I have absolute respect and admiration for single mums. I used to be one myself, so I understand just how relentless the responsibility can be – no time to pop out for a run or a yoga class. No sneaky glass of wine on the deck while someone else handles baths and bedtime stories and homework problems. You are on duty from first thing in the morning until last thing at night – and often on call during those dark hours in between.
But since I married Husby I have become soft and lazy. He is pretty great at getting home in time for kids’ dinners and baths, and he is also awesome at taking them to the park when I want to go to yoga, or getting breakfast for all three when I go for my early morning runs. I highly value my ‘me time’ – and I have come to take it for granted.
The pay-off is that I am a member of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Spouse. Husby goes away for work with reasonable regularity – in fact, he’s off at the Great Barrier Reef right now saving a turtle or some fecking thing (he works for a large multi-national environmental group – usually in an office, but sometimes he feels the need to ‘get his hands dirty’ – also known as ‘go snorkelling’). Super news for the turtle, but this throws my world into a bit of kid-crazy disarray. But I have gradually learned through trial and tantrum-inducing error to be organised. And lately have even found, with some decent planning, it can actually be quite fun when Husby goes away.
My three year old son barely knows I’m alive when his father is around, but during those travel times, I get some serious toddler love. And I notice my three all getting along with each other a lot better – it’s like they band together to get through the trying time of being left alone with their crazy, slightly-scary mum.
Here are my tips for making that solo parenting time as easy as possible:
- Plan all your meals and prepare what you can in advance. Make a huge salad and keep it in the fridge. Chop your vegetables and keep them in a container of water (except potatoes – they go grey and ewy). If you’re feeling particularly superwoman-ish get some meals ready beforehand and shove them in the freezer – pasta bakes, lasagne, shepherds pie, casserole, etc. are all great for this. Make sure you have snacks ready to go, and enough bread and milk to keep you going.
- Organise at least one outing a day (on non-work days) so you aren’t at home all day. It doesn’t have to be much, but try to find another adult to talk to for at least an hour. Otherwise you will go effing nuts. Then you suffer, and the children suffer. Trust me.
- Relax your standards. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if they watch a bit of extra TV, eat a pizza instead of veggie soup, skip a bath or sleep in their play clothes. The world will keep on spinning and – because you’re alone – nobody will know. Shhhhhhhhh! (Until the children open their big yaps – and you know they will – most likely when talking to your mother-in-law or overachieving organic baby-wearing neighbour).
- Ensure you are stocked with your treat of choice: wine, chocolate, nail polish, several seasons of QI, those embarrassing magazines that you swear you only ever read at the doctor’s office. Go trashy, who cares!
- Ensure you have your Champagne Day booked in soon after your partner gets back (renamed from its original ‘Carolyn Day’ because, well, I can’t hog ALL the fun). We have a system in my house that if Husby is away for two nights or more, I get a Champagne Day on the following Monday. Husby takes the kids all day and I get the day to myself to do whatever I fancy. Only (self-imposed) rule is that I don’t work and I don’t do chores. I have spent previous Champagne Days at the movies, getting a pedicure, catching up with friends for lunch, browsing bookshops, and reading in the park. Champagne Days are very happy days. And Husby gets to reacquaint himself with the children. Win!
Does your partner travel for work? What do you do to get by?