Parenting is a hard job, even when there are two involved and active parents. But because life is, well, life there aren’t always two parents around. Whether a parent is gone for a multi-week work trip or a long weekend with friends, we all get landed alone with the kiddos at one time or another.
As I write this I’m halfway through three weeks of solo parenting. Ryan’s in Victoria, BC for his final classes and while I’m super excited for him to finish the academic portion of his program and to spend time with his fellow students, I’m still at home keeping two small creatures alive and relatively happy. Without daddy. Without the support of my husband.
This is my third extended stint of solo parenting, my first was for a month when Eleanor was 7 months old and then again last year for three weeks when Eleanor was 2½ and Edward was 6 months. While I am by no means an expert on caring for kids on my own, I have learned a thing or two that have helped keep me relatively sane and the kids alive long enough for daddy to come home.
1. Get help
No matter how long you’re solo parenting for, get help. Get a babysitter so you can spend a few hours out of the house without the kids, have them stay the night at grandma’s, even a play date will keep your kids occupied and having fun while you enjoy some adult conversation. In whatever capacity you can have help, take advantage of it.
2. Cook ahead
Even when there are two parents, getting meal on the table can be chaos. Cook as much as you can ahead of time and keep menus simple. Added bonus: less dishes! Preparing meals you know your kids like will also help mealtimes go more smoothly because you do not want to try to convince your child to eat something they don’t like when you’re the only parent there.
3. Lower expectations
Before Ryan left he asked if I had any projects I hoped to get done while he was gone. I laughed and said I just hoped to survive! While I have gotten some things done, it’s not nearly as much as I normally would. And that’s okay.
I also don’t have as high of expectations for the kids. While I do expect them to have good behavior, I don’t expect their best. They both have a hard time when daddy’s not around and there has been more than one meltdown because someone wants daddy. So I let a little more slide and we’ll re-tighten the reigns when we’re a full-functioning parental force.
4. Have fun and allow some indulgences
One morning both kids woke up in meltdown mode. There was one tantrum after another, often two at once. So off we went to the children’s museum (all three of us are much less likely to behave badly in public). When it was getting close to lunchtime Eleanor requested we go to a restaurant. Yes, dear. Of course. We don’t eat out often but if there was ever a time to do it, this was it.
Doing special activities helps everyone enjoy being together and takes some pressure off. It can be a special day trip or extra visits to the park — whatever will make the kids and you happy is worth it.
I treat myself to a stash of candy.
5. Take care of yourself
Self-care is hard at the best of times, much less when it’s mostly up to you to care for the needs of your children. But if there’s any time that when it’s more important to fit in some self-care than another, this is it.
Make it a priority to schedule in activities that rejuvenate you. Have the babysitter watch the kids so you can go to a coffee shop to read, take a relaxing bath as soon as the kids are in bed, go out with a friend. Whatever it is, make it a priority. It just might make the difference between solo parenting success or failure.
Solo parenting is rough, but it is doable. With a little bit of preparation, help and grace for yourself and your kids it just might be fun.