If you have followed me for a while by know you know I solo parent 80% of the time. My husband is constantly traveling for work and most of the parenting aspect falls squarely on my shoulders. While solo parenting is quite challenging, over a period of time I have developed my own systems that help me through the solo times.
WHAT IS SOLO PARENTING?
The term solo parenting is used to describe a parent raising children in the partner’s brief absence. While the term is sometimes used interchangeably with single parenting the big difference between solo parenting and single parenting is that in solo parenting the partner is absent only for a period of time. For example when he travels for work or lives out station.
Solo parenting in most cases is not a matter of choice, the situation arises out of circumstances like spouses work obligations.
CHALLENGES OF SOLO PARENTING?
Parenting as it is, is quite a challenge. One of the bigger challenges (and quite obvious one) that I face when I solo parent is being alone. My husband and I are very much involved as a unit on Parenting principles so when he is not around and I am in charge of the ship all by myself I find it very lonely and difficult. Missing the spouse when they are away make one more emotional which can make decision making weaker.
Children are raised by a village they say and when you solo parent you need that support system. It’s a lot of hard work, between home, the children and your job and requires a lot of stamina and actual physical strength. This was one of the surprises of parenting when I first became a mother. No one had mentioned how much more energy and physical strength I would need to garner in order to get through a day.
Finding quality alone time and time to socialize may reduce if you are the primary caretaker and this affects your mental health. Keeping YOU in the list, forget at the top of the list is hard when solo parenting.
Before I continue with what worked for me, I want to make sure to point out that this post is not a comparison to the life of single parents. I am only sharing struggles of solo parents and how to help with solo parenting. Each of these situations is different in their own way and the challenges it presents are also different. This does not mean that one mother’s struggle is harder than anothers.
Here are some tips that help me when solo parenting.
SOLO PARENTING TIPS
Embrace your reality
I spoke about this recently in an Instagram post, but the very first thing you need to survive solo parenting is acceptance. You need to embrace your new reality. Most solo parenting situations arise without any choice. This can cause resentment and self pity. Both very unhealthy emotions to live with continuously.
Life is ever changing and we need to accept our circumstances before we try to tackle the challenges it poses.
If you are not accepting of your life situation the resentment and anger you feel towards your situation will spill over into other parts of your life.
Our children sense our unhappiness and unknowningly we create a stressful and anxious environment in the home.
2. Prepare for the absence
Organize every aspect of your life as much as is possible. Try to set up systems that work without needing a partner around to help. Some of the systems we set up so that the house is fully functioning at all times are,
- Grocery delivery each week: This way I don’t need to step out of the house with my son in tow to buy staples. Each week certain basic grocery and pantry supplies are delivered home to help me with meal planning.
- Meal planning: When you are running the house solo, meal planning is a huge help. You don’t need to whip up elaborate meals. With a few prepped ingredients you can quickly build a plate of food for your children and you. Here are my meal planning tips for busy moms.
- Rely as much as is possible on one pot meals and buildable snack plates.
- I plan new indoor activities/ or buy some new toys (stickers, activity books, something small) for my son when dad is away for longer time periods. Children also feel cranky when one of the parents is gone for a while, you need to plan some thing to distract the feelings of lonliness. Helps them feel better and teaches them how to keep onself engaged even in the absence of one parent.
- Other than at home activities I make sure to plan social outings and play dates. This keeps both of us busy and gives us something to look forward to when daddy is away.
3. Slow and Steady
When my husband is gone on long stints, I plan my days in a way where I build the pace slowly through the days. I start out with slower unstructured days first and then, other more planned hectic days are scheduled closer to my husbands return. This way I am not exhausted right at the onset of my solo parenting stint. That said, I understand there are unexpected days and other circumstances that can make this tip useless to some moms, but this worked for us when our son was not in school and I was in charge of our days routine.
Which brings me to routine. Little children are more relaxed when there is a set pattern to the day. Try and instill some sort of structure to your day from the very beginning so that your child can follow along better on days you are solo parenting. Routine is a big help and the only way you can have some me-time at the end of the day.
5. Check your expectations
A big tip I can give any mother who is solo parenting is to keep expectations low. No matter how well you plan there are going to be days when everything falls apart. Everyone needs you, everything needs to be fixed and you have no dinner on the table.
On such days just go with the flow, try your best to be grateful for everything you have, and call a friend for help or put on some T.V for the kids and just rest.
Choose your battles wisely. Allowing the kids a little freeway for peace of mind is okay.
Talk with your partner about both your needs. An important aspect no one talks about is that the traveling spouse misses home and family too. Talk to your spouse, understand his struggles. Carve out daddy and child time when he returns. This can also be the much needed alone time for you.
Self-care is as important as caring for the family. Many of us look at the time for self-care as something that needs to be earned as a result of working for our families. But if you put yourself last on the list repeatedly, you will soon burn out.
Here is how I create my own self-care routine.
8. Build a support team
And last but most importantly, build a support system. A backup for you to fall on. It can be either of your parents, a baby sitter, or a friend. You need someone to fall back on when things are not going right. There will be days you need a team of people helping you along, and that’s okay. You really cannot do it all.
That’s about it. These are the simple ways I am managing my life as a solo parent on days my husband is away on work trips.
There have been a lot of learnings and through those, I have come to give up on perfection and enjoy the moments I get with our son.
No matter how hard it feels right now, remember this is just a season in your life. You are still in charge of how you deal with it.
I hope this blog post encourages you to embrace solo parenting and find joy even on the hard days.
How do you manage your time as a solo parent? Do you have tips for me?