My soul mate has left me. And I want to applaud the single mums.
Our arrival back in Australia was busy and hard work. We had a garage full of stuff in our old house we wanted to go through and decided the easiest method would be to do so from the actual house so we moved back into our original abode, albeit temporarily.
We were barely there for a week when Josh received bad news that his father in Israel had taken a turn for the worse. It was a Tuesday and Josh decided he needed to be there and Wednesday morning at 3am I drove him to the airport and he was gone.
Oh, big deal you say. Well yes, it was actually, because you need to imagine other then those 3 days I was press tripping Ireland, Josh and I had spent every hour of every day with each other for the last 574 days of travel. That’s 13,776 hours!
Josh has been my soul mate since we were 16 - that’s when we had our first date. We spent some 5 years dating before marrying at 21. Since 1997 I have spent only ONE Christmas away from him, the year I moved to London. That’s 15 Christmases.
And here we are 2013 and my first Christmas without him in 11 years. It is hard. But he is in the place he needs to be at the time he needs to be. And thankfully I am in my own home back in Australia with my family and friends here for support.
So how am I surviving my dramatic thrust into single mum-hood, my parenting challenge?
1) Accept Help
You will get plenty of moments in time to wear your Wonder Woman undies. This might not be one of them. I am aware of my limitations and accepting help where needed. Use it to have a night off or to clean or to shop for the kids Christmas presents. Don’t be worried about being a burden or embarrassed about your needs. Your friends and family would not offer if they didn’t mean it and well, if they didn’t mean it then they will soon learn they shouldn’t be so blasé ever again.
2) Keep Busy
My kids and I become cranky if we stay home and watch TV all day. We are filling our days with activities and fun. Making Christmas paper chains, heading to the beach, play dates. Did you know there are a number of activities out there that offer free trials? So we are taking this opportunity for them to try things – karate, gymnastics, swimming, and dancing.
3) Have Days Off
How contradictory to staying busy, but even a day off is needed when being a single mum. Do allow the kids a day to rest, stay in, drive you insane a little, because it is those moments that make the going out so much more enjoyable!
4) Stay Connected
Whether it’s to your mum, your sister, your best friend or your man, stay connected. Josh and I still skype every day and viber before I go to bed- it’s like he’s still in the room with me. I also have a friend who calls me daily to make sure I am okay. I love her for that, she is so thoughtful and am stoked to have such a lady in my life.
5) Create A Community
Recently at the beach I noticed a lot of women in herds or packs. It was a school day so there was the odd couple here and there, but mainly women. While staying connected to your love ones is important, strive to make new connections too. Go out on play dates with mums whose husbands are at work, visit those girlfriends whose boyfriends are FIFO (Fly-in-Fly-out refers to a term used for people who work in the mines for a couple weeks and then are home for one week). Find other single mums who love to share dinner, have sleepovers, share tasks or day-care roles.
I am no single mum expert, but these are the 5 things that have been my lifeline during my new single period in time. Josh may be gone for 1 or 2 months, but whenever he get’s back he won’t find no shy, crazed cat lady. He will find Wonder Woman!
It's not all hard work, read our sister post on my 5 awesome perks being away from hubby.
Reader Comments..."I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" - Josh Bender
Yep, that's the way my life has been , married to a Chef. This is the first Christmas he's been home with us, ever. Plus of course I was a new expat in Australia with zero family and no friends. You get used to it, it's just the way things are. Hope Josh's dad is OK, nice of him to go,
As a truly single mom, I find it a little difficult taking single mom travel tips from someone who isn't, well, a single mom. The title of your article makes it sound as though you were left by your husband. I suppose he did leave to take care of his father, but make no mistake: he didn't leave you. In fact, the two of you Skype every day, and he will be back. It might not be easy and it might not be fun. You might be missing him terribly. But he will be back. You still have your soul mate, the two of you will continue to make important parenting decisions together, you'll still share your love and can take care of many of each other's emotional needs from afar. Perhaps there is a joint checking account you both pull from? Or some other shared finances? Or an apartment or home that you have together (even if he's away from it for a month or two)? Trust me: a single mom has none of those things.
Perhaps rather than calling yourself a single mom (which you're not, trust me), it might be better to simply write about how tough it is when your loving husband is away, how difficult it can feel to manage the kids on your own without a break, and how it's given you a new appreciation for how single parents and people without what you have might struggle?
All of that said, I do hope things with your husband's father go well and that they are getting the support and peace that they need. I also hope that you and your kids enjoy this time! I'm sure it's tough being away from your husband, especially as the two of you have been together for so long and have rarely been separated (that would be the post I'd prefer seeing!!), but it sounds like you're keeping busy! Again, I hope things go well with your husband's father- what a gift that he can be there with him.
Alyson - must be awesome to finally have him home.
Melissa - Thanks for commenting.
These aren’t single mum travel tips, they are survival tips that I have used to face my time alone without my husband. Thankfully I am not travelling at present.
When you say “he didn’t leave you”, you may be implying that he hasn’t divorced me, but I never said that. I said he has left me alone, which he has, there is no mistake there.
