Sunday, March 15, 2009

A "Single Mom's" Day

A stay-at-home mom’s day with a husband in the military

I am currently a “single mom.” My husband, Jon, is serving in the Mideast. We have two children, Bridger (age two) and Christen (age two months), and live in a small midwestern town. This a journal entry from one of my typical days:

Christen slept soundly during the night. I just had to pop the pacifier into her mouth at 12:30 a.m., then she slept until 5:30 when I fed her. I like it when she wakes up at that time, because I can go back to sleep more easily. Bridger didn’t climb into my bed this morning nor did the dogs start barking to go outside, so I was able to sleep until 8:00.

The puppies stay in the garage. If they hear any noise in the morning, like Bridger wandering around, they bark and bark until somebody lets them outside. That is why it is best if everybody stays in bed, especially Bridger. The older dogs who stay in the house don’t bark in the morning, but they make up for it when the mailman comes, when there are squirrels in the yard or when they see other dogs outside.

I get up and let the dogs outside. So far, they’re quiet. Thank goodness, because someone in the neighborhood might call the police if the dogs’ barking bothers them. It already happened to our next-door neighbors and I don’t want it to happen to us.

I decide to check my e-mail until the dogs want to come back in. Jon finally had a chance to send a message. My mom sent a message telling me about going to visit Grandma and what my sisters have been doing in their spare time.

I had now better get off the Internet in case Jon is trying to call. I am very lucky, because he is able to call almost every day. I enjoy telling him how smart Bridger is and how much trouble he can get into. For example, last night while I was fixing popcorn Bridger decided to play with the baby powder. He poured it all over the side table, the floor and himself. I took the vacuum cleaner and cleaned everything, including him. I needed to vacuum anyway: the dogs shed all the time and dirt is brought in from the backyard.

I should call some of them inside, because Christen is crying and I don’t want them to bark while I am feeding her. Before she was born, I wondered what it would be like to take care of two young children with Jon overseas and no close friends. Two months have gone by since she was born and most days go extremely well, but it all depends on Bridger’s whining and the dogs’ barking.

Bridger finally wakes up at 9:15. I have a bowl of grapes and a cup of cereal waiting for him. He is always trying to act like a dog by lapping at his cereal and I thought it would be better if he could just “drink” his corn flakes. So far, it seems to have brightened his day. We’ll see what happens to his mood when we change his clothes and put his training pants on. I have been trying for several weeks to get him to use his little toilet, but he has had no luck. I think when he finally goes to the bathroom he will start to get the hang of it. We just have to wait and see. I need to ask other people how they potty trained their children.

Bridger and I are working in the basement cleaning up the piles that have been building up over the past six years when I hear the dogs barking. It must be the mailman. Wow, it’s 11:00: it must be a different mailman, because we usually get the mail by 10:00. Good, there are a couple of magazines and a card from a friend in Canada. I haven’t heard from her in a long time and I don’t have a current address for her. Since I now have her e-mail address, I will have to try to send her an e-mail today along with a couple of pictures of the kids.

After we look at the mail, we play with Christen for a while. Finally, it’s lunchtime. I am getting hungry. We’ll be having leftovers from last night. I do have to decide on a vegetable - green beans, I think. We have plenty of them in the freezer.

Before Christen was born, I went to the grocery store and stocked up on enough groceries and dog food to last for four months. But it seems that we always have to go to the store to buy perishables or food I forgot to buy. And each time we go I forget something. Last time, I forgot the sour cream and breast pads. I have to remember to write everything on the list and take a pen to check off each item.

After lunch while I am feeding Christen, we watch the video we made last summer of Jon reading to Bridger. Bridger really likes the video and he gets to know and remember his dad - and my two sisters, Johnna and Jessica in Wyoming who are also on the video. It is important that Bridger knows who Jon is, because I want Bridger to feel comfortable around Jon when he returns. Bridger does get to talk to him on the phone, which certainly helps.

I am so glad that today, after I am done feeding Christen, we don’t have to clean up after the dogs in the backyard. Instead, I can try to work on the latest letter to Jon. I try to write something daily and e-mail it at the end of the week as an attachment to one of his daily e-mails.
It can get old making sure the yard is cleaned on a weekly basis. This is one chore I will be glad to give back to Jon, because the dogs’ messes can be so ground into the grass that I scoop up clumps of grass along with the dirt. Between the dogs and me, the yard looks like a wasteland. I will also be glad to give him back his garbage duties. The garbage cans can be heavy and I get tired of hauling them out every week. I wish they had wheels. I did have a nice surprise last week: Bridger decided he would like to bring the garbage cans back into the garage. I only have to take them to the curb now!

