I'm watching my son eat his lunch; he's happily chewing his chicken nuggets, crunching his goldfish, and taking the occasional sip from his (straw) cup. Nothing really looks different than normal, but something is--Daddy's not here.
My husband travels a bit for work--it probably averages out to once a month--and for that bit (those bits?), I feel like a single mom . . . or at least that's what I say.
But I know that even in these times when I'm taking care of my son all on my own, from the moment he wakes up in the morning (around 6) to the moment he goes to sleep at night (let's just be optimistic and say 7:30), I'm not reeeeeeally doing the single mom thing.
Single moms don't have someone else paying for everything, so that they can stay home with the kiddo. They don't have jobs because they just wanted to contribute a little something--they have them because they HAVE to have them. And they don't have the comfort of knowing that in a few days, they won't be "single moms" anymore.
Me? I get all the benefits of Daddy except Daddy's physical presence, which interestingly enough presents its own set of problems. When a child is used to having Daddy around and then he vanishes from the routine, that child tends to react. At first it's subtle, maybe turning to where Daddy normally perches during bathtime and staring at the empty space for a few seconds before getting back to the bath toys. It does not remain subtle, and the reaction invades the rest of the routine, more often than not leading to a sort of mutinous dissolution of said routine. (Tangential to an increase in Mommy's consumption of wine.)
But the kid isn't the only one thrown all out of whack--even before his "reacting" hits full force. Mommy is used to sharing the burdens and the joys, to feeling secure (because there's someone else who can go check out scary noises while mommy inches closer to the gun safe, just in case), and to having a partner she can tag in when Mommy needs a fucking break. Mommy's used to having her best friend.
Is this temporary loss somehow comparable to being a single mom? My first and strongest instinct is to say "absolutely not," but then I've never been a real single mom, so I can't make an accurate comparison--I'd just have to assume. (And if there's one thing that gets me into the most trouble in my life, it's assuming.) I'm not qualified to answer that question, no matter how far I lean towards my automatic answer, and I hope I never am.
[Authorial note: I am absolute shit at conclusions, and they're something I desperately need to work on. See? This whole writing each day thing is proving useful already!]