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There’s a catch-all question I seem to get all the time. My widowed friends all will recognize it. Those divorced parents with an absentee ex might get it, too.
“How do you do it?”
That’s it. Five simple words, but they’re the catch-all for so many questions. Now, those answers, by the way, are pretty much interchangeable. It’s like an emotional MadLib:
How do you raise four kids alone? With difficulty. I don’t get a lot of sleep and it takes a lot of time, understanding and effort. I just . . . do it.
How do you work and raise four kids? With difficulty. I don’t get a lot of sleep and it takes a lot of time, understanding and effort. I just . . . do it.
How do you live without your wife? I don’t get a lot of sleep. It takes a lot of time, understanding and effort. I just . . . do it. . . with difficulty.
That question starts to bug me. Yes, I lost my wife. Yes, I do need and should ask for more help than I probably do.
That leads me to my biggest point here, and it’s going to ruffle some feathers, I’m sure.
Not all guys are jerks or inept. Sorry ladies, it’s true. Yes, we think differently. Yes, we have a tendency to want to fix things rather than listen. We can also learn to listen differently, some of us just don’t do it. I had to learn how to be a good parent to two girls and two boys.
I get that question a lot and when it bothers me the most is when they ask it with the implication that I am doomed to failure. Most often I meet people – women in particular – who ask how I do it because they have this misconception in their heads that I’m a guy and therefore I can’t raise any kid – let alone four kids – by myself.
If you’d have come to me on March 27th, 2011, I’d have told you I couldn’t do this. I even said it out loud a bunch of times. I stopped saying that because my parents, Andrea’s sister and Andrea’s college roommate all told me I could. They all said they weren’t sure how I did it, but none of them thought I couldn’t. It’s amazing the things you realize you’re capable of doing when you don’t have a choice.
I’m still terrible at getting the laundry right every time but I do it. I cook meals most nights, from scratch. I make desserts for my kids for their lunches – from scratch. I push to get the chores done, and fail a lot at that, but I try. None of my kids go to school with mud on their faces looking like Oliver Twist.
Before you talk to a friend or acquaintance who lost a spouse think about this: so many people say “she must be proud” or “you’re doing what she would have wanted.”
No. I’m not.
Andrea walked off our road and gets to remain the young, beautiful version of herself in our memories. She never had to face the issues we’ve faced in the last year. Andrea never had to deal with the problems her death created, but we did. As hard as all these things are we faced them together.
Do you ask those questions? Are you really listening, or do you look at a single dad and think he’s bound to fail? If you do, think twice because the odds are you might be wrong. Lots of us succeed.
My wife’s gone, but I live on . . . sometimes with difficulty. It takes a lot of time, effort, and understanding (from so many people). I don’t always get a lot of sleep . . . but still, I just . . . do it.
So what about you? Do you ask the question, “How do you do it?” Will you still? Let us hear ya!
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