Vail Novice Father: Home alone
Vail, CO Colorado
My wife and daughter flew from the Vail Valley to Vermont for a family vacation. I didn’t join them because I have few big deadlines fast approaching. I saw being alone in the house as an opportunity to take a large bite out of those projects. But not since my daughter was born a year and a half ago have I been away from her or my wife for more than a day. This week I’m living the bachelor life … if only temporarily.
That’s not to say I’m out partying up the bars every night, sleeping until noon, and drinking milk out of the container. I’ve devoted this week to catching up with work … so my Saturday nights are still pretty lame by Entourage standards.
What I’ve found striking about this isolation is I now realize the basic day-to-day habits that I’ve formed being a husband and a dad. It’s true that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. This week of alone time uncovers those habits I didn’t notice before. I experience little epiphanies every day about what my life as a father and husband is really like.
Day one: After a “Risky Business”-style dance in my underwear, I collapsed onto the floor in tears from the loneliness. Or maybe it’s because I banged my shin on the coffee table when I slid across the floor in my socks. It’s hard to remember the reason because all the emotional scarring murks things up.
Day two: The first surprise is how easy it is for me to get out of the house in the morning when all I have to take care of is myself. It’s quite the time-suck when I normally wake, dress, feed and clean up after the Kid. This morning I slept in, took my time getting ready, relaxed a little bit, and still headed to work earlier than normal.
Day three: The next surprise is the household chores. Without a toddler to clean up after, it’s easy for me to get ahead of any housework that needs to be done. No dishes pile up in the sink. No clothes overflow out of the laundry bin. No toys and Tupperware lay like landmines around the living room floor.
After getting in the habit of doing dishes twice a day, or sneaking in a load of laundry whenever I could spare it, or picking up toys off the floor every 10 minutes, it feels like I’m doing nothing. Yet the house is spotless.
Day four: After four nights of scavenging leftovers and piecemeal meals from the refrigerator, I realize that I need to start planning dinners again. There are hidden benefits to being responsible for a family … and knowing what you’re going to do for dinner before 7 p.m. is one of those benefits.
Day 5: I realize I’m still sleeping entirely on my side of the bed. Not a limb crosses over to the other side of the bed at any time in the night. I’ve been physically conditioned like a geisha’s bound foot to stay within my boundaries … even when there’s nobody on the other side of the bed to enforce those boundaries.
Day 6: The Netflix movie that arrived in the mail is somewhat disappointing. Evenings in a too-quiet home get lonely and I focus on keeping myself busy until it’s time to go to bed.
This little experiment in bachelorhood shows me the details of a life I had years ago, but haven’t known since. Sleeping in aside, I’m looking forward to my family coming home.
Kelly Coffey is a novice father. He shares his mistakes, fears, and laughs along his journey to figure out how anybody could possibly raise a child. Submit comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.