How to survive solo parenting during a tough week (when you are accustomed to team parenting)

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103649893_7f0a937db0_o.jpgFirst, full props and respect to the single parents out there. You don't get to choose so much when you do and don't get help so I realize *lots* of parents have it tougher than I do.

With that said, for us it takes some adjustment when Steve has to travel for work and I do the parent work (are we not saying "parenting" these days? It feels like a loaded word but I don't remember how we're supposed to use it.) It's taken a little time but I think we are getting a little bit more used to knowing our rhythms. The thing is that it takes a little while for the family to gel again when somebody leaves and goes away, and it's good to know what's realistic.

Last week Steve was gone for six nights but I had two gigantic deadlines hanging over my head and a number of other projects that also needed attention. Here were some ways that I managed to get through it while getting my deadlines met, not getting stress-sick and not killing my husband after he got home (not like he was having fun but I would say objectively the person who is staying home will always win in the complaining Olympics when up against Person Traveling Childfree Even If It Is For Work.)

While they're gone:

Use daycare/aftercare to the full extent
This is one of those things where "I suppose I should feel bad about this" but I really don't. I have deadlines to meet (especially this month) and I'm not going to try to work while my kids are home because that is a non-starter, especially when there isn't someone else around to help. While Steve is home he usually gets the kids around 4:45/5:15, but when it was just me I took the boys to school/daycare normal time and they both got picked up more like 5:30/6.

Get up a little earlier than usual
Otherwise you are simultaneously trying to get yourself ready while you get children ready for the morning and that's how you end up wearing two different shoes. It's less panic-inducing to have gotten up and put on clothes and had a cup of coffee before you start getting everybody up and dressed.

Enjoy 1 glass of wine at night
For me, not more than one, because I couldn't handle the risk of a hangover, but definitely one. Okay, maybe one and a half.

Eat dinner on your own, something delicious that doesn't involve a lot of mess.
It's just kind of a luxury for me to eat dinner by myself in private. I couldn't do it while my husband is home because that would be weird. But each night when it was just the 3 of us I just sat and hung out or puttered around while the boys ate dinner and After they went to bed I did a bit of work and then had dinner around 9. Mine involved melted brie, arugula and brown rice because I had that in the fridge and I wanted to love myself.

Clean up a little, but not everything
I kept the kitchen fairly clean at night because it pains me psychically when it gets cluttered. But I left the basement/play room as it was because that would be insane, to clean it up every night by myself after the boys played in it.

I had a ton of work to do each night but I also set a goal to try out some new TV while Steve was gone (we have a complicated relationship when it comes to watching TV/movies together.) I also knew if I wanted to get by and get everything done, I needed to sleep and if I wanted to sleep I had to turn off my brain before bedtime. Each night I was good about shutting off my phone/computer and watching a few episodes of The Good Place, which was actually great.

Don't force conversations with your spouse while s/he's gone
This came from Steve and I'm grateful for it. He could see on my face and in my voice how I was feeling the nights that I tried to Facetime with him while getting dinner on the table and trying to get the boys to behave. Steve and I said goodnight by text because he said "If you're too tired to talk, I get it," and I took him up on it. It's hard to feel chatty and solicitious after a day of grinding it out and taking care of little people.

Make plans but only if they are stress-free
My cousin Regina had the boys and me over for dinner Friday night which was perfect because her kids are sweet, they have a safe play space where you can watch all the kids at once, and they even have an extra high chair for James. Plus Regina makes amazing chocolate chip cookies. It was great to get out of the house but not have to remain hyper-vigilant about who was running around where.

Getting by when your spouse comes home:

It's not over the minute your spouse returns from being away. Steve often asks the house "Are you glad I'm back?" and he gets sort of a tepid response. The fact is that of course we're glad he's home but it takes a little bit of getting used to having another person in the house again, one with his own stuff and needs. Here are a few things I've learned to make re-entry easier and not awkward (because sometimes there is some unspoken resentment that becomes spoken resentment or otherwise leaks out in unrelated ways.)

Be prepared to still do work even after your partner returns
Usually Steve has just gotten back from a serious business trip where he has to get up at 3 AM for his flight so as much as I really want to dump everything on him I usually end up still doing a little leftover parenting work because he needs to rest and not be driving little kids around. I helps to remember this ahead of time to avoid extra resentment.

Go on a date right away
I came up with this plan week and I think it was a good move. Normally after Steve gets home we all have dinner together at home and it can be pretty tense. But last week I had so much going on that I barely spoke to Steve while he was gone--I realized that we would probably not get a chance to talk to each other uninterrupted anytime soon so it was possible we'd totally forget what we needed to connect on. I got a last minute sitter to put the boys to bed and we went out to a steakhouse and actually talked.

Once home, have the partner go to the store, do laundry, or do at least one task you had to do single-handedly/repeatedly/with greater difficulty while s/he was gone.
Redeem this quickly because it will lose effectiveness if you try and do so after you have settled back into your typical routine.