard the key in the front door exactly one hour after he left his message. When he stepped into the bedroom and closed the door, the land mine that has been charging in me-exploded. He came out in defense. Out came all the anger and frustration that I have held in since getting (a surprise) pregnant vented out before I could stop it. By one o’clock in the morning, he was on the couch sleeping and I remained in our bed. I made a decision that I was ready to call it quits on this marriage. I am the sole parent even if he is here or not. In the morning light (after four hours of un-interrupted sleep), we talked and talked. We cleared the air. Both of us promised to try better to help each other. I started to actually feel like I knew what I was doing. That all changed when the stick turned blue with baby number two,
It is tough to hear moms complaining when their own mothers cannot come watch the kids so they can go to the spa or off somewhere with their husbands. On the Halloween party day at Alexa’s pre-school, it was just Jessie and I representing the cheering squad. I tried to get a seat on the end so I could take pictures for Michael (who was out of town) and keep one hand on Jessie who was cranky because it is past her afternoon naptime. It was so crowded by the time we got there I had to sit on the floor off to the side of the classroom. The room filled with grandmas, grandpas, moms, dads, aunts and uncles of her classmates. Jessie was clingy to me as I tried in vain to find the camera in the diaper bag. Crap. I see it in my head sitting on the coat rack at home. I tried to take pictures with my camera phone. It was hard, given our low view. After the scarecrow song I caught Alexa’s eye-the look of pride she beamed to me dissolved any pity I had.
2 thoughts on “Parenting Without A Village: Part 1”
My heart just breaks for you! I cannot imagine going this parenthood thing without the support of my family. We have passed up job transfers because I knew that the support isn’t something you can buy with a larger paycheck…
Do you have any mother’s groups you belong to? Especially if you can find one that is dedicated to parents without family support.
Hope you guys are finding a little more peace today and that this season is easier than you project it to be…
i know this gig too well (only one kid which makes it a little easier).
i have no close family within 8000km and sometimes i feel so jealous of other mums in the school playground talking about how the kids are going to grandma’s for the weekend. there is just no one you can unload onto without having to go through the ‘getting to know you’ ritual over and over again. my husband travels for business (irregularly so i cannot plan) so i’m well used to the solo parenting stints – it is hard work but my wee guy is in school now (keep going until the school thing starts 🙂
sadly, i’m finding the paid or hired help much more reliable than the casual acquaintance/neighbour stuff. i’ll be sending out a casting call for an older, poss weekend nanny/sitter soon and my ‘bought and paid for’ village (gee that sounds cynical) will be approaching completion