Easy Days and Fast-Food Nights (A Dad’s Guide To Surviving Mom Being Gone)

Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your children.  ~ Sam Levenson

My wife left town for a few days. It’s much easier now then it was when the kids were younger but I won’t lie… at least for me, it never gets easy. Probably because I’m a freaking moron and part of the blessing of marrying the woman that I did was that I understood how drastically she off-sets my moron-ness. I’m cool with it. I’m good at stuff but where this thing is concerned – running things without my wife – I have a very simple philosophy: survive and advance. By any means. Sometimes, without her, it can be easier then other times and each time she leaves… I never know how things will go – but I know this: things certainly won’t get boring.   

Look: I won’t win any dad of the year awards, but then again… neither will most of you. Can we all get real, though? When mom goes out of town we aren’t looking to win any awards. We’re simply looking to survive. By any means necessary. That’s just the Truth of it. 

Here’s what you need to understand, in the midst of your doing whatever it takes to survive… Mom’s going to return and she will discover several things: she will find that the fruit she left out for you to eat is rotted, brown and untouched. The ice-cream she hid in the deep freezer out in the garage, however (hidden under 10 lbs. of steak and pork chops) is gone… all 4 gallons. Even the Rocky Road. All, ALL of the food in the food pantry (except for all things chocolate, anything chip-based or remotely unhealthy) is still there. Unopened. Unused. Uneaten. She spent $50 that she should’ve used for her trip on gas to purchase provisions for you to feed her children. In reality, which she may never discover, is that the pantry was only even opened quite by accident when you remembered on day three that this is where dog treats are kept and that this was why the dogs had been making that unnerving sound each night at the exact same time – on the hour – because you had forgotten dogs (like children when mom is away) expect treats each night. Opening said pantry led to the amazing discovery of potato chips which, consequently, led to the brilliant idea of “Chip Night” where you announced to your kids that tonight, dinner would consist of “Make your favorite bowl of chips” and you proceeded to line the counter in buffet-style with every chip you could find. Thinking back, that could explain why everybody felt so sick the next day. Hmmm. Perhaps that “medical emergency” wasn’t as dire as you first expected. Mom will also discover that all that laundry she raced to finish before she left still lies in the laundry baskets in everyone’s room. Hey… at least she won’t have to do laundry when she returns, right? Though trust me… don’t try out this logic. It won’t go well for you. Please. Just trust me on this. Your logic of getting two full wears (maybe three) out of your underwear thus financially saving the family money… a bad, bad argument. Mom will also discover that you’ve taught the kids a “new technique” to bathing, called… “The French-Bath”. Kids love it. Mom does not. At least you can honestly say this time “Yeah, babe… The kids took bathes… for the most part…” Hey, water and soap is water and soap, right? So what’s the difference if you’re washing in a shower or under a sink. Mom will explain the difference to you a few nights later. That is, if she has recovered from the shock of ALSO discovering exactly how you HAVE managed to feed her children DESPITE not having eaten a single thing she actually left you to eat. She will have to figure out how to make $23.50 last to the end of the month because that’s all that is left in your bank account. When she checks on-line to see how she possibly could have so poorly mismanaged the family finances this month, she will see an unusual amount of charges over a 3-day period (oddly enough, the exact same three days she was gone and left her bank card with a certain individual) at places such as Sonic, Inc. McDonald’s. Eagle One Pizza. Sub-Way… three times in one day. (That was “Healthy Sub-Way-Day” where we decided to finally settle once and for all exactly where the BEST Sub-Way in south OKC really was. Results were inconclusive.) Darn you, on-line banking. And heaven help us if we have to actually get the kids to some important appointment, doctor or otherwise. Mom will discovery each missed appointment as she checks the 500 missed calls on the family land-line. (That’s that annoying ringing sound that periodically went off from the device that has numbers on it and SORT of looks like a phone but couldn’t possibly be one because it wouldn’t fit in your pocket. Remember? The device that you quickly found if you just ignore it for about 30 seconds, it stops that incessant ringing?) “Didn’t you check the messages from the doctors office reminding you of those appointments?!?” Uh… I haven’t checked messages in, like, never. If you can’t text it, I’m not getting it. And even then, I’m lucky if I even check my I-phone for messages missed more then twice a day. That’s the truth. Mom will actually cede this point to you. But by this point, you’re so far in the hole, it’s really pointless anyways. You’re a dead-beat and everybody knows it. My wife is a writer. I just became another chapter in another book. I’m use to it, actually. I’ve grown accustomed to reading her books and looking for scenes where I can run in excited to exclaim to her “Hey! That’s me! That’s me! I REMEMBER doing that!” 
