A Gay Dad Discovers: Being a Single Parent is Hard AF
With his husband in New York working on an exciting new TV show, this LA-based dad gains a new appreciation for single parents.
When my husband Alex tells me he's going to be home super late, I have my go-to routine. I give our son a bath; we read bedtime stories; I tuck him in and then I go downstairs to raid the freezer for some dinner (Ben & Jerry's). Then I go down a vintage Whitney Houston rabbit hole on Youtube. Then I might check out a few other *ahem* websites, before finally falling asleep.
But what happens when Alex tells me he's going to be home in a couple of months? Now that's a very different story… with more Ben & Jerry's involved than I care to admit.
Earlier this Fall we received the exciting news that the TV show Alex is producing was picked up to series. This was an amazing accomplishment — something he worked so hard and so long for. However, the show was set to be filmed in New York and we live in Los Angeles. That meant that I would have to take on full-time parenting responsibilities for long stretches of time while Alex was on set 3,000 miles.
First off, I'm incredibly proud of Alex for getting his first TV show produced (It's called Dickinson and stars Hailee Steinfeld and Jane Krakowski — it'll appear on the new Apple network sometime in 2019). He's so committed to his craft and he totally deserves this huge opportunity. That said… I knew all this time away was going to be challenging for me. No, not because we're co-dependent (which we are) and not because I can't live without him (which I can't) – but because I have my own high-pressure, full-time job that requires my attention 24/7. As a Creative Director in the world of advertising I am always on call for my clients. Try explaining that to a seven-year old who wants to play every second of every day.
Both of us have certainly traveled for work before — leaving the other to fend for the family — however, never for months at a time. This was something new that was going to need some getting used to. In other words, this was going to be hard AF.
Here's a little background. Alex and I have been 50/50 parents from day one. We are both extremely hands-on dads. We each put in roughly the same amount of work and time when it comes to our family. That was something we promised each other before Maxwell came into our lives to avoid potential feelings of resentment down the line. And for the most part, this is the first time that arrangement has been tested.
As Al's shooting dates neared, we made a list of all the additional things I would be taking on. New for me would be getting up at 5:45 when Max wakes up (Al's always been a morning person). I'd also be responsible for making him breakfast, making his lunch for school and making sure he's prepared for all his afternoon activities (tennis, Lego club, Karate, etc). Typically Al would do Max's morning routine while I take on the evening routine. But now, I would be doing both. I totally got this, right? Wrong.
Evenings would prove most challenging. I had to have a talk with my boss about leaving the office by 6:00 p.m. every night so I could get home in time to relieve our nanny by 7pm… with the promise that I'd continue working from home after Max goes to bed. Fortunately my office acquiesced (not that they had much of a choice).
Then there were the weekends. We over scheduled ourselves and stayed really active, because when Max is inactive — a.k.a. bored — he tends to act out. So there were several weekends in a row of me and my little guy… with no breaks in-between. 90% of me loved every second of it, but damn, that other 10%... I found myself offering friends hundreds of dollars to watch Max for a few minutes so I could poop/scream/shower/sob in peace.
During those four weeks we stayed very busy, had lots of fun, lots of laughs, lots of time-outs, lots of cuddles... and not lots of sleep. But through it all, we some how managed to become even closer. But I learned firsthand just how challenging it is for single parents… especially parents with more than one child. I have so much more respect for them, knowing what they go through every single day. They should all be wearing an S on their chest, because, in my opinion, single parents are superheroes.
This time apart from Al has made me appreciate him even more for everything he brings to the table. We could never do it without him and we're so lucky to have him in our lives. It sounds corny, but it's true — I love the guy so freaking much.
Also, I want to give major props to Max, who has handled this transition like a big boy. Because this is just as hard for him as it is for me. He doesn't have the other dad to run to when this dad disciplines him (and by discipline, I mean two Oreos instead of five). Plus, he has to deal with my wavering patience and limited time to play cops and robbers. His behavior has really impressed me. In fact, he's down to biting me just twice a day. Baby steps.
Oh, and Al, if you're reading this — and what kind of husband would you be if you weren't — you so owe me big time for holding it down! And I will collect. Some how. Some way. I will collect.
In the meantime, I've got a few more weeks of solo Daddy duty.
Pray for me.