I am finally getting a chance to write that letter to Jon, because Bridger is playing by himself and Christen is swinging. While I’m at the desk, I should check to make sure there aren’t any bills due soon. Jon had been in charge of the money since Bridger was born, but I took control when he left. It is fun to look at the account on the Internet to see how much Jon has charged at the base and what checks have cleared. It is more convenient than waiting for the statement at the end of the month to be sure the checkbook is balanced.

When I am done on the computer, I think we’ll go on our walk. It is fun to walk almost every day. The exercise gives me more energy and it makes Bridger happier. The day can be long when Bridger is cranky or disobedient. When that happens he gets to spend two minutes by himself on the kitchen floor. That usually turns his attitude around.

4:30 p.m., time to feed Christen again and to give Bridger his snack. Christen eats every four hours and is full after ten minutes, which is so nice. When Bridger was a baby, he nursed every three hours and wasn’t full until after 40 minutes. I can get so much more done if I don’t have to feed a baby that often and that long.

I like the time between 4:30 and 5:30, because that is when we watch some of Bridger’s favorite children’s programs and he may take a nap. If he doesn’t fall asleep, at least it does mean quiet time for all of us. I am very grateful to have Bridger to help and to talk to, but some experts say that it is best for the kids – and for parents – to take time for themselves. That works best for us with either a nap or the quiet time. Bridger does help me with the dishes, laundry, clearing the table and putting things in the garbage. He is a great help with Christen, too. He is very careful and loves holding her.

We forgot to practice his states during lunch. We will do it during supper. Bridger can point to and name fifteen of them on his U.S. placemat. We have also been working on the alphabet and counting to ten. We really need to work on colors: he is not learning them as well as the states or numbers. I need to pick up a preschool or kindergarten workbook for him so I can see what he knows and what he needs to learn.

I am glad I had a pre-made meal thawing for supper, because with Christen crying and Bridger getting into absolutely everything I never would have been able to cook anything. I hope the rest of the night will go a little more smoothly. I know I have to get the dishes done and vacuum. In the morning, I enjoy coming downstairs to a clean living room, so I vacuum and have Bridger pick up his toys before he goes to bed.

Disaster does strike after supper. I am running water in the sink for the dishes when the dogs start barking. I try to get them to come in, but only two come. I go outside to get the others and then I remember that the faucet is on. I try to get through the sliding glass door, but it has locked. I had learned after the first time I was locked out that it is important to always keep the side door to the garage unlocked to have a back-up entry into the house. I was fortunate that time that the sliding glass door was open. I hurry through the garage and get to the sink. I am lucky that water isn’t going all over the floor, but into the other basin instead. I turn the water off and go back to the garage to call the dogs inside. They come immediately, because the other dogs are back inside.

I am so glad that it is 8:15, Bridger’s bedtime. I want some time without hearing the word “Mom” every fifteen seconds. We go upstairs, brush our teeth and put pajamas on. I brush my teeth when he does, so that is one more thing done for the night. We finally finish, turn the jazz music on and give a kiss and hug good night. One in bed and one to go.

Christen eats quickly and soon her diaper is changed. She had one of her “super-messy” diapers earlier in the day, so I knew she wouldn’t have another one. I have been able to reach my goal of having them in bed by 9:00 for the third night in a row. I can look forward to the rest of the night to myself. Yes.

Oh, I forgot: I have to let the dogs outside one more time before I can go to bed. I look out the door to make sure no other dogs are out in the six-house radius. I have had enough of any dog barking for today. I am in luck: the other houses are dark, so there are no problems with barking. I put the puppies in their kennel in the garage and leave the adult dogs downstairs to discourage any would-be burglars. I put the baby gate up to keep the dogs from joining us in bed. I don’t like to be awakened more than necessary. I hope Christen won’t wake up until six and I can get a good night’s sleep. I am glad that this day has ended on a good note. I can say I enjoyed being a “single mom” today. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Oops, I forgot to vacuum.

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