Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It Takes a Village

Last night, a dear friend called me "just to vent."  Her daughter (who is very close to Jack's age) is sick, her husband is deployed, she's living in a foreign country, she's in the process of buying a house, and she's pregnant.  From where I stand, the very fact that she hasn't run screaming into the night is impressive.  But no, this amazing woman under a lion's share of stress was feeling guilty for complaining, because there are other families who have it a lot worse.  All I could tell her was to vent away!  She has certainly earned it.

Talking to this friend got me thinking a lot about how freaking hard it is to raise a kid (okay, let's be honest, I think about that every single day).  Even in the best of circumstances (healthy child, healthy parents, both parents in the same geographic location, etc.) it's the hardest job in the world.  Not to mention terrifying.  Yesterday Jack came down with a fever out of nowhere, and this morning it was up to 103.9.  Typical new(ish) mom that I am, I grabbed my coat and was heading out the door, calling the pediatrician's office just to let them know I was coming, when the nurse calmly told me to give him a tepid bath and check his temperature again.
"A bath?!" I wanted to shriek.  "Clearly my child is about to die.  He's red as a beet!  He's crying uncontrollably!  Something is seriously wrong!"
Cut to me two hours later, home from the pediatrician with an only-slightly cranky child, feverless, with no raging ear infection, no bulging tonsils, NOTHING to show for the panicked frenzy he'd thrown me into earlier.

In the month since John passed the Foreign Service Orals, we've spent a lot of time discussing possible scenarios for the future.  One option would be to have John do his unaccompanied tour first, meaning I'd stay in D.C. for a year while John "deployed."  At first, this seemed like a perfectly reasonable option.  I've been through two deployments, after all.  This would be a snap!  Then I remembered how miserable I am on the days when John doesn't come home before Jack's bedtime (which are few) and how much I love weekends because it means I get a break from Jack.  If John's gone for a year, I realized, that means there will be no breaks!  Ever!  What the heck was I thinking?!  Clearly, this unaccompanied tour is going to have to wait.
And then, because I'm a woman and therefore guaranteed to feel guilty about something at least once a day, I started to feel bad.  I have friends like the one I just mentioned who have it so much harder, women whose husbands are actually deployed and won't be coming home for R&R or calling every day.  Surely I can handle one piddly unaccompanied tour, right?

When Jack was about two months old, D.C. had the worst snowstorm in over one hundred years.  The bad news was that people were stuck in their homes (some without power) for over a week.  The good news was that John couldn't go to work, and we had an entire glorious week at home together!  During that week, I took ten minute showers.  I did my hair.  I threw on makeup, just for the heck of it (you'll notice that my personal grooming habits took the biggest hit after Jack was born).  And I started to realize, hey, this whole parenting thing is a hell of a lot easier with TWO people!  Imagine that!  After all, it takes two people to make the baby.  Surely this whole system was designed for two people to raise the baby!
Evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense.  Someone has to watch the kids while Dad kills the Woolly Mammoth, right?  The trouble is, in today's world, we're lucky to even have our spouse around for support, let alone the proverbial village it supposedly takes to raise a child.  And when you do find yourself alone as a parent, it doesn't matter if it's for one week or for one year, if your partner is in a war zone or away on business.  Being a parent is hard work, and it's meant to be shared.  Four hands are a lot better than two - particularly when your squirmy toddler refuses to hold still for a diaper change.

Tonight, while John put Jack to bed and I made dinner, I realized yet again how lucky I am to not only have a supportive, loving husband who more than pulls his weight - but to have him home with me, safe and sound.  To all my fellow mommies, with husbands near and far, deployed or just out of town for a week, I'm constantly amazed by everything you do!  Feel free to vent to me any time - you've all earned it!

1 comment:

Lauren said...

I'm right there with you. I feel frenzied when I know that Brendan's not going to make it home to help with feeding Clare dinner and to put her to sleep. And then I think about the military wives. And then I feel awful for thinking I had it bad.