Spare A Thought

One of my three jobs is to take in two children (4 and 2yo) for several hours a week and work with them at a child’s level in English – be it in structured play, reading, walks in the woods, etc. The family in question pays, if not very well per hour, enough hours per week to keep me in food shopping, which equates to quite a merry sum for them over the course of the month. So far, almost 3 months down the line, the husband has not even noticed the financial hit. They are, let’s say, reasonably well off.

He is a lawyer. He is never at home. When he is, he expects his food on the table and a clean, ironed shirt hanging up so he can do a quick change and hop off out again to some drinks meeting, evening meal with clients, or, as is all too often the case back to the office to return home again around 10pm. At weekends, he spends the mornings in the office both days. The two children see him rarely, but always, always defend his absence which means their mother never speaks ill of the fact that she is virtually raising them alone. Not in front of them anyway.

She is also a lawyer. She dreams of going back to her job one day and occasionally helps to grade student bar exams, just to keep her hand in. The only time she is able to do this are the hours when her children are with me. At her daughter’s birthday party for 12 kids earlier in the year, I turned up with my own son about half an hour early to find her exhausted and dashing around like a lunatic. It was Saturday, 3pm. When I asked her where her husband was, she said ‘he spent the morning in the office, came home, ate the food I had prepared and now he has taken the car to the car wash.’ When I raised my eye-brows in a polite ‘WTF?’ her answer was simply “He said it was dirty.”

The one night of the week she, A, is ‘allowed’ to go out, by the way, (including weekends as her husband is never home in the evenings), is Monday when she sings in a choir. Said choir has been preparing for a musical production in our local town and they performed in the school yesterday afternoon. As most people know, the final week prior to a production of any magnitude, especially involving children, is intense and demands rehearsals most nights of the week. This production was no different and for once, my friend put her foot down and, having compromised a few evenings prior to this at the last minute, she attended at least half of the final rehearsals over the period of five days. Each time, however, she made sure the kids had already eaten, the kitchen was cleared, her husband’s food was in the oven and that the children were bathed and ready for bed by the time he came home.

It still did not go down well. Not at all.

On Friday, she had asked me if I would take the children for a couple of hours on Saturday morning as she would be helping to set up and then added: and if you want to take them for pizza at lunchtime, I’ll happily throw yours in! She then hesitated and said, I’m not sure what W has planned though – it would be a great opportunity for him to do something with the kids for the whole day, but …. no, that’s ridiculous, he’ll be in the office in the morning … although, maybe he’d like to take them for pizza … I’ll ask him and call you back. She didn’t call.

At 10am on Saturday he arrived, dumped the kids and drove off to a Summer festival at a local production factory. I had read the blurb: By invite only, but families welcome. Bouncy castle, magician, craft tables for the kids and a Punch and Judy…

I took them for pizza.

At 1pm he came to collect them from the restaurant. A colleague of his was sitting with his family at the table behind us. The two men greeted each other and I learned that the colleague’s wife was also involved in the production. They spent a good five minutes exchanging expletives about the fact that their wives had been absent so often over the last week.

“It’s just been ridiculous!” said the Papa of my two small people, “Now I really know what it’s like to be a single father …”


This entry was posted in Parenting, Single parenthood, Work-Life Balance and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Spare A Thought

  1. Vegemitevix says:

    Unfortunately I know this lifestyle very well indeed. When i finally left my ex the kids saw him more than when we were living together, because he had to make time to spend with them. The court required him to do so.

    What a complete waste.

    • I just have one word for that scenario: tragic. I don’t understand it and never will.
      I’m glad you’re finding a new life and hope you can be happier with your children now after your big decision. x

  2. Rugbymadsdad says:

    Reminds me of my old boss….exactly the same avoided going home to see the children etc…only difference is she was a woman….it was so sad to see and i could never understand why people are like that…..even more so that i am on my own and have many lonely weekends when i would love to have the girls with me…..

    • It is always easy to judge when not completely involved, but I totally agree, it is extremely difficult to comprehend why a parent would not want to spend time with their children. I have been on all sides of this – I had the great job, involving heaps of travel and incredibly long hours so I can understand how a person can be carried by the ambition and the pull that a potentially successful career might have. What I don’t get, is how one can do that at the expense of one’s children. I’m sorry to say it, but especially a mother.
      Thanks for the comment x

  3. fleetwoodboy says:

    What a f***n A.H. I just don’t believe that this story could told in this day and age but I’ll be shot down by singlemums who have gone thru this kind of behaviour with their ex . I’m no angel but I just can’t get my head round it . Thanks for the blog MgM

    • It’s hard for me not to agree outright but I don’t know the family that intimately and there may be more behind the scenes than meets the eye. I only blogged on what I saw. That said, this is a common scenario here. The Hausfrau is still a living, thriving breed – with all its stereotypes. I, personally, could not live like that. Some women can and it appears to suit them; I can think of several other examples of ladies who thrive off the fact that their husbands are never at home, but that their bank accounts are always full. Read into this what you wish. It grieves me personally, but here, it is still the norm.
      Thanks for commenting so honestly. xx

  4. Jane says:

    Other people s lives are very fascinating and we can critisise quickly. But you have to wonder why some have children if they dont spend time with them. Also why do we let our work take over our lives so it becomes our life so much so that we cant separate the 2 and dont realise its happened. Money isnt everything but enough helps that s for sure but quality of life ie time together, fun time, family time being together generally is what makes us really rich

    • Personally, I totally agree with you Jane. Secretly, deep down, I think the mother of these children would also gladly have things a little differently. I don’t think her marriage or indeed her life have turned out quite the way she planned. This is tragic to see, especially as a friend. But I fear she will never have the courage, nor the will to do anything about it.
      Thank you for expressing your view so openly :-)

  5. JulieB says:

    There are so many thoughts running through my mind on this post that I’m not really sure where to start, other than to say it does make me very sad. x

    • Yes. I hear you on that. It took a lot of will-power to keep the post relatively short and to ‘not’ go really in to how the situation affects me from an emotive point of view. I hope I managed to remain pragmatic as I do not wish to judge …. rather to open the issue and provoke thought in others – in whatever form that may take. It does make me incredibly sad though – that is why I wrote the post. Thanks for sharing that. x

  6. OMG! I know it’s not a rare thing but to see it in black and white really brought me up short. I have been known to have the odd moan that my hub isn’t here as often as I’d like but he comes home at 6.30 every evening and joins in (even when his head is pounding and he could do with 5 minutes peace). Our bank account is far from full (as you know! Probably understatement of the year) but the kids have a Dad who is hands on. This poor woman, do you think she’ll burst out one day?…probably not, many people sell themselves very short. Sad.

    • Sometimes when I see her I really wonder if she’ll stay the distance. She is so inwardly uptight it scares me to death as I know she is naturally not like that. Unfortunately I cannot force her to open up. She does sometimes but very infrequently. I just hope it’s enough.

  7. Sandrine says:

    What a hateful man! How hard for his wife and how sad for the children…
    I hope she finds a way out somehow.
    Btw, I loved : When I raised my eye-brows in a polite ‘WTF?’!

    • LOL! Funny the things people pick up on :-)
      Not sure this lady wants a way out … I think she would rather win some time with her whole family, for the sake of them all.
      Thanks for the comment x

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