Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Have I mentioned that I am not always a model of patience?

In the course of my work, I hear complaints. That's okay, it's the nature of my job. But. Sometimes people complain to me that their significant other is sick/out of town/busy/lazy/working late and they have to tend to the kids/do the Christmas shopping/pay bills/take care of yard maintenance/get groceries and cook/generally run a household all by themselves for a few days. At those times, I'm mightily tempted to ask if they have any idea who they are talking to.

Don't get me wrong. I am well aware that I am luckier than many because my kids have a father who has them part-time and is actively involved in their lives. I really feel badly for single parents who are utterly on their own, without a co-parent (or at least local family) to help. And yet, I find the demands of taking care of kids and home solo to be wearying on occasion.  It struck me hard on our recent beach trip. The one I planned for, packed for, paid for. I love going to the ocean, but it was not exactly relaxing for me. Vacation or no vacation, there were meals to be cooked and laundry to be done. I was tired when we got home and went right back into the regular work week the very next day.

The period of time immediately following the end of my marriage five or so years ago will be etched in my mind forever. Renting and furnishing a house, realizing that every single household chore that had previously been divvied up between two people was now solidly on my shoulders. I suppose buying an old house in need of a crazy amount of work nine months later didn't help. But I did it. Hauled off load after load of junk, stripped all the wallpaper, painted every room, tore down sheetrock. What I absolutely couldn't do, I hired out.  For the rest, I learned to tile and plaster and wire in ceiling fans and to use a table saw and a drill and a chain saw. I dug up badly placed shrubs and learned how to landscape, planted a vegetable garden, bought a lawn mower. Things that had normally been my husband's responsibility were now mine. Worrisome noise at night?  Mine. Yard work? Mine. Taking care of car malfunctions?  Mine. Negotiating to buy a house and getting a mortgage? Mine. Dealing with electricians and plumbers and a variety of service people? Mine. Even arranging for someone to take me to and from the surgeries required by a little run-in with cervical cancer?  Mine. Every purchase, every decision, every everything. Through it all I was being watched by two pairs of big, anxious eyes. I had boys who needed to know we were going to be okay. That I wasn't going to fall. I flat didn't have the luxury of getting lost in grieving or feeling sorry for myself.

And all of it has to be done when I'm not running my business. I go off to work in the morning and come home to hear, "When's dinner?" And stacks of paperwork are set aside for later so that I can cook. Because in addition to seeing my patients, I also serve as the office manager for the practice. Which means electronic billing and accounting and taxes and paying the office expenses. Again, I'm lucky. I love what I do and I'm glad to be able to serve this poor Appalachian community. I don't mind not making a ton of money as long as I can pay my bills and send my kids to college. But loving it doesn't mean it's not difficult, time-consuming work.
So I have become a believer in blessing-counting. My health, my kids, my friends, my career, the lovers who have made appearances in my life, all the things I've discovered I'm able to do. Lucky. But when someone tells me their partner isn't quite pulling their weight, I have to force myself not to roll my eyes and say, 'Blah, blah, blah." Which I suspect wouldn't be all that therapeutic.

34 comments:

  1. I'm blessed having a partner who shares all the chores and bringing up the kids when they were little. I was a single parent for a short while and it was hard. I'm thankful.

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    1. Being thankful for what's good is the way to go, that's for sure.

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  2. If only MORE women were like you Doc.
    Just today on Yahoo it said that on the whole, women's IQ's were higher than men's. If thats the case than, why can't most women change a lock on a door, or fix a flat tire? I know YOU can....
    Love your new blog (Again)

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    1. My point isn't that women shouldn't be able to do things, my point is that when you have a partner, you share the load. And many people don't see to get that it's not true for everyone.

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  3. You do what you need to do. I was scared when I gained full custody of my two daughters. Thankfully I had local family support and I was much younger then. I'm sure your sons do more of the chores than they might have done if you weren't a single parent. I'm not suggesting a single parent situation is better than the traditional family setup but it can work (your example). People always complain I think it's natural.

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    1. I am sure having local family to help would at least partly fill the role of a significant other. I've never had that. And that's not true about making my sons do more chores because I'm single. I would never make them pay for what they didn't choose.

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  4. I wonder if it makes a difference why the other parent isn't there? I know when my wife passed, what later struck me was not that I had to do all that she had done, but the void it left in our life.
    It's possible that what makes the increased work so difficult is why it occurred.
    Now, 15 years later, the kids are grown and have their own lives and families, but the void is still there.

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    1. Maybe. I don't think divorces are without a void. But that's not really my point. I'm thinking more about other people's lack of awareness.

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  5. I have huge respect for those who manage to single parent effectively. When my husband and I took custody of our niece I could nto believe how much our lives changed. When you are childless, chores aren't as pressing. Things can slide, things can wait. When you have a kid who needs clean clothes and lunches made for school and a million little things, you have to stay on top of stuff. And I had only one kid, and a partner helping me. I don't know how people manage to single parent multiple children. It's so much work.

    And although "blah blah blah" might not be terrible therapeutic (although it is funny), it might be therapeutic for people like that to be reminded that there are a whole lot of people in the world who are doing the job of parenting all alone and to be appreciative of whatever support they may have.

