I am almost without words (and that doesn’t happen too often) at how valuable a resource it’s been for me to hear of how other Significant Others are doing it… being married to a chef WITH children. Your insight and wisdom (sprinkled in with a mix of light heartedness and sass) has proven comforting to me as I go forward on my journey to conceive. Thank you.
Today you will hear from another GIFTED writer.. (you ladies need to start writing books!) Reading her words… I almost instantly feel at peace, not so alone and freaked out. I’m pretty sure you will get the same vibe from her… Thank you Sara!!!
The Single Married Mother
We knew we weren’t ready for a baby, but there was, indeed, a blue line, and also, a massive change of heart. There were tears, and fears, and hysterical to-be grandparents.
“You can’t move across the country with our grand baby in your belly!” my mother exclaimed. I was only a few weeks pregnant, and already this baby was changing every plan, for myself, my husband and our respective families. But, we trekked across the plains and mountains, with a jug of homemade ginger honey juice to calm the nausea of the bumpy, bloated ride. There was an initial craze of finding jobs, getting lost in our new North Western city, and surviving the daily freak-out sessions of “What are we doing????”
I remember sitting on the couch one evening as my husband worked the dinner shift, feeling like Dorthy in Oz, dropped from the sky in to a strange and confusing land. You see, I am also a chef. I was used to late nights, late mornings, adrenalin, drinking, being bawdy and brutal to my body. Suddenly, I was sitting on the couch, watching American Idol through tears, because I had no idea how to live this lonely, sedate, pregnant life. I especially did not know how to do it with out my partner, and I was in a panic as to how I was going to do it with a baby in tow.
The first two years were very hard. Initially, I was in baby bliss, and relished the new life as mother. However, about three months in, the doubt and the loneliness began to take it’s toll. Being in a new city, with few people to call “friend” made the situation even harder. I tried a Mom’s group, but soon didn’t want to give up the morning time that I had to be with my husband. No other mother in the group had a partner that worked evenings, so I was still at a loss as to solving the crisis of the long, sad evenings.
Eventually, I decided I had to move closer to family. For me, I just had to be in a familiar place with familiar faces while I tried to figure out this whole new world. Even though I am completely versed in what it means to be a chef, and the demands of following the dream, I found myself fuming at the culture I had once loved. The tension in my marriage pushed us to breaking points, and I was to my wits end, filled with resentment for this life I felt was so unfair.
Some of you have been living the life of a restaurant workers’ partner for some time. Others of you may be like me, suddenly shocked at the difficulty of raising a child while the other parent works the crazy hours expected of a chef, restaurant manager, server or bartender. We have friends and family asking “ How do you manage?”, and “Why don’t they do something else?” as if it were as easy as going to a store and picking a new livelihood off the shelf. We have friends inviting us to couples parties on Saturdays, and in-laws vying for time on the one precious day off. We have ourselves, wondering what we’ve gotten our into and how we are going to manage. Most importantly, we have our children, wanting to know where their other parent is, and why they aren’t home in time for dinner.
Today, I feel like I have come along way in regards to how I handle the circumstances of my life with a restaurant loving spouse. I have stopped fighting the reality so much, and I have pushed myself to expand my mind and my horizons in order to be a better mother and wife. I suppose you could say I have hit my stride, and I have found a way to live my life that I can embrace more fully. Of course, I still have my moments lamenting the demands of my husband’s career, but, miraculously, those times are quite few these days. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my learning with you, as my own greatest comfort has come from meeting other mothers who lift my spirit with their experiences and the knowledge that my situation is not unique.
Your love and commitment to your partner is such a great foundation for a family, and I commend you for that. I hope that these ideas and suggestions inspire you, and that you always remember you aren’t alone in the struggle.
Expand Your Community
I cannot stress the importance of this. Even in the case that you have friends and family in close proximity, the opportunity to have a wide range of people (especially other mothers) in your circle will greatly improve your ability to handle the lonely nights, and dateless evenings out.
Unfortunately, family and friends can sometimes disappoint when it comes to helping with your child. There is only so much they can do to “replace” your partner and some may not be as willing to help as much as you had hoped. Expanding your community whether or not you have family that is close or willing to help will be a priceless asset. Some of you may not yet have children and you have already built a system of support for yourself. If you are planning on a bundle of joy, your support should expand even further.
Sometimes, old friends can have a hard time with the transition of your motherhood, and can even be sometimes insensitive to your situation. The good thing about meeting new people is that everyone wants to be liked, and new friends tend to hold back judgments or opinions the way old friends do not. Now, this will take some courage and effort on your part, but I promise, great rewards will follow. Start by looking into your community for Mom groups, play date groups or organizations like La Leches League. I encourage you to start searching these groups out while you are making your registry or decorating the nursery. Be open to posting for new friends on Craigslist. When I finally bit that bullet, I met one of the most awesome females in my life. She didn’t even have kids, but she could be more compassionate towards me than many of my child- bearing friends. Ask your partner if there are any co-workers who have families, or if anyone of their expansive network have spouses and families.
I have spent some good times with my husbands chef’s wife and son. It has been an enriching relationship, and a great support when I am feeling resentful of the lifestyle.
