I see you, the one holding down the fort.
Your other half is working a long shift at the hospital, on duty as a firefighter or paramedic or police officer, manning an oil rig, flying for an airline, coaching the basketball team, planting and harvesting those fields, teaching a night class, driving a long-haul semi-truck, gone for military training, or deployed. I know you’re holding down the fort.
You wake up before your little people do. Maybe a tiny human is in your bed this morning and you kiss their sleeping cheeks. You pour yourself a cup (or two) of coffee and get yourself ready for the day. You wake up the kids, help them through breakfast, assist with making lunches and finding backpacks, shoes, hats, and coats. You coordinate school and preschool drop-offs. You pause and breathe as the last child bounces out the car door and yells, “Love you!”
As the sun was rising, you logged a thousand steps.
Maybe you head to work next where your boss and co-workers are incredibly kind people who–if the school calls and says your kid is sick or if animal control calls and says your dog ran away again or if your spouse calls and says it’s been suddenly decided to relocate your family for his or her job–say it’s alright, we understand. We have your back here at work, and we will figure this out.
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Maybe your work environment is less stellar than that, and the people you see every day simply cannot understand how you strive to balance it all. If it’s possible, go find the kind people I mentioned. They really do exist.
Maybe you head home instead to have a few hours to yourself during the preschool morning.
Maybe you take a walk or get groceries or volunteer at church. Maybe you stop at the library to pick up the new story hour schedule and enjoy a quick but meaningful conversation with an adult who loves books just as much as you do. Maybe you hope time will slow down a little bit because those mornings, while your youngest is at preschool, go by with lightning speed.
You might pick up the preschooler and play at the park. You might answer a million questions only 3- and 4-year-olds can think of. You might manage lunchtime and nap time and snack time and screen time with the skills of a professional hostage negotiator because a tired and hungry little human can just be volatile. Sometimes it is oh, so worth it to take a nap together. The peace of a well-rested child and a well-rested parent is invaluable.
Or you might clock-out from work and make a quick stop on the way to school, grabbing what you’ll need for supper and maybe some after-school treats. You might spend a few awesome minutes chatting with other parents who are standing in the shade waiting for their kids. They might ask about your other half and offer to help. “Just let me know if you need anything. We will be around all weekend.” You might say the lawnmower is having issues, and it would be great if you could borrow theirs on Saturday while yours is being repaired.
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You round up your kids and head to a park (the one with a decent bathroom because someone always needs to pee after school). You listen to a million stories about their day and laugh at all their knock-knock jokes.
You manage the hours as the sun goes down. You make dinner and start setting out tomorrow’s breakfast. You remind the kids to feed the pets and empty the dishwasher and take out the trash. You help with flashcards, reading assignments, and math homework. You make sure your little people are bathed and teeth get cleaned. You read many books and say many prayers and give many tickles, kisses, and hugs. You tell your kids you love them and you appreciate them and you’re so blessed to be their parent.
You start the laundry and pay some bills. You pour yourself a glass (or two) of wine and take a few minutes to lock up the house. You pause and breathe. When all is quiet, the dogs follow you to bed.
You have done it. You have made a thousand decisions on your own today as a parent. You have guided the inner workings of your house.
Some days have lots of hiccups. Some days are a complete disaster. Sometimes a grandparent or aunt will swoop in like a fairy godmother and save you when all the wheels have fallen off the carriage. But usually, the days move along seamlessly. At the end of this day, your family is happy and healthy. You have taken care of your children and yourself to the best of your ability.
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Your spouse might be home tomorrow and you can share the responsibilities or it might be months before he or she comes back. So you will continue to log the steps, make the decisions, and be the parent who does it all. I see you, and I know you are holding down the fort.