We’re back again this month with the Real Talk with Real Moms series! I’m honestly humbled to be a part of this crew of incredible mothers, each different and amazing in her own way. Be sure to check out all of the other posts on today’s topic!
It’s not lost on me how insanely lucky I am to have a partner in parenting. And not just any partner, but one who proactively seeks to pull his weight and even out the mother-heavy tendency of any family dynamic. That being said, there are times in every family unit where one parent or the other finds themselves solo parenting for a span of time. Maybe work pulls one away, or a health issue, or maybe one just needs a break. Ryan and I give that gift to each other every so often; I was recently lucky enough to spend two days away with my best girlfriend while Ryan solo parented the kids. But the thing that we both come away with every time we solo parent for a few days is that there are tricks to it. There’s a strategy. There are things you can do to make it easier on yourself. So after this last round of being a solo parent, Ryan and I sat down and outlined our survival tricks for solo parenting. And it turned out that we both did the same things when the other was away, without even realizing it.
Have a Schedule
There’s nothing more daunting than looking ahead at a long span of days parenting your kids without a plan. So when Ryan leaves, my top priority is to have a general sketch of our schedule for the time he’ll be gone. It’s not hour-by-hour, but it’s definitely arranged in chunks so that I have an idea of what we’ll be doing. It could be anything, at home or away, but I like to plan it out. As an example, maybe one day’s plan could be: breakfast, art time, backyard play, lunch, naps, watch a movie, dinner, bath, bed. It’s flexible but it’s there to rely on. If you need activity ideas, here are a whole bunch of free or cheap activities to do with kids.
Plan an Outing
This is one of Ryan’s favorite secret weapons. He gets really stir crazy if he’s alone in the house with the kids all day, so he plans outings. When I was gone, he planned a trip to the movies, a trip to the park, and a playdate with friends (all on different days). It also helps to have a milestone that you can keep your eye on when the days start to feel long.
Think Like a Kid
We have been doing a lot of learning about parenting lately, and one thing we’ve learned is that our kids behave the best when we get on their level, both literally and figuratively. When we stop managing and directing them, they really rise to the occasion. We play more, we get down on the floor, we let them decide on activities. And they love it — and respond really well to it. When I’m solo parenting, I try to really focus on that. It cuts down on tantrums or power struggles and makes the days a lot more enjoyable.
Rely on Friends
If you have friends with kids nearby, lean on them! Schedule a playdate. Visit if they’re available. Invite them over and order pizza for dinner. It feels good to be around another adult, and it sure makes the time fly to be with friends.
Shop Ahead of Time
One thing we make sure to do for each other before one of us leaves town is to make sure that the fridge and pantry are stocked. There’s nothing worse than being solo and realizing that you’re out of groceries or in a pinch for diapers. So make sure that you’re stocked on all the essentials.
The bottom line is that you can’t expect to get everything done as a solo parent that you could get done with two adults home. So relax. Maybe the dishes stay in the sink overnight. Maybe the kids watch a little extra television. Nothing is going to get ruined (not their IQ, not your reputation as a parent) if you loosen the reins for a day or two in order to have a little break or some peace of mind. Solo parenting is exhausting. Give yourself some grace.
Do you find yourself solo parenting often? I’d love to hear from parents who go longer stretches solo and hear your tips too! Do share in the comments — it’s so encouraging for us all to know that others might be sharing our situation and have some insight. And be sure to follow the links below to read the other moms’ perspective on this topic too. xoxo