Make Yourself a Priority
I hear this advice given a lot, and I am guilty of not adhering to it at times. But I can tell you from experience that it is an essential, especially for the lifestyle of a restaurant workers spouse raising children. The better you feel, the more you will be able to handle the stress, the emotions and the frustrations of single married motherhood. Being the partner of a food service worker takes parenting to whole new extremes, and caregivers tend to put each other last on the list. I encourage you to put yourself first. Schedule a massage. Get a babysitter. Put them to bed early to curl up with the book you want to read. Be gentle on yourself and reward yourself.
This may require that you follow Tip #1 of expanding your community.
If you are on a tight budget or have limited family to help watch your child consider the following:
- Offer to trade babysitting with other parents. Chances are, you also know someone on a tight budget who could use some free kid- free time.
- See if anyone would be up for bartering; say, you provide a meal for the family in trade for 3 hours of free sitting. If you don’t cook, think of some other talent or hobby you have that would be useful to someone else. Can you sew? Are you able to make home repairs or clean house? I have had a friend watch my child in exchange for picking up a few groceries just so she doesn’t have to go through the hassle of schlepping all three of her kids to the store!
- Consider working part-time, even if you don’t have to. The money considering daycare may even out, but the time of feeling like a grown-up, is priceless.
Forget the “Shoulds”’
This may be the most important tip of all, and the one that is a bit more conceptual. Early on, I found myself ruminating on all of the “Should’s”; He “should” be home helping me with bath time, he “should” have better hours, this “should” be more fair, he “should” have holidays off….I “should” be able to handle this better.
In life, there are many more “should’s” than guarantees. It is easy to think that this loneliness is an injustice that we must suffer through. But, it can be something to be celebrated. So, I want you to consider embracing this lifestyle as a lifeline. Consider the couples who are so annoyed and bored with each other after spending every evening together, wrangling the kids, talking about the budget, putting dinner on the table, only to fall into bed exhausted and longing for intimacy, spontaneity, excitement. I, for one, am banking on not being nearly as bored with my husband as my other married friends, simply because he has less time to annoy me, and I have less time to nag him. Getting to see him lends more excitement to the relationship. During the week, I don’t have to worry that I look like an unsexy slob; he’s not there to see it! I anticipate the time we get to be together, and find myself taking pleasure and having the energy to look good especially for him.
Cultivate an attitude of Acceptance and Appreciation
Yes, this is a hard lifestyle. And there will be times you want to curl up in a ball and say “ Whyyy Meee??” You’ll tell them to quit their job, find something, anything else to do. These are the times that you will hate hearing” Look on the bright side!” You’ll want to slap whoever tells you this. seriously, take a moment to breathe and reflect on the good things in your life.
Think of how you know that he will be home tonight, where he will be tomorrow, rather than having to go to sleep wondering if he is being ambushed in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Think of those who don’t know where their next meal is going to come from, and that you have a paycheck with your family name on it. Consider that you have met someone your want to share your life with and create a new human being with.
Consider that you will be teaching your children about hard work, commitment and what it is to sacrifice for love and family. Consider acceptance. If you believe in God, have faith that he has brought this to you for a purpose. If you believe in Karma, know that a big measure of love will come your way. If you don’t believe in anything, believe in yourself. There is always hope. There will be bad days, but there will be good days.
And even if your partner were home every evening, it is no guarantee that you would be happier, or that life would be easier.
Sometimes, having a chef as a husband is like adding another kid to the mix.
Teach Your Children Well
One of the things I fear the most is my son asking why Daddy can’t come to his game. Or school recital. There have been days I try to distract myself from the reality of him is not being here to join us on “family” outings. But I have realized that this is not a culture I want to create for my child; “coping” with my partners absence. I am not cold-hearted, but firmly establish that Daddy has to work. It is how we afford the house we live in and the clothes we buy. It is a fact of life, and even though some kids have both parents on the weekend, many families are of different shapes, sizes and situations. I help him to create friendships, because, really, Mom and Dad are only so much fun.
On Christmas Eve, we have a private party of wrapping Daddy’s presents, talking about the surprises in store for him. I encourage you to get creative. Have an Un-Christmas if your partner has to work the holiday. Create new traditions, and find new meaning in what matters most to you and your partner. Even if it is something as simple as having cereal for dinner the night before family day, a tradition is a tradition. Security and a sense of belonging is what matters most to your child. Do not conjure feelings of missing out. We are incredibly lucky to live in this nation, in this lifetime, with the riches we have. Teach them to be grateful and lead by example.
Sara Bloomer is a Chef, Mother, Chef’s Wife and Foodie. She is passionate about sustainable food practices, having spent time working on Sallie’s Organic Farm, participating in her neighborhood CSA, and touring local food “hot spots”. While she misses her days working in restaurants, her focus of mothering her son, Basel, has been a welcome reprieve from the stressful life of a line cook. Sara enjoys getting crafty, meeting other mammas, and sitting in breast-feeding circles in the garden. Nature, travel, adventure, and discovery are major themes in her life and she hopes to one day leave it all behind for a year, traveling the country in a food truck with her husband and son.
If you want to read our other takes on what it’s like… read our other lovely ladies words of wisdom
***If you are interested in sharing your take on what it’s like… you know…. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org