One of the biggest challenges Chris and I anticipated facing during our bicoastal summer experiment was having to spend time apart; I can freelance from anywhere, but Chris really needs to be in his office in San Francisco. Knowing I would be losing my co-parent (and best friend, but i'm going to avoid getting cheesy) for a good chunk of the time, and also knowing how challenging it is to wrangle a toddler and an infant solo, we asked my cousin Megan to move in with us for the summer and help with the kiddos.
Megan is a delight and one of Dash's favorite people on the planet – but she isn't starting until next week. So when Chris headed back to California and visiting family departed, I had a chunk of time totally alone with the boys. I had to figure out how to survive as a parent of two in a new city on my own. It was the week before the Fourth of July, but it was a personal Independence Day, of sorts.
I can best summarize this period as really freakin' hard. As in, the baby spitting up his entire bottle on my dry clean-only outfit after I've collapsed in a resigned heap on the floor in frustration because my big boy thinks it's hilarious to run away from me every single time I ask him to do anything (and then do the exact opposite of what I've asked), and we're on hour two of trying to get out of the house for the first time that day.
I didn't realize how much of a support network we had built in San Francisco; from childcare to homecare, preschool to parks, we have it dialed in. We know whom to call when we need help and where to go when we need activities out of the house. Last time Chris and I lived here, we were in our mid twenties and our biggest worry was finding the brunch spot with the best deal on bottomless mimosas. Needless to say, despite having lived here in the past, we're essentially starting from scratch.
I assumed I would be cruising through work projects as soon as we arrived. Instead, i've spent our early days here working to exhaustion just trying to keep the kids entertained and the house from falling apart. And while I love interior design, I'm not a natural domestic goddess. If I'm being totally honest, I would rather spend time watching The Real Housewives than being a good housewife. I despise cleaning the kitchen, flatly refuse to take out the trash, and have actually gagged while cleaning the bathroom. In San Francisco Chris and I have a "divide and conquer" mentality, each handling the chores the other hates. When we're living apart, however, this strategy no longer applies. If i'm not doing it here right now, it's not getting done.
This week has given me renewed respect for stay at home moms. Keeping a house in order is relentless work. And keeping kids focused, content, and enteratined requires planning and preparation, as with any job. It took me the better part of a week to figure this out, but now that I see how much losing his predictable schoolyear routine has affected Dash, I've wisened up and am working to get us on a summer schedule.
It's going to take time to find all of our go-to places in Charleston, but we're making inroads, finding the shady playgrounds (because playgrounds in the sun are untenible in this heat), exploring kids programing at the local library and children's museum, and checking out the calendar section of the paper for fun events. Being out of my parenting comfort zone has actually made me more adventurous in terms of our outings. We're trying new things and (once we actually make it out of the house) we're having fun.
It's undeniable that having children means giving up some of the spontenaity from your life (bye bye, impromptu road trip and last-minute fancy dinner out) but my week of forced independence has taught me that when I consciously take control over our days, I can bring order to even a chaotic dad-less week and, within these boundaries, give us a new kind of freedom.
Main Image: John Silliman
Body Image: Chris Clark (Note: Without Chris here to snap a current picture, I've included an old photo he took of us infront of our San Francisco home in February, a week and a half after Beau was born)*