John has been working out of town a lot lately, so I’ve been adjusting to doing a lot of things alone around here. Solo parenting is hard! Not only does it take a lot of energy, but its also lonely. We miss John for the way he rough houses with the boys every night when he comes home, for how he keeps them busy so I can make dinner in peace. And we miss him helping with bedtime and baths and cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. I miss his company, miss having another adult who is just there to talk to. This has certainly given me a new perspective and respect for single parents.
While John is working out of town, there are certain things I do for myself and with my kids to ensure the maintenance of my sanity. The biggest thing is just paying attention to moods. Listening to what I need, discerning what my kids need, and doing it. It might look like totally opposite things on different days, that’t just the way it works. But there are a few things that have been consistent.
- We stick to our schedule. I talked about our weekly routine here, I have it posted on the fridge and refer to it often. When John isn’t home, we stick to this a little more rigidly than we would otherwise. I know not everyone feels the way I do about routine, but I love the way it gives structure and regularity to my life. I find it so comforting.
- We get out of the house almost every single day. I need this almost as much as my kids do. Other than tagging along for errands, we’ll visit an indoor playground, go on play-dates, and sometimes just have dinner at McDonald’s. And I’ve learned to be strategic with our outings: mornings are easier because my kids are better behaved, but if we got out in the afternoon/evening we all have to be in the right mindset for it to be worth it. Otherwise someone (ahem) falls apart when we come home.
- I’m stricter but also looser about how we watch TV. When I’m alone I really rely on the TV if I need to get something done, like dinner. Or if my kids are just driving me up the wall and I just need to peace and quiet. So I try to reserve TV for when I really need it and then refuse to let myself feel guilty about using it as a babysitter.
- I try to have other people over for dinner at least a few times a week. This ensures I actually make something healthy for well-balanced for dinner, and I get some adult conversation in the evenings. I usually really look forward to these nights, especially since I don’t always have the budget to hire a sitter and get out of the house without kids.
- On a related note, I let go of the guilt around always making my kids a healthy dinner. Sometimes we have cereal or popcorn for dinner. And that is okay. Its all about balance. Besides, my kids thinks its the best day ever when they get to have cold cereal for dinner!
- I’m making traditions for when daddy is gone. For example, the first day he’s gone I change the sheets and rotate our toys. Going to bed in nice clean sheets helps me look forward to it, even if I’ll be alone, and switching out our toys gives the boys something kind of exciting to look forward to. (I keep half the toys stored in a closet and the other half out for playing, rotating as needed. I LOVE this because it keeps things fresh and every time I do the switch it’s like getting a whole bunch of new toys. Only not.)
- Another traditions that I’ve just started this week is giving the boys a Hershey’s kiss every night counting down to when daddy is home again. I love this visual way of keeping track of time and so far the boys loving getting a little bit of chocolate.
- I’m adamant about my self-care. Right now this looks like going to bed early, waking up early and spending the morning reading scriptures, doing a quick workout, and getting myself ready. And of course reading, lots of reading time. When John is home I make sure I get out of the house by myself at least a few times to recharge for when he’s gone again.
That said, if I’m listening to my needs and the needs of my boys, sometimes this steers us in the opposite direction. Sometimes we need to not go out anywhere and spend a day chilling at home with our own toys and my piles of laundry, and sometimes one of the boys needs a little extra one-on-one time. Sometimes we need a screen-free day, and sometimes I need to let myself sleep in or put down the book and do something active. And sometimes, if its been a really hard week, I just need to call up the babysitter and leave dinner and bedtime up to someone else.