We understand your single mum term may be defined differently to mine, but currently this is how I am feeling without my husband. The article is not about finances and love and homes, it is about coping mechanisms. We are sorry if the title offended you and we certainly applaud your job, it’s a tough one. However I do not believe there is anything untruthful about it, my soul mate has left me (whether it be days, weeks or years) and the 5 tips I offer are how I am coping with it, not how you should, but specifically it says "how am I surviving my dramatic thrust into single mum-hood, my parenting challenge?". FIFO mums do the single mum thing every week and I think they may possibly argue with your term on single mum as well.
We certainly do appreciate single parents and that's why the first line says “…I want to applaud the single mums.” Part two of the post on the next page also says, "Once again, I am no expert on this single mum thing, and I have a new profound respect for those that do it permanently". Please understand I think any single mum is a Wonder Woman & certainly have a new found appreciation.
Thank you for your concern on the family and for writing.
Love your tips. Pretty much what has got me through the last 5 yrs of a FIFO life. And remember take one day at a time!!
We are stronger and more resilient than we realize. I've been a single mom, of one, for 20 years now and we do make it through :)
Thats gonna be me in a couple of weeks, I'm off to NZ with just the boys, Dad is staying behind in Melbourne. Single mum for a few weeks...
My husband lived in a different state for 3 years. We saw each other 3-4 times a year for a week or so. It was difficult, but it made me stronger (and I'm independent by nature). Our daughter was 7 when he left and their relationship suffered, but they are rebuilding it now that he is home. There are perks to single parenting though!
Annie - 20 years- wow! Great job Mum!
Vicki - My best friend is a FIFO wife, I know how hard it is, good job.
Nichola - Good luck in NZ!
Suzanne - Wow that's tough. Do they have a better relationship now? Damn straight there is perks that's my next post http://travelwithbender.com/travel-thoughts/reflections/my-soul-mate-left-me-5-awesome-perks-for-a-newly-single-mum/
As a single mother of three, I have to question your use of the term "single-mum" in this situation. In my marriage I was a FIFO mum and would spend up to 4 months on my own. Now that I am truly a single-mum, I would never compare my time as a mother when my husband was away to what I do now.
I hear you saying that you applaud the single-mums out there, but you must understand that comparing your brief time away from your husband to actually being a single-mum is rather insulting. I have no idea what it is like to live without legs. If I were to sprain both of my ankles, I would never presume to have had a taste of what life is really like with no legs.
Melissa stated it perfectly when she said, "It might be better to simply write about how tough it is when your loving husband is away, how difficult it can feel to manage the kids on your own without a break, and how it's given you a new appreciation for how single parents and people without what you have might struggle."
I see that you changed the title of the post, thank you.
It certainly is interesting reading the thoughts of different mums and their definition of "single-mum". And I don't think any one person can dismiss another person's parenting challenges whether it is the mum who's husband has gone away for a month, or the FIFO wife, or the permanently single mum. We, as women & mums, are all in this together and I think a post on my coping mechanisms stands the same, as the other ladies stated above.
Thanks for your thoughts, Laurel. Melissa and I actually had several emails back and forth and she saw where I was coming from and I saw where she was coming from. We left things on a very positive note.
We will have to agree to disagree on the issue, because as I said to Melissa your term of single mum is very different from mine, as was the term when you were a FIFO mum. I have a very good friend who was a FIFO mum and is now a single mum. I understand the finance, love and home situation changes, but as far as the coping mechanisms, which is what the post is about, it remains the same.
As I said above I am no single mum expert, but these are the 5 things that have been my lifeline during my new single (meaning solo) period in time. You do a great, tough job & I bet you'd have a dozen more tips to offer.
Totally not a single mum here, but I can see where Erin is coming from. It MUST be difficult for her to be on her own after spending 24/7 with her husband for over 500 days on the road. The fact is Erin is parenting solo while Josh is off on the other side of the world. I'm not comparing it to being a single mother for years with no emotional or financial support from a spouse but it is still solo parenting (and it's still hard) even if it's only for a month.
Clearly Erin is not trying to put down single moms. There is no need to nitpick at her wording. I'm sure she very much respects single mothers as do I. She is simply sharing her own experience and giving helpful tips for people when their partner is away. I'm sure many people can use these tips and Erin I appreciate your encouraging post.
My issue is not with nitpicking the wording at all. Like I said, I was a FIFO (never heard that term until this post) mom for 12 years and I know the challenges that come with coping while dad is away. My issue comes in making light of being a single parent. I found the original article to be intentionally misleading us into thinking that her husband had truly left her. While the original intention was to be clever, I get that- my jaw was dropped in disbelief. I was sentences in until I realized what was really going on. Erin, I was ready to immediately send you a private message to offer support.
I truly appreciate the changes that were made, really. I think your tips about coping while dad is away are spot-on, it takes a village. I just didn't appreciate the original implications of the post and felt like it was making light of an incredibly intense reality for many of us. Again, I applaud you for realizing where it may come across wrong and changing it. As the post stands now, it is just fine.
Being a single mom for most of my daughter's life, I can see how this article can go either way and how it can be taken different ways. That being said, and knowing Erin from on-line, I don't think that she meant any harm by it. Regardless if she is truly a single mom or not, how she is use to parenting has had to change due to her husband having to leave town. Her husband many not have "left her, but not having him there day to day would still be incredibly difficult and a huge change. To me, it sounds like shes learning ways to coop with him being gone and just wants to offer up what she's learned to help out other moms who might find themselves in the same situation.
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