|1970's TV show - A Family Affair|
Over the last year or so my husband has been traveling a lot... about two weeks of every month he is away. During the first year there were a lot of ups and downs, family coming to stay with us to help (we don't have any family in our area so this meant a bunch of travel for the Grandmas), and just plain figuring out how to work this deal. Because it certainly takes a 'system', if you get it to go right it can be really delightful, if it goes wrong, it's not pretty.
Lately I have noticed while waiting at gymnastics, watching my son play soccer, and after school activity pickups that there are so many parents who have a counterpart who is traveling, works in another state, or even one woman who lives here in Rhode Island while her husband words in California. I have also heard that sometimes families have had trouble selling their home, so the family stays behind while one parent goes off to work in another state or even in another country. There is a military base here in Rhode Island so some of these are military parents, who never complain or say anything about being home alone with their kids, the others, well we like to complain a bit. Because it's not easy, working, making lunches, doing it all... but when the system is working it can be so much easier and happier for everyone. I have found that if you can find a way for it to work for you, it can be smooth and relatively easy, but I do think that you have to prepare yourself a bit.
It's weird but you would imagine that you would find a whole bunch of playdates and just make that work but really, it's almost easier if you corral your group and keep them under your hat (so to speak). I certainly do not know everything but I wanted to share with you some of my tips that I have found work well for us over the last year and half of doing this...
1) Don't stay up late at night... midnight is tops, never later!
2) Every once in awhile go to bed when your kids do just to catch up with sleep.
3) As soon as your counterpart leaves the house, clean the entire house top to bottom so that you know what, where, how everything is going on (you will feel more in control of your environment).
4) Each time before my husband leaves we sit down together and talk about how we are a family unit and we like to help each other out, and while dad's away we need to be especially mindful of being helpful, getting up, getting dressed, brushing teeth (it helps to be specific)... routines without being told is really helpful. They usually remember this for the first few days and some of it really sticks.
5) lay out lunch boxes at night ready for the morning.
6) each morning on the way to school we talk about what the day has in store, music lessons, phy ed, doctors appointment... etc... so that everyone knows what is going on and you can better remember things.
7) when you drop them off at school/bus take a moment and go an get a coffee or treat yourself, it will only take a few minutes, and it will do a world of good for your day and your psyche..
8) make lists! because it's harder to remember everything when it's all coming at you.
9) food and dinner becomes much more simple, but I try to take the opportunity to have night's out or special dinners, these have become really fun for me and the kids. You know what a foodie I am and from time to time I take them to a 'fancy' place.. it's just fun to see them sit up straight, behave super well and mind themselves just because they know we are in a special place.
10) most of all you have to find a way let go of your anxiety about getting everything done and enjoy the moment with your kids, because chances are you won't get it all done!
11) my friend Nancy swears by an app that her whole family has called "Cozi Calendar". Everyone can insert appointments, add things to grocery lists and it's super interactive. This sounds really helpful and getting everyone onto one page, especially for older kids, is perfect!
12) hire Mr. French! (if you were born after 1970 you may not remember this...)
I have to say that I can appreciate those who single parent all the time, my own mom was a single parent for most of our lives and I certainly remember the times when it wasn't easy... but I also know that she was more 'alone' than we are today - no internet, no blogs, just trying to do it all by yourself... not easy!
If you have great ideas on your 'single parenting' please share them with us so that we have a resource, so the next time you find yourself parenting alone... you won't be!