It’s unavoidable. Remember, we’re being honest, here. The reality is… I’m not dragging you other fellas down to my level. I’m sure you do all the stuff I’m suppose to do but don’t. I’m sure you do the laundry when your wife is gone, fix a perfectly balanced, three course meal while getting them to bed on time washed, teeth brushed, etc. etc. whatever. And in truth, I admire you. I truly do. But I have learned several techniques that I’ve perfected over the years and honestly, now that the kids are older, well… it’s so much easier to blame crap on them. “The kids over-slept” “The kids were arguing.” “The kids hid all the food you left except the chips” “The kids told me this is what mom has us do.” Which leads me to tip #1 to surviving mom’s absence: at every possible point, blame your children for anything that mom points out you did wrong. Seriously. What’s the point of having kids if you can’t blame crap on them? All that money I’ve spent on them over the years, this is getting a little bang for those bucks. House is a wreck? “I don’t know honey. This place was immaculate thirty minutes before you got home but you know how quickly your kids can wreck a clean house…” She can’t argue against that because, well, there’s actually some truth to that statement and she knows this all too well. It has no bearing at all that you never picked up a single thing the entire time she was gone. But this actually leads to my second (and perhaps my greatest) tip of all to you: Tip #2 is to actually clean the house. Not perfectly. Run the vacuum in the most obvious places where she’s sure to notice. Make the living room look better then it did when she left. Put clean dishes away and move 3 days worth of dishes into the dishwasher. Don’t even turn it on. Take out the over flowing kitchen trash. Spray that girlie – smelling freshener in the entry way and BAM! Her first impression will be lasting. Even as she is discovering everything you didn’t do, if she comes home to a clean house AND her bed is made… this thought will continually pop into her mind even as she discovers your worst transgressions… “But he DID clean the house and make our bed…” First impressions matter. They do. Tip #3: make your kids do most of the work. Take out the trash. Run the vacuum. Make your bed. Remind them how pleasant life will be when mom returns to a clean house! And remind them of all the fun crap they got to do but now… it’s time to pay the piper. They owe you. It’s time to pay that bill. Tip #4: Don’t bother bribing your kids to NOT tell mom. Moms gonna find out. They may tell they may not. It doesn’t matter so don’t waste money or future treats and favors because here’s what you need to remember: you love your kids, but they’re also little rats. They are gonna roll on you. They are gonna throw you under the bus. They will rat you out. Maybe not even on purpose but even by accident, one of them at some point and time will blurt out “Mom! Can we do ‘Chips Night’ again, like we did when you were gone a few weeks ago? That was the best!” That’s not going to be the best conversation for you but at least, instead of shushing your kids, you can just shrug and grin at your wife. YOUR invoice just came due, so take it like a man. Tip #5: Make sure no kid dies on your watch. If she comes home and everyone is alive, it may seem small, but this is a great response to every exasperated “You did WHAT…?!” because, hey, let’s face it: that’s no small feat. Everybody survived your idiocy and no lives were lost in the course of her absence. And if she minimalizes that, well… what exactly does that say about her as a mother? Really. (Although verbalizing this is NOT advisable. You can think it. Just don’t say it. Again… just trust me on this.)  

Tip #6: Tell your wife up front the moment she walks through the door “Honey… I made a lot of mistakes while you were gone… I just tried to survive. But we need you to make our lives normal again and I sure missed you…!” Kiss her appreciatively. Then take whatever comes. Trust me: it makes all the difference. Because everything mom discovers will be a confirmation that you, too, understand how much you and your kids need mom to be back home. My son put it best once, when he said to his mom after a particularly rough week without her “Mom… you know we love dad. And honestly, we have a lot of fun when you’re gone. But we really need you home because, well… without you, things just sorta fall apart. We barely survived dad and things are just too stressful without you…”   

That pretty much sums it up. Mom brings a balance and a stability – at least, in this household. And after a few days… we’re all sick of potato chips, ice-cream and staying up too late. The moment mom walks in the door, the three of us are thinking the same thing: “Thank You LORD for bringing Mom home SAFELY!” It’s good to have a great mom. Nobody in this house takes her for granted. Trust me. They’ve had to survive with dad too many times! Hug your wife today… let her know you appreciate her – even if you happen to be the perfect father and/or husband! 
Peace to you today! And honey… get back home, safely. We need you! Just give me a heads up when your close so we can clean up the living room, take out the trash and make the bed! Love you! Sean


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