During the summer, my husband travels a lot for work. When the rest of the world slows down, he ramps up. Of the past 36 days, he’s been gone 26. Gone 10, home 10, gone 6. Friends who are aware of his travel situation have been so kind. I get texts like, “Are you guys surviving okay?”, “Need anything while Drew’s gone?”, “What’s the countdown until he’s home?” during these travel weeks and I typically don’t quite know how to respond because —
(please brace yourself for the total selfish mess of a confession that is ahead)
I AM A CONTROL FREAK. And a major introvert. And a little bit of a workaholic. And these parts of me kind of relish the lonely weeks of solo parenting,
Don’t get me wrong – I love my husband deeply. We have a rock solid marriage, and I couldn’t do much of anything without him. We love spending time together, we laugh a lot, and I am so, so glad to share life with him. The parts of me I just mentioned – the control freaky, introverted, workaholic parts – they NEED to be balanced out by the noisy, playful, go-with-the-flow-ness that my husband brings to our lives. I am way too boring and rules-y and, I’ll admit it, selfish without him.
I have an awesome routine when I am on my own.
If you are the kind of mama who dreads it when your husband goes out of town, read on, my friend. I give you…
11 TIPS FOR SURVIVING SOLO PARENTING
- PREPARE. Anticipate the chaos, or there will be chaos. My never-fail rituals before an extended period of solo parenting include (a) getting out ALONE for an afternoon with no kids a few days before the trip, (b) planning ahead for any scheduling that needs to happen (play dates, doctor visits, babysitters, etc), (c) clean house – empty dishwasher, laundry baskets, and washer/dryer; clean floors and surfaces; no clutter ANYWHERE. There is always a thing (or seven) undone but the preparation is absolutely the most important thing on this list! It can’t keep things from getting a little screwed up, and it’s a lot of work up front, but the foundation will save you soooo much headache.
- DON’T COOK. Really, just don’t do it. I have eaten the same salad for lunch for the past 3 days, and the same turkey wrap for dinner for the past FIVE days. I promise I make sure my kids eat some veggies, but they’re basically in PB&J/cheerio heaven other than that. No apologies here. Mama’s on her own, mama’s not cooking. I cooked one “real” meal during the entire 10 day trip earlier this month. IT LASTED US THREE DAYS. Now I know where all our food goes. We can’t live like this all the time, but you better believe I will enjoy it while I can.
- SAY YES TO HELP. Mother-in-law wants to take the kids to the zoo? YES. Drop one kid off for an impromptu play-date with a generous friend? YES. Use every last second of the 2-hour child watch at the gym? YES, YES, YES…. YES.
- KEEP TIDY (THE EASY WAY). If my house is clean, I am happy. If I am happy, my kids are happy. So I go to drastic lengths to keep it that way when I am solo parenting. Toys are all put away before nap time, and I try to get us out of the house every afternoon before dinner so nothing else gets messed up. We usually eat at least two meals a day outside on a picnic blanket, often with paper plates. Ultimate laziness here, folks. No apologies. The kids love it, we get outside more, and everything is clean.
- FIND A WAY TO ENJOY THE QUIET NIGHTS. I can’t begin to describe how much of an introvert I am, so this one is no problem for me. I could go days without talking to another human being and probably wouldn’t notice. Peace and quiet for a few evenings in a row is restorative to my soul. But if that’s not you, find a way to enjoy it! Pick a couple of closets to organize, binge watch a new series on Netflix, sell a bunch of your old stuff in an online yard sale group, invite friends over for an evening or two, or if it’s a long trip and you have the cash, hire a babysitter and get out!
- GET STUFF DONE. Use the extra time you normally would spend in the evenings with your husband doing something that’s been living on your to-do list for a month. You will feel like a rockstar when it’s done.
- KEEP YOUR FAVORITE ROUTINES… My favorite time of day is when the baby takes her morning nap, because that is screen time for Big Bro, which means NOBODY WILL BOTHER ME AND I CAN DO WHAT I NEED TO DO. Usually, this is when I clean up from breakfast, shower and dress (I’ve tried but I can’t drag myself out of bed before the kids because I don’t have superpowers), have a quiet time, get a little work done, just whatever needs to be done for myself. I do not sacrifice this time for anything when I am solo parenting. No play dates, no squeezed-in grocery runs. We are home all morning every morning because I need that time. Whatever time you have in your day that is for you – keep it! You need it.
- …AND ADD SOME NEW ONES. Think about the parts of your day that are going to be the most difficult without your spouse. For most of us, I think this is MORNINGS and BEDTIME. So instead of dreading it and dealing with it, find a way to make things run more smoothly when you’ll be down a pair of hands. When I’m on my own, I always prep the coffee before I go to bed so it is one step closer to my lips when I get out of bed. I also shower at night instead of in the mornings so there is one less thing to worry about when the kids are awake. As for bedtime, uhh… it’s usually about 45 minutes early when I’m on my own.
- MAKE PLANS. Fill up those days with play dates and outings! Get out of the house every day. Run the kids until they can run no more. A few days before my husband left for his 10-day trip, I got out two of my weekly go-to planner sheets and my phone and made play dates for eight days out of ten. I left two days as “free” and I am so glad I did. I might leave three or four empty next time, but I’m glad we weren’t stuck with nothing to do.
- LET SOME THINGS SLIDE. You’re not going to make it through without wanting to pull your hair out at some point. It’s just not possible. Cut yourself some slack. One night, I climbed in my 2yo’s crib with him at 6:45pm and almost fell asleep myself. Yes, he asked me every day for a week after that to get in bed with him, but that sweet memory is so worth it. It’s okay to have a movie marathon or eat cereal for dinner two nights in a row when you’re on your own. Your kids will just think you are more awesome and you will catch a BREAK! Drop the high standards. You’re the only one who cares if you keep them.
- KEEP THE GOOD STUFF ON HAND. Ice cream. Wine. Popcorn. Chocolate. I can’t even believe I had to write this one down. I don’t care if you’re on a diet, just get the goods. You might need them, and I just wouldn’t be able to clear my conscience if you had to go digging out the semi-sweet chocolate chips from the back of your cupboard.
A side note? Shout-out to my awesome husband. Our toilet and our air conditioning broke while you were gone and I had absolutely no clue how to handle it. I killed one of our plants because you are the Master Gardener and I apparently can’t handle a watering can. I tried to pitch softballs for our son and it basically turned into a weird toddler version of fetch. You keep us all glued together, and we are ALL so much happier when you are home!
This is what actually happened.
Can we also take a moment for the single parents out there?!? You guys do this mess every day. And you can’t cut corners like I do, because you have to work and your kids actually do have to eat meals and have routine and get to soccer practice and do their homework and IT NEVER STOPS. You are absolute rockstars, single parents. I am amazed by you.
What did I leave out? What are your best solo survival strategies?