Keeping It Together As A Solo Parent
No doubt about it, parenting is tough, especially if you are on your own for a day, a week, or longer. In case you missed it, I introduced my solo-parenting journey here, and talked here about some of the challenges of wrangling your little ones when you’re on your own. If you’re anticipating some solo parenting in your future, or if you’re in the thick of it now, don’t lose hope! When you’re flying solo, there are a bunch of things you can do to make things easier on yourself. Here are a few that I’ve figured out over the past two years:
1. Get sh*t done when your partner is home.
Since Geoff is usually gone from Monday to Friday, Sundays are our Get Sh*t Done days. That means any cleaning, laundry, and meal prep that we put off over the weekend gets done before we go to bed. I cannot stress enough how important it is to start off your solo-parenting stint on the right foot. For us, it means we are sometimes up until midnight putting laundry away. Trust me, being tired on Monday morning is so much better than than starting your week already overwhelmed by all the things you need to get done.
2. Those dishes won’t wash themselves, so do ’em up.
Do as I say, not as I do. As I write this, it is 9 p.m. and there is a mountain of dishes threatening to teeter off the counter. Little G was a bit of a monster today, and on top of everything else she didn’t nap, so I have three meals worth of dishes taunting me from the kitchen. I’m exhausted just looking at them. If at all possible, do your dishes as you go. If you’re lucky enough to have a kid who naps, do those dishes as soon as he goes down. If you’re lucky enough to have a kid who can play on her own for ten straight minutes, do some dishes while she’s distracted! Life seems so much more manageable when your kitchen counters are clear. Trust me.
3. Do one productive thing each evening when your partner is away.
I find that the thing that stresses me out the most when Geoff is away is preparing food. I don’t know about you, but my daughter goes from happily playing to hangry (hungry + angry) in the blink of an eye, and I am often left putting meals or snacks together with one hand while I cart my crying toddler back and forth from the fridge with the other. So in the evenings (once all those dishes are done), I devote time to baking muffins for snacks, prepping a week’s worth of breakfasts, or loading up the crockpot for dinner the next day. If meals don’t give you anxiety, maybe you clean the toilet, sweep the floors, or put away the laundry you didn’t get to over the weekend. Maybe you have e-mail you need to catch up on, or bills to pay. It doesn’t have to be big or time-consuming, but doing one productive thing each night makes me feel like I’m on top of things. If you still have energy when you are done your one productive task, by all means do something else! But if you’re like me, you may just opt to catch up on your latest Netflix show or head to bed early.
4. Make large meals and freeze leftovers.
At least once a week I try to make a large pot of something—chili, soup, stew, anything that freezes easily. Little G and I eat one portion for dinner, and then I freeze the rest into individual servings for future meals. Once you start doing this consistently, you end up only having to cook a few meals a week. The rest of the time, you can just defrost something from the freezer. Easy peasy.
5. Do one thing for yourself when you can.
Originally I was going to tell you to do one thing for yourself each day, but then I realized I can’t really give advice I’ve never been able to follow myself. When you’re on your own from morning to night, it can be really difficult to take time for yourself. Some mornings I will force myself to wake up at 5:50 a.m. to shower and have my coffee in peace before Little G wakes up. And once I get past the initial oh my god it’s so early why did I think this was a good idea? reaction, I’m actually really glad I set that alarm. If waking up early isn’t your thing, maybe your partner can take the kids out of the house on Saturday morning (or whenever they are home) so you can sleep in. Whatever it is, try to find some time to yourself, even if it’s ten minutes of unplugging and breathing deeply before you go to bed for the night.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I hate asking for help, but sometimes I have to swallow my pride and call in my favours. If you have free childcare available to you, whether it is a parent, in-law, or friend who has free time during the week, use it! If someone offers to watch your kid, don’t be afraid to take them up on this offer! And if you are financially able, hire a babysitter once in a while (or regularly!). You deserve a break as often as you need one, and you will likely be a better parent to your children if you are able to take some time away.
7. Find your village.
I saved the most important tip for last. Find your village! (You can read more about the idea of finding your village here.) This, more than anything else, has kept me sane while Geoff is on the road. I was lucky enough to find a handful of other moms with children G’s age soon after she was born. While everyone was on mat leave, we got together several times a week, and shared our ups and downs, our victories and worries with each other. Getting out of the house and talking to other adults was SO important to keeping my sanity. After the first year, I was able to keep in touch with a number of moms who were staying home like me, or who had several days off work during the week. Little G and I still meet up with friends at least once a week for play dates. Having a village of other parents a phone call or text message away makes even the most difficult days bearable. And when you’re trapped at home alone once your kiddo is asleep, you might just be lucky enough to have a few friends who will offer to swing by your place with a movie and a bottle of wine when you need it most.