For the last week or so I have been trying my hand at single parenthood and I am now totally in awe of anyone who has to do this everyday. In fact, I was feeling quite sorry for myself until a friend came for coffee yesterday - her husband works in Kosovo and only comes home once every six weeks! And here am I chuntering about a week and a half!
However, this is the longest time we have been apart in the last twenty eight years and aside from missing my beloved (apart from the snoring, obviously) there would appear to a massive black hole of things that I rely on him for in a practical sense. This would include anything to do with cars - I have no idea what goes on under the bonnet and frankly, as long as he comes back, I don't intend to find out. Then there is the computer. At the back end of last year, my lovely mac crashed and in the words of Craig Revel Horwood 'disaster daaarling!' This may or may not be the result of people other than me using my super hi-spec laptop and I am therefore now very edgy about anyone else getting their paws on my keyboard! Mental note to self: must back-up, especially TFN which, had it been lost, would have been 30,000 words down the swanny! The mac made a full recovery but I am now very territorial about my office equipment.
Added to this, I know nothing about how the heating or indeed how anything electrical works. In fact - and I suspect this is true for plenty of people who perhaps wouldn't admit to it - anything that comes with a manual. Whenever a new piece of kit arrives in this house with a leaflet translated into half a dozen or more languages, I go into ignoring-it mode. My beautiful cooker which landed here in early December came with an epic tome. So I waited till my beloved (who is a much better cook than me) and child 3 (probably ditto but not such a wide range of skills and recipes yet) had used it and I could surreptitiously watch them at work before tentatively trying my hand when there was no-one to watch. Of course, I am now fully competent but I do suffer from techno-fear. Do people really read instruction manuals from cover to cover? Or do they wait till disaster (more from Craig) strikes and then try to find out why in a panic?
The one area where, if things go wrong I really want to cry, is laundry. Because we've been married for eons and have far too many children, we are on to probably our fourth washing machine and probably tumble dryer. If one of these breaks, I want to lie on the floor and wail. The new tumble dryer (yes, a lot of things had to be replaced in the autumn but luckily not me!) has a water reservoir which has to emptied after each load. This is something that child 2 couldn't get her head round and she has been bringing her laundry home from her flat since early December - because, strangely, her washing machine broke! Between Christmas and New Year, this ended in disaster (I am now saying this like CRH in my head - how sad!) and we had to get the man round. He kindly replaced something like a thermostat - well, I think that's what he meant - because if you don't empty the water reservoir every wash the machine heats up like a kettle. Then last week, whilst we are watching something gripping on television, children 2, 3 and 4 and me, I hear the tumble dryer going and say "Did you empty the water?" and just the look on child 2's face was enough to have me running to the dryer. Just in time if the temperature of the outside casing is anything to go by - you could have cooked an egg on the top. Crisis averted but obviously child 2 has inherited my manual-averse, non-techy gene.
The other thing is more related to the children than the practicalities of life. I have never been one of those mothers who says 'wait till your father gets home', not least because when we play good-cop, bad-cop, I always end up playing the latter. But presenting a united front on all matters child-related is important and paddling my own canoe with children 3 and 4 is much more tricky. At one point, child 3 (yes you know who you are!) told me this week I was a 'rubbish parent'. But at least I am here and I guess that's what lots of single parents say - it's too tempting not to.
Anyway, hopefully we will survive the last few days before my beloved comes home. I will not be presented with any more dilemmas relating to what the children want to do which may or may not be appropriate, no equipment - cars or domestic - will develop glitches and I will enjoy a couple more nights of uninterrupted sleep. And most importantly, I will have racked up a very serious number of brownie points to be reclaimed later in the year.