(Disclaimer: I’m only speaking to solo parenting in which one of the parents travels or are gone for long-periods of time. I can’t speak to single parenting which, in my opinion, single parents are incredible humans and I’ll bow down to you and would buy you a drink if we met in person. I am fully aware these two roles are very different.)
Fun Fact: I’m currently writing this post at.the.last.minute because, whelp.. I’m solo parenting. Just to set the tone of what our routine looks like in life, as I’m not one to overshare, but it’s good to know in context for this post. My husband travels for work, a lot, and it can be planned for weeks or change within 24hrs. This isn’t something new, it’s how things have always been… even when we were dating. But over the past four years, it has become more often and for longer periods of time. Prior to kids, when he would go out of town I used it as my time to catch up with all of my girlfriends over late night dinners and drinks and host parties and do all the things I love to do by myself - like sleep in, go window shopping, see movies and visit the farmers market.
Now, when he’s gone, it’s a bit different. I’m working a full-time job and also on full-time parenting duties. There are days my head spins and others were I kick back and think “Damn, I was such a badass mom today!” It fluctuates quite quickly.
Here are some thoughts, comments, common scenarios and realizations I’ve had over my six years of solo parenting stints:
Constant Parenting Mode: There’s no one to tag in while you go sit on the bench for a minute. Be aware, you may not actually sit down all day until your children are asleep. I call these days my ‘cardio days’.
Build a Support System: Don’t shy away from letting friends know you’re on your own for a bit. At first, I tried to be an island and was too prideful to ask for help or let others know I’d love some company. Now, I will mass text my friends, line up the babysitters and accept any prepared meal offering that comes my way. While it’s never easy to have to constantly be away from your family, I know that Eric also finds so much relief in knowing we’re loved and cared for when he’s gone.
Outsource Everything And Don’t Look Back: Find all the companies and stores that deliver to you. Literally anything that makes your life easier and with less errands. Groceries, Amazon, UberEats, Postmates, Seamless, Handy… etc.
Make Plans and Also Don’t Make Plans: I’m an extrovert and an overplanner. I like to stay active and social - I don’t like naps or relaxing much (but am trying to work on it) and I like at least 1 planned activity a day. When I’m solo parenting I also follow that rule. Prior to Eric leaving, I’ll make playdates with friends, lunch and park meetups and get sitters to come over so I can have a night out. I find these things help the days to flow better and keep everyone spirits up and positive. Also, when you’ve been solo parenting for over a week, sometimes it’s also nice to just take it easy and not feel exhausted just at the thought of getting everyone ready and out of the house.
Admit You Really Like The Alone Time: Oh sure, I miss Eric when he’s gone. He’s my best friend. I remember crying a bit after he left for his first trip when we were newlyweds (oh, to be young again) and also then panicking at the thought of having to reactivate my brain to do things on my own and not as a unit. Almost 9 years into marriage and now I look forward to nights at home (post bedtime) where I sit by myself and catch up on shows he would rather not watch with me (I love you Broad City) and sleep like a freakin starfish in the middle of our king bed. It’s the closest thing to ‘me time’ I’m going to get these days!
The Re-entry Period: This is a big one. At first I felt alone in this and have now come to learn it’s a very very common occurrence in couples where one unit travels a lot. For some reason, whether he’s gone for five days or three weeks, it always take a couple of days to get back into double duties and back on the same communication wave length. I get so wrapped up in handling everything myself and doing things a certain way without having to be concerned with another adult (I’m Type A, can you tell) and it takes a second to adjust and relax and relinquish control. And other times, the minute Eric walks in the door my brain starts to power down and immediately forgets how to change a diaper, wash a dish or pick up a toy.
Keep Communication Active: We’ve had to make some conscious decisions in how we structure our life to make this scenario work, that includes living close to family and a community of friends we’ve known for years to ensure that I have a solid support system in place for myself and for the girls. But we’ve always had to talk it out over and over again. It always comes back to supporting each other and our own paths at this moment and also respecting each other. I will never guilt Eric about being gone. Heck, sometimes I’m the one rooting for him to say yes to back-to-back shoots because I know it’s what he loves. All I’m saying is, be a team and always let the other one know how you’re feeling.
Now I’m off to go sleep like a starfish.
Be sure to check out and follow along with the other amazing mamas who are sharing their stories as part of this series. Also be sure to check out our previous topics: Travel, Feeding, Sleep, Relationships, Self Care, Working, Co-Parenting, Comparison Trap, Diaper Bag Essentials and Play. Links below! #realmomseries