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    1. I don't really like to get into trying to make people compare their lives to others because there are always some that are better/easier and some that are worse/harder. But I do sometimes talk about trying to notice the world around you and not assume that you are uniquely being targeted by the universe. (I say it more delicately than that, of course.)

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  6. I suspect that the majority of people go into marriage thinking that it will be 50/50 when it comes to household chores, raising kids, etc. When it turns out to be more like 80/20, it is not surprising that people complain.

    I get super annoyed when people complain to me about certain aspects of parenting, when I can only wish that my child with autism was able to do/behave in those ways. So, I do understand where you are coming from. You didn't sign up to be a single parent when you had your kids. But it appears that you have created a sense of family and normalcy for your kids that many two parent households never achieve. Bravo, Agent!

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    1. And that's fair enough. I just find it ironic that people who know my situation still express outrage to me about how terribly unjust it is that their partner has gone golfing for the weekend or whatever. I find myself a little less than fully sympathetic.

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  7. I know a little of what you wrote...afte 17 years with my Ex (no kids though...just our Chocolate Lab)....when I left him...suddenly I was all alone. It was a growing up experience for sure... Learning to do EVERYTHING by yourself - will make or break you.... having met you at KJ's (gosh was it almost 2 years ago), showed me your strength of character....your Boys are growing up into wonderful young men - who love their Mum...

    Most importantly - you are a responsible parent and a professional at work.....but you are still living your life as fully as possible!

    Big Hugs CS!

    ♥ Robin ♥

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    1. Thanks for all that. I'm trying. I just get tired sometimes. When I wrote this post, it was one of those times. :-)

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  8. I am a serial complainer, despite really having nothing to complain about. I am trying to get better ... you are an inspiration my friend. Single parents truly are remarkable.

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    1. I've never minded funny complaints, and yours always are. It's the true perspectiveless-whinery that sets my teeth on edge.

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  9. So much to say about this.

    But, yes: people do not realize their blessings.

    like the woman who insensitively complained about her husband snoring to her widowed friend, who replied, "I'd give anything to hear my husband snore."

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    1. When I was married, I made it a point not to say anything negative to someone who had lost a spouse through death or divorce. Ditto complaints about children or pregnancy to people who didn't have children since I couldn't know if they didn't want them or couldn't have them.

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  10. Having known a lot of single parents, I know just how demanding their lives are, and it really annoys me when people disparage them. And yes, those people who complain at their partner not being around for a few hours or days are pathetic. I don't have any problem when Jenny isn't around as I do most of the domestic chores anyway. As you say, do these complainers have no awareness of what YOUR life involves?

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    1. And you know, now that you say that - I am often struck by how people generally assume that everyone else's life is easier or better than their own based on no more than that fact that people aren't walking around bleeding out.

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  11. Yes, it's all totally relative and depends on the perspective from which it's viewed. We do need to count our blessings while we have them!

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    1. Absolutely! I think it's a sanity-preserver.

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  12. I think you've done very well.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

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  13. I suppose most people who make it a point to complain a lot are never really sensitive towards the hardship other face.

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  14. It's your strength that I admire most. Your looks and social life run a close second. I sometimes think about how I would fare in a similar circumstance. Not sure a lot of those things would get done!

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    1. You made me laugh by throwing in my looks. :-)

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  15. should fish more's comment about losing his wife is touching and so honest. maybe this is an example of your point: someone's point and experience is their point and experience and it's affirming when that fact is not overlooked. but sometimes it's about me and sometimes it's about you and i'm okay with that. i generally don't mind being sensitive to someone else's burden, even when mine clearly trumps theirs; i just don't want to hear the same complaints over and over again.

    you know the expression, 'when you're a hammer, everything's a nail'?

    i know i'm rambling. it's late. take care. who knows, maybe you'll be lucky and get all kinds of help and care ahead.


    kj

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    1. I'm not saying my situation trumps everyone else's - that why I mentioned how lucky I feel several times. And of course everyone's pain is their own. I surely don't expect my patients to stop and make a comparison and I'm more than capable of hearing what they are saying on it's own merits. I'm simply saying their is a disconnect there and that part of healing for those people might be learning to broaden their gaze to the world around them.

      And, too, my post was largely about my occasional frustration with the whole single parenting gig.

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  16. This is one of the things I value most about blogging. Being able to give vent to those frustrations that come up during the course of the day. I can certainly appreciate your frustrations.

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    1. I try to keep my venting to a minimum, but sometimes I just NEED to!

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  17. Amen! When I was suddenly alone raising four kids by myself on only my little salary... and all of that became mine, it was exhausting but you learn to cope and you do it because it needs to be done.

    Now when I listen or read on FB... my step daughter complain about having to deal with her children (9,5 and new) and her house... when she has her mother living with her to help and her husband. It drives me nuts.

    Counting my blessings is the way to get me through the toughest days and a joy on my best days. It really does help to look at all you have to be grateful for around you.

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    1. Her mother and her husband helping. Boy. Yes, back to counting my blessings!

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