By the time James was a year old I had already come to terms with the fact that I was going to do all of the day to day jobs of a parent alone, but I still didn’t view myself as parenting alone. I fed the children, gave them baths, took them to doctors… but in my mind we were still in this together. Looking back I can see that I was making a lot of excuses for John that allowed for me to see nothing wrong with his behavior… but at the time this was my normal.
I’ll never forget the one time I left him alone with the children so that I could go to a baby shower. My son was three by then. I had called home to check on them around two o’clock in the afternoon and when I had asked John if he had fed the children lunch he replied … “No. You didn’t tell me I had to do that”. The expectation in our household was that I would take care of everything. I’m not sure why I didn’t see that as a problem… but I didn’t.
One day we went to New York to visit John’s mother and stepfather. While we were there John disappeared into the kitchen and sat with his family while I stayed in the living room and watched the children. James was playing with cat toys and went to put one in his mouth. I asked him to stop and redirected him. From the other room I heard John’s stepfather mocking me and my parenting. For the next five minutes I heard different judgmental and disparaging comments about my parenting float through the air while John and his mother laughed along.
I was crushed. Why was he laughing at that? Why isn’t he saying anything to his stepfather about how unkind that was? Here I am… doing ALL of the parenting… while John is sitting in the other room mocking me. I felt uncomfortable talking to my own son for the remainder of the visit.
In the car, on the way home, I tried to speak to John about what happened. I told him that I had heard him and his family and my feelings had been hurt. I don’t know what I had expected. In my head he was going to say something like, “Yea! Can you believe that? That was so uncool. Sorry I didn’t speak up for you. I just felt uncomfortable saying something”. Of course, that is not what happened.
For the rest of the car ride John yelled, James plugged his ears and yelled “La, la, la” and I held back tears while I silently listened. That was the day that I realized I really was in this alone. I was parenting alone. John was present …. but I was alone.