Now is not the time to have everyone else come first. The one lesson I should have learned from my ex-husband…yes. I said it. It’s been a long road since my ex-huxband and I were a married couple and about as long since we were amicable. Lessons come when they come and here was something I could have learned a long time ago.
In the first week after our first born; He was preparing to leave the house. There was no discussion about why he was leaving the house or where he was going. And it wasn’t until he was showered and ready to leave I asked, ‘Where are you going?’. He proceeded to tell me he was running errands and would be back in a few hours. I stood in indignation. I couldn’t believe he was just going to leave without concern for our baby’s needs or mine. He would just leave without consideration. I’ve sat in indignation a lot on that one.
I recall a conversation I had tried to have with him when our first was about 5-6 months old. I was going to take up running again and for this to work, I would leave the house at 5 am and return by 5:20ish since that was the time he would usually get up for work. I was asking him to make sure and answer our daughter’s calls during that time so I could go out for my run first thing. He declined to accept this responsibility for 20 minutes. He needed his sleep. More indignation for a sleepless Mama.
The next memory seared in my mind was when we had our second child. Things were hard. Sleep was lacking throughout the house. And he decided to return to work early, rather than later, as was scheduled. No discussion. No concern. MORE indignation.
So yes. His behaviour was less than desirable in my eyes. It was lacking a lot of compassion or empathy or both. BUT here is what I learned!
I am 12+ years into parenting, a little more than 8 of those have been as an independent parent. So, here’s the lesson:
STOP ASKING! Just do it! When you need the time away or want to do some self-care; just go. Find a way to do it safely but do it. He did it with so much ease. He would just get up and go, things always got taken care of, and life went on. Maybe it was a little too easy for him, but that is the lesson. It was SOOO hard for me. And so easy for him. Point is, he didn’t ask permission or discuss the details. He just did what he felt was right for him and the rest fell into place. I wish I had tapped into that a long time ago.
There have been so many times I should have done it his way. Go back to the running story, I should have set my alarm and left the house. What was stopping me? When my good parenting energy had been depleted so low I could hardly keep a straight face in the mirror. I should have just started running every morning. No discussion with him, no predicting what needed to happen for me to do this small act of self-care. No explanation for why I needed it. What would have happened? He likely would have answered his daughter’s calls if she had even needed it during that short period of time I had stepped away. Not, me begging for 20 minutes to myself for a 5 am run. Probably the only 20 minutes I would get all day.
Same with his early return to work after our second child. It wasn’t his cup of tea to stay home and help out. Sure, there was the sting of my needs not being a concern to my partner. But the lesson is that when he had a need, he immediately took care of himself. When we had our second child I insisted on 2 days of daycare each week for our older child so the little one and I had a couple days alone each week. I would nap when she napped.
He knew exactly how to put his own oxygen mask on. I’m not the best at it, even still. Often prioritizing the kids need to have this that and the other thing. In reality, a middle ground is probably better for everyone. And without a partner to put this into practice, I can only speak to the aspect as a single parent. I don’t feel guilty when I get the chance to get away, or now that they are older I don’t have to drag them everywhere with me.
So, if there is one thing I have learned is to prioritize my own needs. Especially since becoming an independent parent. If you find yourself with the luxury to be away from the kids, or get a sitter, or have someone spend time with your kids; GRAB IT! Put your own oxygen mask on first.
Okay, so maybe a flight attendant can be thanked for the lesson.