Monday, January 27, 2014

Tips for parenting solo

Last week, Hubs went on his first business trip since Reid was born. You’d think I’d be a pro at this solo parenting thing by now. After all, Hubs traveled for a total of 16 weeks last year, and most of that was front loaded early in the year so Q and I were on our own for several weeks in a row. I was definitely exhausted after so many days without a break, and we both missed Hubs very much, but before long we had our routine down cold.

Then we had baby #2, and solo parenting got a whole lot harder.

On the surface it doesn’t seem like it would be that much of a stretch since I’m home with two kids all day while Hubs is at work. So technically, just the evenings are more work than usual when he’s traveling. But being a SAHM to two kids is exponentially more difficult than being a SAHM to one, and I’m still getting the hang of it during the day as it is. By the time evening rolled around and I was trying to accomplish dinner, bath time and bed time with two children demanding my attention, the stress level in our house was high.

I admit there were a lot of tears last week. (The boys cried a lot, too.) But we survived. Barely. Here are some tips for hanging on to your sanity (albeit by a thread) when solo parenting.

Be flex with the schedule.
Is 4:30 too early to make dinner? Not if that’s the only time both children are content. You’ve got a window, so use it. “But we eat dinner at 6:30,” you say. Forget the clock and your usual routine. When you’re on your own with two children, you eat dinner when they let you eat dinner. It’s impossible to make a meal when a toddler and a baby are mid-meltdown, so you have to make dinner before the meltdowns occur. If that means making dinner at 4:30, so be it.

And when I say “make dinner,” I mean “get take-out.”
Hubs was gone for just three nights, so I made Quinn whatever he wanted for dinner. Cheese quesadilla? Coming right up! Frozen chicken dinosaurs? Sure. Frozen chicken dinosaurs again? Fine, whatever. And for myself, I had pizza delivered one night (Q is the only kid on the planet who won’t eat pizza), and another night we all went through the Taco Bell drive-thru so Mommy could get a Cheesy Gordita Crunch. I figure three nights of eating less than healthy balanced meals wouldn’t hurt anybody, and not having to cook made the evenings so much smoother.

Utilize distractions.
When you’re taking care of one of the children, it’s always sometimes necessary to distract the other one. Especially since Reid is in a “I’m-not-happy-unless-you’re-holding-me-and-sometimes-not-even-then” phase. I don’t know what it is about ceiling fans, but he finds them mesmerizing. Thanks to Hubs, we have these magic baby-distraction-devices in FOUR rooms of our home. So while I brushed my teeth, or got Q dressed, or made lunch, I flipped on the ceiling fan, and Reid would instantly stop crying and stare at it for about five minutes. “But I always wear my baby,” you say. Well, good for you. If you have any tips on how to wear your baby in a carrier when brushing your teeth and still bend over to spit in the sink without drooling toothpaste on him or hitting his head on the counter, you let me know. Until then, I will use the ceiling fan method.  

Quinn also watched way more TV than usual last week. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed either. When I needed to nurse Reid or put him down for another nap fail a nap, I switched on Sid, the Science Kid, and Q was mesmerized. Sid is to Q as the ceiling fan is to Reid. Judge me if you will, but it works. And now my two-year-old understands friction. Boom.  

You’re friends love you. Let them help.
I would not have made it through the week without my dear friends. Robin, a.k.a. The Wine Fairy, left a bottle of chardonnay on my front porch. Rebecca came over one evening and held Reid while I gave Q a bath. And she brought more wine. It’s okay to admit you need help. (Please bear with me while I give myself a pep talk here…) Other moms make it look easy, and you might think it looks weak asking for help taking care of your own kids, but it’s not. It seriously does take a village. If one of your friends needed help, you would be there in a heartbeat. Let them do the same for you.

Take care of yourself, too.
I accomplished approximately jack s**t last week, and that is really hard for me. By the time both boys were asleep, it was 10:30 pm, and I was exhausted. So I tried to forget about all the things I should have been doing, I let the dishes and laundry pile up, I poured a glass of wine, I watched a few minutes of mindless television, and I went to bed. My patience was already limited and my ability to be kind was impaired enough without added sleep deprivation. So I slept.

When Hubs walked in the door on Friday afternoon, I lasted all of thirty seconds before I burst into tears, but we survived.

So when you feel like locking yourself in the bathroom and bawling your eyes out, know that you’re not weak. When you serve chicken dinosaurs for the third night in a row, you’re not a bad mom. When your child is on his fourth episode of Sid that day, you’re not lazy. You’re a strong mom who’s doing everything she can to hold it together and doing an amazing job. Last week was a real test of my 2014 theme word, but I cut myself some slack, let some things go, and was kind to myself whenever possible.

And that’s the best advice I can give to anyone who’s solo parenting.

What are your tips and advice for staying (somewhat) sane when your partner is out of town?