Tonight my wife is on her way back from a business trip in Busan, Korea. I played Mr. Mom once again, the third time in less than two months. My son and I had a fabulous time tonight. When I returned home from work, he wasn’t hungry, so we went for a walk to the neighborhood playground, and we played together until dusk. We walked home, and he still wasn’t very hungry, so he watched a video until just before bedtime. By that time he was hungry, so I coaxed him into eating a meal he really didn’t want to eat. That eliminated his late-night snack craving. I bathed him, brushed his teeth, put on his pajamas, read him some bedtime stories, and then, rather than trying to lie next to him to help him fall asleep–an honor reserved for mommy–I turned the light out, kissed his forehead, and let him fall asleep by himself. It worked. Everything worked like a charm. I am so happy. I had the most carefree caregiving night I think we’ve had with him in months. I think tonight’s strategy worked for a couple reasons. One, he tends to behave better when mommy isn’t around. Two, I did it my way and avoided copycatting his mommy’s style. Mommy is a great mommy, but my son demands more from her than from me. When I act like daddy, he tends to be a better child. Perhaps that’s out of a healthy respect for me, or maybe it’s because he thinks I’m not cut out for being mommy and cuts me some slack. I think my wife is a bit jealous of how well he behaves when I’m not around. Of course, it hasn’t always been easy for me with him. When we were in China and in the U.S., I was often at wit’s end dealing with his incorrigible behavior.
After having been with my son alone thrice for several days at a time, I decided that single parenting has to be the toughest job in the world. Not only do you have to work for a living to earn enough money to provide for your child’s basic necessities, but also you have to fill the roles of two parents. It’s even tougher when you have more than one child. Single parenthood can also be career-limiting, because working and simultaneously caring for your kids can put a big strain on your ability to multi-task. I have a cousin who until recently was a single mom with three children (she’s now remarried). We don’t have much in common, and she can’t relate to my own life ("good luck with that Korea thing," she told me before we left the states). At the same time, I couldn’t really relate to her life either until I had a child and took care of him on my own. Having had a small taste of single parenting, I now realize that it is the toughest job you can have. I salute the single mothers out there who work all day and take care of their children at night, the ones who have to rely on the grandparents, daycare, or public school to watch their children during the day. You do amazing work.