x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Four hands are better than two, as I’ve discovered

Parenting, we’re told, is one of the hardest jobs there is. Parenting solo, I think, trumps that.

Good grief, how do single parents do it? After spending 10 days away from Mr T, in the demanding clutches of Her Dictatorship, I am in awe of anyone parenting a child all on their lonesome. I will forever be in shock that I haven’t managed to shed kilos like they’re no longer in fashion, just by running after this kid. (The late-night consolation snacking after she’s finally down for the night might have something to do with that.)

Forget walking; she has managed to figure out how to run already. I know this because chasing after her is no longer two long strides and an outstretched arm manoeuvre; keeping up with Baby A actually leaves me out of breath. There were audible pants the other day, emitted by yours truly.

I never sat down to think about how much Mr T really does help out with our baby daughter. I’m too busy bemoaning the fact that I “have to do everything”, as I remind him repeatedly.

For example, I’m the one who prepares all her meals and snacks from scratch, especially after that one time when Mr T was tasked with feeding her lunch; a meal that I had already prepared, dished out and labelled. “She likes it with yogurt, mix each spoonful with some yogurt when you give it to her,” I clearly said to him.

“Her Dictatorship didn’t seem to like her lunch very much today, she didn’t eat much,” reported Mr T when I got home later that afternoon. “She definitely didn’t like that yogurt you said I should give her.” That made no sense, considering that I had made her favourite meal: lamb stew with rice. Moreover, the plain white yogurt Mr T claimed she ate was in plain sight on the top shelf of the refrigerator, most definitely untouched. Suspicious. But I know my husband, and quickly, realisation dawned.

“What yogurt did you try and feed her?”

“That organic raspberry stuff you made me buy, what else?”

No wonder lunch did not please Her Highness.

It’s on those sorts of days that I give Mr T a hard time about how most of Baby A’s needs fall on my shoulders and how his readiness to change diapers is just not enough.

Ten days without his help and support quickly quashed that stance of mine. I felt his absence acutely, in every muscle ache, every sleep-deprived headache, every horrifically suffocating nappy I had to change. I missed Mr T’s arms; those muscled, patient arms so ready to bear the weight of Baby A when I’ve just about had enough and desperately need to dump her on someone else.

All of a sudden and with these changed circumstances, the list of responsibilities Mr T is only too ready to help with seemingly has no end. From bending over the tub for at least half an hour to give Baby A her nightly bath, to rocking her back to sleep in the early hours of the morning when Her Dictatorship is suddenly restless and unable to succumb to the blissful release of sleep, Mr T is the support network I use to recharge, to be a better mother to this active baby of ours. He’s the one who reads Baby A her favourite book for the umpteenth time as she babbles and gurgles, so I can take a bit of a break. He’s the one who takes her for a “walking tour” around the house, pointing out everything from the wall to the door knob to the curtain rod, in a running commentary that has Her Dictatorship speechless with wonder and sufficiently distracted for me to get some chores done. He’s the one who’s got my back with this parenting thing.

Without him, I’m a bundle of taut nerves and aching muscles, brain cloudy and eyes lifeless. Not much fun as a mother, really.

Parenting, we’re told, is one of the hardest jobs there is. Parenting solo, I think, trumps that.

Hala Khalaf is a freelance writer living in Abu Dhabi