When Dad's Away
By Jennifer Moses
I really dread it when my husband travels. The idea of him packing up his two favorite ties and his container of Johnson & Johnson waxed dental floss throws me into a tizzy of anxiety. First off, he's getting into an airplane—which, as everyone knows, will be held together by Band-Aids. But mainly, I dread the idea that he is leaving me, albeit temporarily, alone with the kids.
The problem is that there are two more of them than there are of me. Among the three of them, they have eight million after-school activities—a logistical nightmare for one woman to tackle alone. And at a certain point in the day, I begin to thirst for conversation that doesn't revolve around, for example, farts. I rely on my husband to be a beacon of intelligent conversation at the end of a long, trying day during which I've morphed from a hopeful and even pleasant person (who looks way, way younger than 40) to a harassed and nasty witch. So maybe we don't always talk about the decline of American letters or the state of the Middle East. So maybe, sometimes, we just sit there in total, exhausted silence—but at least no one's talking about farts.
Luckily for me, I married a man who does not, in fact, travel much on business. But when he did go on a trip recently, I felt slightly ill for a full week beforehand. Then...he left. And I realized that, just for starters, for the next three days no one would ask me where we keep the flashlight batteries. Maybe, I thought, this won't be so bad. It also dawned on me that my household routine was drastically simplified. Usually I have to cook one meal for the kids—say, macaroni and cheese and chocolate milk—and an entirely different, more sophisticated meal (perhaps spaghetti and chocolate milk) for the grown-ups to eat later. That means that I typically don't finish washing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen until around 8:30 at the earliest. Then I haul myself upstairs to fold the laundry that's still in the dryer, do my requisite nighttime channel surfing and kvetching, and get into bed around 10—which is way too late for this cowgirl. But even then, it's not over: My husband inevitably stands before me, holding up a white shirt in one hand and a pink one in the other, asking, "Which one of these do you think goes best with this jacket?"
But during my husband's recent absence, I didn't have to deal with making two dinners, cleaning up two sets of messes, or helping him choose a shirt. In fact (and I feel kind of guilty for even thinking this), I didn't have to be bothered with any of his personal needs or issues—his ego, his work-related boo-boos, his laundry, the sound of his snoring.
I don't want to brag, but here's what the kids and I ate: pizza the first night, pizza the second night, and pizza the third night. On Friday night, after the kids were in bed, I watched You've Got Mail, a movie my husband swore he'd never see. I went to bed early. Amazingly, the kids weren't all that horrible, either. They seemed to know that, with their dad out of town, they'd better be nice to their mom. They must have realized that if they set me off, they wouldn't have some other, nicer parent to run to.
"Oh, I know just what you mean," an acquaintance remarked when I told her that I was going solo for a few days. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder!" Only that's not what I'd said at all. What I'd said was something along the lines of, "You know, I really don't miss my husband one bit." Not that I'd want to make a steady diet of it, but as a once-a-year, short-term event, being the sole voice of authority just isn't all that bad. And Domino's delivers.
Jennifer Moses is a mother of three and the author of Food and Whine: Confessions of a New Millennium Mom (Fireside).