As is typical, my trip to Disney World has been followed by a bad case of post-vacation depression. This tends to happen every time I return from a trip, to varying degrees. I'm used to it, and I'm prepared for it. But this one hit me hard and is still lingering, 8 days later.
I have really been analyzing this phenomenon this time around and wondering, WHY? There are the obvious things of course - the fun, the warm weather, the casting aside of concerns about money and routine and a well balanced meal. But really, at its heart, I think I have figured out what makes me so sad about coming home.
I miss having a co-parent.
When my husband is around, he is very hands on. We alternate who changes poopy diapers and tag team bedtime and share meal and bathing responsibilities. I have a partner to deal with the meltdowns and a co-spectator when the kids do something adorable. The highs are that much higher, and the lows are not as low. It's just better, easier, calmer, more enjoyable, when my husband is around. And when we're on vacation, he's around all the time.
When we're in our real lives, he's not around so much.
It's no secret that my husband has a demanding job - a demanding job that he happens to love, and that he is damn good at. I am proud of him, and it's his job that allows me to stay at home. But it's also his job that renders me a solo parent for much of the time.
I deal, and I try not to complain. But at the end of the day, it's lonely. Very lonely. Sure, there are playdates and park excursions and the occasional visitor. But it's not the same. The fact is, I spend most of my day on my own, with two children in tow. It's not that there's silence - far from it, but there's not someone to bounce things off of. To have a real adult conversation with. To pass off something to when I just need 5 minutes to myself. It's in large part a solitary lifestyle. I generally eat all of my meals alone.
I do take efforts to mitigate this. I talk to my best friend and my sister daily. I try to time these phone calls for when I'm really struggling - usually first thing in the morning, right after my husband leaves (and I am struggling to kick-start the day), and around 5pm when I have to start dinner and my patience is starting to wear thin. I relish these calls - I count on them to get me through those moments, and when for some reason one of them doesn't answer, I panic. Somehow the notion of having someone with me during those times, albeit on the phone, is a huge support for me.
I also try to do playdates and make plans with friends each day. But as the kids get older, this is getting harder and harder. My friends and I will make plans to meet at a park with the best of intentions, only to get there and run after our respective children, never having a chance to finish even the shortest of conversations. We'll meet for dinner and attempt to communicate over our respective kids' screams. And now that Braden is getting older, activities are focused on him, not me (and rightly so). He has karate twice a week. He has soccer once a week. He has drop-off playdates now - where I barely even see the other parent (and sometimes barely even know them). In so many ways, it was so much easier to find company and companionship when the boys were babies - when social activities revolved around the moms, not the kids.
When I made the decision to quit my job, I knew what I was getting into. My husband would "lean in" to his job fully, and I would "lean in" equally fully into mine, at home with the kids. But our lives are polar opposites in many ways - he is at one extreme and I'm at the other. And while we have talked about wanting to change that, there really isn't any practical way at this point. It is what it is.
I have no regrets, but I can't say I don't wish it was a little more balanced. I wish my co-parent was around more - for my kids' sake, and for mine.
Until the next vacation...