I am "single parenting" it again this week. Only for a few days, but it feels like a really long time. It's not that Ben is an especially hard child to deal with or that he acts more defiant or impulsive than your average two year old. It's more that I don't have the additional patience needed to fill the role of two parents. My husband isn't the main disciplinarian or the person who does the majority of the child rearing responsibilities - as the person who stays home each day, that would be my job. But he is very much my partner in all things and it's hard when he's away.
For one thing, Ben is hysterical. He says things that crack me up and I find myself wishing desperately that my co-parent was in the room to share the moment. Today he threw his Pooh Bear down the stairs and as Pooh tumbled end over end to the bottom, he said "Silly Old Bear!" just like Christopher Robin. It cracked me up. I also over heard him "playing" with the cats in the playroom. He kept grabbing toys and showing them to Ella and Hobbes - "Look, McQueen!" "Ella, it's Handy Manny!" (Ella was, of course, unimpressed by this display and Hobbes actually left the room which resulted in Ben saying "where did Mr. Hobbes go?" in an offended sort of way).
Obviously the funny stories are still things I can relay later when my spouse returns to the homestead. The thing I miss most when he is gone is the buffer. I feel like I have a very slippery grip on my temper by the end of the day. I never really thought before about how much I look forward to that break that comes around at 5pm when the "fun guy" comes home and can entertain Ben while I make dinner or mentally check out and read a book or a blog for 10 minutes. Without that extra person in the room, I am the main source for Ben's entertainment and also the one who is continually trying to coerce him into picking up his toys, coming to eat dinner, getting ready for bed, brushing his teeth, etc. None of which he wants to do willingly, of course.
More than once tonight I screamed at him to "knock it off" when he was trying my patience. Of course, the first time it happened, his little smiling face crumpled up into tears and I felt like the biggest, meanest ogre of a mama that ever roamed the planet. I immediately hugged him and apologized for raising my voice. I explained that I was very frustrated that he wasn't listening to me but that yelling at him was NOT okay and that I never want him to be afraid of me. And silently, I wished with all my heart that my husband had been home to give me a breather before I raised my voice and scared my child. It's not that I needed him to discipline Ben or even to address whatever issue I had been trying to resolve. It's more about having the other person in the room to feel supported. To distract the toddler from dumping out the bucket of toys I just put away. To coax him into climbing the stairs when it's bedtime. To sit with me in the silent house after the day is done and savor the quiet. I miss my buffer.