Friday, January 8, 2010

When you're going it alone...

Welcome back! We're going to jump right into the new year with a question that hopefully doesn't see much use...

single parenting

Whether it be for a business trip, family, church or military obligations, or a week rock climbing with the guys, sometimes our husbands are gone and we find ourselves single parents for an extended period of time. While we always hope this will be short lived, it still helps to have a few tips to get us through the long stretches when we're going on our own. Here are a few things I have learned.

"Pack" the night before.

Especially if you need to be out the door at a particular time, it's helpful to get everyone's clothes laid out the night before. Find all the shirts, pants, socks, and shoes and have them ready in a pile. A lot of stress can be avoided if you don't have to go searching for the one missing shoe when you're already running late!

When the toddler and the baby are crying, take care of the toddler first.

I've been learning this with my two-year-old and three-month-old. When the baby's crying, it always seems so urgent to take care of her NOW. But I have learned that my toddler notices when I choose the baby first. If I give the toddler the attention she needs, she is much more forgiving of the time I spend with the baby. When Dad isn't around, it's much easier if she isn't resentful towards me or the baby.

Get some sleep!

This is that advice that every new mom hears and can't quite seem to follow--at least, in my experience. It's hard to get anything done when you have the kids all day and it's tempting to work during naptime or stay up late into the night to catch up on what couldn't get done during the day. But, it is important to get enough rest to have the energy to keep up with the little ones!

Next week, my husband starts a new job 90 miles away. He will be home only on the weekends. I have a few tricks for the single parenting adventure, but I would love to hear any other tricks you have in your bags!


Heather said...

During the summer, my husband is gone every week and home on the weekends. We've been doing this for 6 years now and 4 years as parents. Each year has gone a little more smoothly as I have learned some tricks, too.

1. Make friends and spend time with them with your kids. It helps an amazing amount to have adult conversation. Playing outside with the neighbors is my salvation.

2. Plan simple fieldtrips--walks on a special trail or path, not just around the neighborhood (though that is good, too), outings to different parks (not just the closest one), "dates" out to lunch (fast food, picnic, etc.), cheap movies where kids are welcome like the summer movie program

3. Keep strict bedtimes for the kiddos. This allows me personal time without staying up so late where I can veg in front of the TV, read a book, or pick up the house if I want to.

4. Talk through your day with your spouse if possible. If I can download the goods and bads of the day, it makes a huge difference in whether I feel alone or not. Sometimes this is not possible, but when it is, I feel better.

5. Be ready to apologize. Some days are just rough. I've woken up after a restless night and I'm grumpy. Everything my kids do gets on my nerves and I'm just plain snappy! It's amazing how far "sorry" and a hug/kiss go with children. They are SO forgiving!! It has also taught my daughter to apologize (often without being reminded) when she hurts someone's feelings or is rude, also.

Jared and Delia said...

Heather...those were spot on. I echo her remarks and want to add a few of my own. My husband worked out of town each summer for three years. He was not able to come home as often because it was 9-10 hours away. That meant that many weekends and especially Sundays I was alone with our first child (we just had one during that time). If I felt restless or lonely it was easy to just get out of the house and go do something to break up the day. Sunday was different though. Because of my beliefs to honor the Sabbath Day by not spending money, recreating, or working (I consider craft projects and other things work for me) Sundays were the most lonely for me. I believe it is a time to focus on family, but when your better half and biggest part of your family is away it is much more difficult. When others would invite us for dinner I would accept. When we didn't get an invitation I would invite other people over. When those two options were not possible I would go on a walk and call extended family and chat with a few family members. That was the number one help for me and I think for my child on Sundays. And...I must put a plug in: if you know anyone who is flying solo ask them for Sunday dinner or another dinner. Dinner seems to be the hardest time. It is the time when your husband is usually coming home after you have been home alone all day with your baby...but alas he is not and there is nothing to look forward to and it oftens seems pointless to cook. Yeah...was not my favorite time of day.

Stay in routine. Cook dinner (harder than it sounds I know), shower, etc. Just as kids need schedules, so do you. It will help you stay more emotionally stable which will help when the loneliness hits you hard.

When your husband comes back home, communicate and expect that although everyone is happy Dad is home, it will be a period of adjustment. I don't think we got this until the third year. I thought...I have been numero uno this whole time. Surely he can wake up with the baby and change diapers and let me rest. He might not know that or be tired from his work as well. Talk it it it out. You can keep the homecoming a happy time if everyone knows how each other feels and what everyone needs. It is easy (at least it was for me) to build up all sorts of expectations in my mind as I had plenty of time to anticipate his homecoming but in the excitement of him actually coming home I didn't take time to communicate those things to him. I learned to dial down the expectations a bit as well and take just a little time to plan how to get the new schedule and family dynamics in place. That is my take anyway. I hope that made sense.

Megan said...

Sleep, was my big thing. Of course, every time my husband went out of town, it seemed like I got sick. So, sleeping when Lucas was napping was a big thing for me. Also, like has been mentioned before, try and do something with other people. Dinner time is always the hardest for me, so I try and invite someone over or make plans with someone to do something after dinner.

On The Go Family said...

Lots of great comments already. This post hits close to home because my husband has been working full-time and completing MBA school at night for the past two years. (Just graduated in December -- woo!) So I was all alone with kids almost every night for two years, weekends included because that's when he caught up on his studying (SAt) and church callings (Sun).

Two of the best things I did during that time was to find good friends and pursue my own interests.

I figured that my husband was off enriching his life, I might as well do the same in mine. I was surprised how many friends I found in similar situations, and we were able to help each other through the rough times by making each other dinner, taking turns watching each other's kids or sometimes just sharing horror stories about our days. It helped me not think so much about my sorrows because I was worried about and taking care of them, too.

The first semester he was gone I turned to the TV for comfort and it did NOTHING for me. Then I started pursuing other passions I usually didn't have time for: reading (I read 120 books in two years!), scrapbooking (I caught up on two years worth), exercising (I finally lost all that baby weight), etc.

It was still hard, but doing some things for myself just for fun made the days, weeks and years go by faster.

Another tactic I have always used in life is planning fun things out in the future to look forward to. Whether that be a small get together with friends or (our usual) a big trip. We take one trip a year without kids. Sometimes it's as short as one night away, this past year we were able to get away for 10 days due to the age of our kids and our circumstances.) Planning those trips are so much fun for me and I look forward to them for so long. Then when they come, they are that much more special.

Tannie Datwyler said...

I have minimal experience with this. When my husband goes away overnight or for a week it is usually some kind of backpacking or rock climbing trip. But I learned a few things on my stints alone.

The biggest thing for me was this - dishes! Silly huh? But I used to rely on my husband to help me pick up the house after the kids were in bed and he used to do the dinner dishes for us. But when he was gone the dishes would just pile up and the kids would go to bed and the house was a mess. So what did I spend two hours doing?? Cleaning... My biggest advice is to make sure the house is as clean as possible BEFORE the kids go to bed (of course you'll have to do pick up after they are asleep too) and load the dishwasher all day long. That way, like has been said, you can spend time doing something fun while the kids are asleep.