Let’s face it, no matter how much support you have, parenting is hard. Like, really hard. It’s probably cliché to say at this point, but I don’t think these words ever really sink in until your first little bundle of joy arrives and you are in it. And I mean In. It.
I admit I was a little naive when I got pregnant. I spent more time thinking about the pregnancy itself (my nutrition, exercise, stress levels, etc.) than actually preparing for the myriad ways my life would change once that living, breathing human entered the world.
There was also another glaring challenge that I was refusing (though probably not consciously) to think about: I would be doing 70% of this parenting thing solo.
I want to start off with a disclaimer: Solo parenting is not the same as being a single parent. While there are some superficial similarities—namely, the fact that on the average day, it is just you and the kids against the world—there is a very important difference. Solo parents are still in a partnership, whereas single parents bear the sole responsibility of the financial and emotional wellbeing of their family. They are the be-all and end-all of parenting and providing for their children. They are on a whole other level.
With that out of the way, let me dive right in.
A bit about us
When Geoff and I decided we were ready to start our family, we knew that I would be doing a large part of the day-to-day parenting on my own. Geoff works as a consultant, and where he lives from Monday to Thursday depends on where his client is located.
Before Little G was born, Geoff travelled all over Canada and the US. After her birth, we had several blissful months when he was based in Toronto (he still wasn’t home until 11 p.m. or midnight most nights, but at least when G was up at 4 a.m. with her first nighttime poop explosion, I had an extra set of hands to help me change the crib sheet). Most recently, he has been in California, taking the redeye home on Thursday nights and then rolling in at 7 a.m. with time to shower and grab a quick nap before heading back out to the Toronto office for the day.
What this means is that from Monday to Friday it is just me and Little G and our partially renovated house. On our own.
Many of Geoff’s co-workers have spouses who are solo parents. I was able to talk to a few of them before we had G, and their primary piece of advice was unanimously this: Make sure you have a support network.
And I thought, well of course I do! A big part of why we chose to move back to Toronto (we had been living in Boston for five years before Geoff started his current job), was so we could be closer to our families. My parents live in Kingston, and Geoff’s are in Burlington, and we had easy access to both from our home in Toronto.
It wasn’t until after Geoff went back to work following his two weeks of parental leave that I realized there was a reason that many of his colleagues lived in the same neighbourhood—or even the same house—as their parents. Solo parenting is hard when you don’t have someone who can pop over to soothe your crying infant while you are laid low with gastroenteritis.
I’m not sure there was much I could have done to get ready for the challenges I would face, but maybe having a better idea of what was in store would have helped me, even a little, to mentally prepare. So, if you are about to take the plunge into solo parenting, whether your partner’s away for a 12-hour shift, a month, or longer, I hope this series of posts will give you a small look at what lies ahead and how to deal with the difficulties. Even if you have no plans to go it alone in the foreseeable future, I hope reading this will help you find some extra compassion and understanding for parents who may be carrying a slightly heavier load.
In my next post I’ll go into more detail about the daily challenges of solo parenting, and then in Part Three I’ll share with you some tried and true ways I have found to cope with those challenges without losing your sh*t. (Hey, I promise it’s not all doom and gloom!)