Happy Father's Day (especially to those of us pulling the double shift)

Every year on Father's day I send a message to other mums I know who are single parents, acknowledging that they are pulling the double shift .

Last year I also became one of those mums.

Last year was the first Father's day without Andy.  Such a poignant day, we were still so numb we were just going through the motions.  Every day Daisy was asking about him and signing that she was sad, there was no time to think about the practicalities of being sa ingle parent, I was struggling just to get through each day.

On Father's day last year the children and I had a barbecue and then Daisy let off a balloon to send to the stars to Daddy.

This year it's different again.  18 months since Andy left us, nearly 5 months now since Daisy joined him.

My physical work load has decreased leaving a huge void in my life but the emotional challenges of being both mum and dad are still very much there, more so when you take into account the different needs and age ranges of my children as they continue to adjust to life without their father and sister.

As I struggle to do the right thing,  guiding our children to adulthood, I miss having him by my side, sharing the load.  I miss being able to talk things through, validate what we are doing. I have to rely on my instincts and hope that Andy would agree with me.  I so much want to bounce things off him, talk it through - "did I say the right thing?" "should I let them do that?" "what would you do if they said that?" -  but I have to trust that we were a team for so long he would be on the same page about anything that I decided about the children.

I miss having reinforcements when I feel outnumbered by the banter and the student living, there are times when I feel I have been dropped into the set of The Young Ones.   I wish he would just come into the room and restore some order.  I miss the adult company.  There is only so much conversation you can take about Dr Who or the latest game release or the latest meme doing the rounds.

I miss the practical skills, there was a division of labour, I didn't realise until now what an art there is to stacking the dishwasher.  I can sense his disapproval when I don't quite do it correctly (don't overload it was always his motto).  I have learned to become adept with a spanner and a drill as I worked on the interior of our camper van.  I sit back and admire my work looking forward to his feedback then remember that it will never come, I just have to hope that he would like it.

I miss his cooking. He did the bulk of the cooking at home, I hate coming home from a long tiring day and knowing that some sort of meal needs to be made.  The children are great at cooking but when they are tired too they look to their parents to feed them, anyway if I left the cooking to them I would never have a clean kitchen.  Andy made incredible gourmet meals, I throw together something from the freezer and half the time still manage to burn it.

I remember not long after Andy died an old acting friend of his who had also lost his partner to cancer said that the biggest thing you miss is the reciprocity.  The love is still there, it will always be there but you will never hear that voice again telling you that it's OK, you're doing a good job, that you are loved.

I have learned very rapidly that single parenting is hard, you really are on your own, hoping that you are getting it right.  Father's day just serves to remind me of that.

I will still celebrate it though, I want to acknowledge that the children had a father, he was a father to four children, just because he is not here, doesn't mean that we shouldn't be celebrating his legacy.  But I also want to celebrate the fact that I am still standing, despite having to pull that double shift, despite having to learn a lot more about football and gaming and negotiating with petulant teens on my own.

For all you double-shifters out there - I salute you!  It really is the hardest job in the world  going it alone, without another person to share the physical and emotional load, so we definitely need to celebrate both Mothers AND Father's day (if our children ever give us a break that is).

Happy Father's Day Andy - you were the best and I miss having you by my side.

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