I really like living with my husband, and although I often tell him that I wouldn’t mind if he had to travel for work, I’m actually lying, and he knows it.
“I’m really going to miss you,” I start off, sweetly, the day he’s due to depart. This then this descends into “I really wish you could just stay here with us,” and “Maybe someone else could go to Taiwan?” The hours before his departure are stippled with “I love you so much” and “We’re really going to miss Papa!” This performance turns out to be that much more affective with a grinning cherub in my arms.
Once he’s gone, however, I try my best to get into the swing of living alone for a few days. I daydream about what it would be like if I lived alone in our little house, and fool myself that I might actually be ok with such a lifestyle. How liberating! I go back and forth between supreme productivity (“I will clean the entire house, bake bread, and do yoga every day!”) to supreme laziness (“Peanut butter on toast is an acceptable dinner choice for an adult, right?”). With the addition of a child, these extremes are not all they used to be, but I still try my best.
This evening didn’t live up to my expectations, however. My intentions of folding laundry and grocery shopping are rudely thwarted when Charlie decides she wants to nap for two hours in my lap (nowhere else!) shortly after Papa leaves for the airport, and then stays up past her usual (and self-inflicted) bedtime of 5pm. I’ve been trying to get this child to stay up for weeks now (I don’t fancy getting up for the day at 4:30am), and tonight is the night! I put aside my previous plans and bask in the glorious thought of sleeping in tomorrow morning.
We play in the living room and then the bedroom, sing lullabies and read The Runaway Bunny until her little face starts to crinkle up in that sad way that means she’s ready for sleep. I nurse her and then sit in the dark, listening to the white noise machine and the washing machine (which is really just more white noise), and read The New Yorker on my phone for a while until she’s really limp in my arms. Then I lower her into her crib and tiptoe downstairs with the dog to clean up a bit and make dinner. It’s 7 o’clock: perfect timing.
Alas, it seems that dream is not to be. 5 minutes into my tidying-up and she wakes with a scream more blood-curdling than any creature so adorable has any right to make. And we start all over again.
Around 8 o’clock she inexplicably decides to fall asleep again, at which point I am left to reheat and inhale some leftovers. This is it, I’m thinking: I can take a shower and then work on my novel (read: do dishes) until I turn into a pumpkin at 9:30. But at 8:26 the scream reappears, and we’re back to square one.
I try to make her understand: “It’s the time for little babies to be asleep,” and then “Mama really wants to eat cookie dough ice cream and watch 30 Rock.” She may scream upon waking up, but by the time I’ve made it upstairs to her crib she’s all smiles, kicking her little swaddled legs up in the air like an Olympic gymnast. I try not to engage, as I don’t want her to think it’s time to play, but it’s damn hard not to smile when she’s got that Cheshire grin going. Finally I kiss her and say “Good-night, Charlie,” and walk out of the room and down the stairs. I then sit by the baby monitor, listening to the white noise machine and barely daring to breathe.
Is this it? Can I break out the cookie dough?
Ah, the liberty of single parenthood!