For several of my friends who are single parents, or friends whose partners travel a great deal, this was a very amusing tantrum.
1) I learned how much of my life is truly a partnership.
On the first day he was gone I cheerfully cooked a tasty meal, and loaded the dishwasher. I gave my little guy a bath, put him to bed and went looking for wine. Holy CRAP! The kitchen was still a mess (his job) and who the heck was going to UN-load the dishwasher? (his job!) I calculated...could I just leave it until he got back? Paper plates...oh yeah the whole saving the earth thing. Grumble.
2) I learned that I need to relax.
It is a terrible idea to try to sleep with all the lights on, fully clothed, sitting up, watching TV. This does not make me MORE able to handle a midnight crisis or break-in. It actually just makes me LESS able to handle regular daytime junk. Also, trying to be perfect is stressful and unrealistic. Sometimes he went to school without his hair brushed. Sometimes I ate chicken nuggets for lunch.
3) I learned that life is more fun when I play.
Rather than just setting up play activities, I really got down on his level. I'm not sure we've ever been so close. Let me tell you I kick ass at finger painting and Legos. And I let him help with grown up jobs. He really (for real) used my hammer to fix some nails. I was a little nervous, but he was fine, and SO proud of himself.
4) I learned that it is exhausting to be the only one "on call" for everything all the time.
We got lost while driving, he got sick (Fever 103, poor baby!), he had soccer camp (he was terrified of soccer camp!)..but the worst was when I got sick. Usually my husband takes my son to the library or other such fun place and I get to sleep and recover. Not this time. I had to balance my desire to sleep and recover with my desire to limit TV time. Guess what, my kid watched Cars a few times while I was sick, and it looks like there are about zero detrimental effects.
5) I gained an appreciation of balance.
I realized that parents who do this on their own on a regular basis are either super human, have a lot of help, or are exhausted all the time. Maybe all three. I celebrate all of you. I feel extra privileged to have the partnership and balance that I do. And, if you want, you are welcome to come over for dinner and Legos. Don't brush your kid's hair, I won't judge. I'll cook, he'll clean. We'll all play.