Saturday, March 01, 2014

Temporary Solo Parenting: How Am I Going to Be An Optimist About This? Six Ways.

I would not trade my husband for anything - he truly shares parenting with me and now that BabyM is no longer breastfeeding, he is 100% interchangeable with me where kid tasks are concerned.

The one time that's not awesome is when he needs to go out of town. Fortunately it's pretty rare (2 one-week trips in the past year), but during the time he's gone it feels like an *eternity*. 12-14 hours a day of All Mama, All the Time plus random night wakings gets old fast.  

A tropical drink always helps.

I should also say that I know a lot of people are doing this on their own *every day* with no help from a partner. My hat is off to you - that is hard work. I know I'm lucky.

Here are some things that helped me get through this past week. In less than 8 hours, I'll be back to 50% Parent, so yay!

1 - Stick to bedtime.  I cannot stress this one enough.  My girls usually go to bed around 7-ish, which usually means "somewhere between 7 and 7:30". Not this week. This week, both were tucked in, Mama out the door, by 6:30pm SHARP for BabyM (who sleeps remarkably better with this earlier bedtime) and 7:00 ON THE DOT for T. I needed a bit of time to decompress at night, had to stagger bedtimes to get each one's routine done, and REALLY didn't want to deal with more night wakings than necessary. This was also true for BabyM's nap - I made sure *every day* that we were home on time and we didn't have a single day where she refused.  Small victories, yo.

2 - Minimize commitments.  This is another one of those "survival mode" things. I didn't accept play dates, volunteer work, or extra errands that didn't need to be done this week. We managed to get T to preschool, Spanish class and Little Gym on time. I took M to her toddler group, because she loves it and I don't need to entertain her for that 2 hour stretch. We bailed on T's second Little Gym class of the week today in favor of Pajama Day at home. It's been lovely. On the stressful side, I (stupidly) decided to go through with my plan to bake blueberry muffins for T's class when it was her day to bring the snack, since I had promised her I'd do it.  Next time I'll pick something store-bought.

3 - Eat simply. We did a big grocery run on Sunday so we were well-stocked for the week. Meals usually consisted of a protein, some fat, a fruit or vegetable, and a small portion of something whole grain. Super easy options, like a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and a tangerine.  Oatmeal, apples and breakfast sausage. Things I can grab from the pantry and require simple heating - no major cooking.  (Blueberry muffins not included!)

4 - Get a babysitter.  T is in preschool for a few hours a day, but BabyM is my shadow ALL.DAY.LONG. And she's in that lovely phase where she's active and into *everything* and totally not interested in logic or reason. Fortunately, we have an awesome babysitter who comes every other week for 3 hours, and this was one of those weeks.  If it wasn't, I'd ask her anyway. It was lovely to get a break just for one afternoon. I got a pedicure, went to Starbucks, had a lovely drink and dinner at a local pub, and went home refreshed just in time to put the girls to bed.

5 - Sleep when they sleep. Some people hate this one, remembering it from the newborn days. BabyM is still an unpredictable sleeper so I try very hard not to stay up too late. One or two nights this week, I put the girls to bed, spent some non-quality time vegging out online, then went to bed myself before 8:30pm. The extra sleep was heavenly. Some afternoons I snoozed on the couch while the girls had nap/Quiet Time. It felt ridiculously slothlike and lazy, but since I didn't have backup on those days, I had to be well rested or I'd be a grouchy mess. 

6 - Plan something FUN. This goes against #2, Minimize Commitments, but I planned it before TJ left, put it on the calendar and talked it up as our "super-secret BIG FUN SURPRISE field trip". This gave T something to look forward to mid-week, helped keep her mind off missing Daddy, and filled up one afternoon of this long, long week. We visited the Seattle Uwajimaya, a huge local Asian grocery and gift store for cream puffs, some Hello Kitty shopping, and dinner. We went after BabyM woke from nap, and got back in time for bed. It wasn't super-elaborate but it was REALLY fun. 

Something unexpected always happens on these weeks.  Last time, when M was 4 months old, our power went out and I freaked out about all the frozen breastmilk in the fridge.  Fortunately, the power returned before any of it defrosted.  This time, our old dog Peanut, took a turn for the worse. He's been having more problems related to his advanced arthritis, but this week has been a LOT worse, possibly due to the fact that he misses TJ. There have been more calls to the vet, but thankfully I haven't had to take him in.

Here's hoping that the next 8 hours or so stay uneventful.  I'd love to hear your tips on coping with occasional solo parenting of little kids!


  1. I hear you on all of this as I watch my husband pack his case for a three day trip. Fortunately we are not having him away three weeks out of four which was the situation for much of last year. I totally agree about bedtime and sleeping when they sleep. It may feel ridiculous hopping into bed at 8.30 but it is so worth it when the four year old is up and at em at six the next morning.. Sorry to hear your dog is not doing so well. We have a cat who is entering the final 18 months of her predicted life span and it makes me sad.

    1. OMG, 3 weeks at a stretch? I don't think I'd make it if that happened on a regular basis :) Good luck!! And yeah, the early wake times are killer. I am SO not a morning person.

  2. I experienced the joy of Hurricane Sandy last year all by myself with 3 little kids and no power for several days. Fun times. In general when I'm solo parenting I do try to plan some outings because otherwise the day gets too amorphous and people start fighting. Something active where they can burn off energy is good. I also bribe them -- I get to go to the Y (and work out -- there's childcare) if we do something they want to do before hand.

  3. Loved this post - you are bang on with all your advice. It's all about the minimum for survival - if everyone is fed and in bed (on time!) at the end of the day, you've made it!

  4. You are spot on about the nap time/bed time advice. I am basically a single parent every Wednesday as Husband has a full schedule of classes from morning until 11:00 pm. (He does come home for a very quick dinner). I am quite anal about bedtime on those nights.

    I would also add that when Husband has had to go out of town we have a sort of deal that when he returns I get a night off to myself (go out to dinner with friends) as a "reward" for my single parenting.

  5. you're doing awesome. my kids are BIG now compared to yours (14 and 12) but when they were young i did exactly what you did as Sam is gone most of the time, 11 days at a time mostly. the bedtime training stuck with them to this day LOL - THANK GOODNESS.


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