Solo parenting toddlers is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done
My husband has been on a lot of business trips lately leaving me to care for our two young children all by myself. As a stay at home mom, I had come to rely on him coming home from work so I can receive some downtime and do things like shower alone, use the restroom without an audience, or just be able to go to Starbucks without the kids in tow and decompress. So when he’s not here for an extended period of time, like he has been lately, it really wears on me, especially since my youngest is not quite two yet and is very attached to me. She also feels that every time I sit down it’s time for her to use me as a jungle gym or start trying to rip my shirt off so she can nurse. It wears on me to be constantly touched by her without a reprieve, or not be able to sit down and take a break from cleaning, cooking, or what have you because I know I will get attacked by a 1-year-old. At least when my husband is home, he can help redirect her.
Solo parenting is rough and right now it almost feels like I’m a single mother. Yes, eventually my husband will be home and I will have some time to myself, but lately that time is short lived before he is gone again. It feels almost like when my parents divorced and they had shared custody, but the sharing goes on in my house instead of the kids leaving.
I recently read an article in Scary Mommy by Stephanie Land, and this quote rang so true to me.
My married mom friends often send me messages when their husbands are out of town saying something to the extent of, "I never realized how hard you have it! You really never get a break!" and so on and so forth. It's true I can never say, “Hey, can you take her for a minute? I really need to poopscreamsob.” I do those things with an audience. “Why Solo Parenting Is Actually Really Hard
Yes, she can never tap out but neither can I. My husband is an ocean away right now and it all falls on me. Being a single mother has several challenges that being a solo parent doesn’t, like I still have the privilege of being a stay at home mother and taking care of my kids without having to work, something I know I wouldn’t be afforded if I was a single mother. I blog and work on my website because I want to, as a way of keeping my sanity and having something other than housework and childrearing to do. I know if I were a single mother, I would not have this privilege.
The other issue that I seem to face is that I don’t receive as much support from family as I would like. If I were a single mom, I think I would receive more support, because they know my husband wouldn’t be back but since I’m a stay at home mom and my husband is only away on one of several month long business trips, it seems that understanding that I could use a break from the kids isn’t there, so I find myself breaking down more often out of loneliness and lack of support.
The hardest challenge I have been facing is that it take a while for us to acclimate to daddy being gone. There’s a good week transition from them understanding that daddy will not be back for a while to when they start adjusting to this new normal. When the kids and I have finally acclimated to being on our own and have adjusted to our new routine, daddy is back home for a week in which the kids go bananas because they just want to make up for lost time and want to be with daddy 24/7.
When my husband is on his trip he is off working at all hours and doesn’t get much of a break. The last time he was gone, he was clocking 90 hours of work a week, so when he comes home, he also wants to take a break and rest and not have to deal with “daddy, look at me!” every second of the day.
And then, just as the kids have adjusted to daddy being back home, he’s off again and the cycle starts all over again.
Things that have helped
- Maintaining our routines have helped a lot. The kids know we have to wake up at 7:30 to have breakfast, get dressed and take Sebastian to school. Then we pick Sebastian up in the afternoon, come home, have lunch, and then we have our time. We play, we pick up together, we will go on outings together, we do stuff together. Then in the evening, it’s time for dinner, bath and bed.Sebastian is the one who notices the most if the routine is off even a little. Like today, I took an afternoon nap because both kids had a rough night last night and I didn’t sleep very well, so come 3pm, I was exhausted. I took a longer nap than intended with Madison while Sebastian played, watched TV, and played on his kindle. He woke me up around 6 to let me know that I was late to start dinner. I felt so bad, but I just felt like I could not go on until I napped.
- Don’t sweat the mess. If I can’t get to the dishes at night, I’ll get them in the morning. If the floors aren’t perfectly clean, I’ll do them when I can. If the toys are not organized in their bins by type, who cares (yes, I’m crazy like that). If I’m living out of laundry baskets because I can’t get to fold and put away the laundry right away, that’s ok, so long as we have clean clothes, right?
- Lots of outdoor time! We thankfully have a yard with a playset so I will let the kids go outside and play while I do things like garden, or I’ll take my laptop outside and work from the patio table. Or I’ll let them play out on the patio, open the windows so I can listen in on them, and fold laundry in the family room while I watch and listen to them. This has helped me a lot with my stress levels because the kids are having fun and are kept occupied and I’m given the chance to do what I need to do.
- Lastly, if the weather hasn’t been so good or it’s just been too hot, I’ll take them to like a McDonalds with a Play Place so they can run around with other kids and play. I’ll also take my laptop so I can work remotely while they have fun.
Basically, I try to keep them occupied so they can also release their energy and I can get things done, and then we come together and have our time as well. I try to maintain a balance of us time and me time, which is a very delicate balance, because the kids each have their individual needs and sometimes one wants more together time then the other, or they both want individual time with mom which can lead to jealousy, whininess and fighting.
What all these challenges do is they help me appreciate my husband that much more. We do have different parenting styles (I’m more hands-on and he’s more laid back) which leads to challenges between us, but I know that if I tell him I need some time, I’m going to go to somewhere for a little bit to decompress, I know he’s there to watch the kids. Or if I tell him, that I’m going to jump in the shower alone to decompress a little, I know he’ll redirect the kids so they don’t barge in and start with their constant streams of “mom, mom, mom!”