It’s been almost four months since my solo parenting adventure started and I have to say that I’m learning some pretty valuable lessons about maintaining my sanity while solo parenting during this short tour. For those of you who are new to my blog, we’re four months into our 12 month short tour adventure courtesy of the United States Air Force; Homeskillet and I are “geo-baching” (think geographical bachelors…two households) while he’s in Korea and I’m here stateside.
Solo parenting is not to be confused with being a single parent. Solo parenting is the act of being the on-call, must-have (h/t to Rebekeah Sanderlin’s Must-Have Parent Column…a must-read), must-do parent 24/7 while your serving spouse is off protecting the world, learning about protecting the world, or pulling long hours while protecting the world.
For those of us who are both military spouses and parents means that we’ll all face solo parenting at some point in our lives with the military. Right now, our separation has me solo parenting our 8 year old and 4 year old 24/7 while working from home running a media company full-time.
I started this solo parenting adventure the day after school released for summer vacation. I. ALMOST. DIED. Summer vacation is challenging enough for a work-from-home-parent, but solo parenting and working from home?
Yep. Time to get the smelling salts.
In order to survive this solo-parenting-working-from-home adventure, I knew I was going to have to make some changes and step outside of my I-can-do-it-all comfort zone…because doing it all is much easier when you’re actually not doing it all alone. Here are my lessons learned so far (in no particular order) for kicking ass and maintaining my sanity while solo parenting.
14 Tips for Kicking Ass and Maintaining Your Sanity While Solo Parenting
1. Rally your family and friends around you.
Call mom, dad, sisters, and local friends and clue them in. You need your village. Let them know what you’re facing and be specific as to how they can help you out.
2. When someone offers help, don’t be afraid to tell them specifics of how they can help.
This sounds like a repeat of #1, but it isn’t. Often neighbors will say, “I’m here to help if you need me!” Don’t let the conversation stop there! Think, think, think. And then tell them how they CAN help. Is it a parent of your child’s classmate? Maybe they can be your back up if you need after-school help.
3. When shit hits the fan…and it will…don’t be too proud to call for help.
This JUST happened to us. We had a conflict between piano lessons and an unexpected but necessary visit to urgent care. Totally last minute…zero backup. I ran to a neighbor and asked for extra eyes to watch La Grande on her roundtrip to piano lessons as I whisked La Rubia away for a quick strep test (negative…SCORE).
4. Make a point to build in YOU time.
Solo parenting is endless. It’s exhausting. You need to bring your A-game which means you need to bring your very best you. I don’t care what this is, but YOU NEED YOU TIME. I’ve committed to Monday Yoga and enrolled at the local Hand and Stone for a monthly massage or facial. Whatever you do, just do something for you. Make a movie night for you. Plan a once a month girls’ night. Just do something.
Need some ideas? I’ve got 10 ways you can prevent burn out in the post aptly titled 10 Ways to Prevent Mom Burn Out.
5. Working from home doesn’t mean you don’t need child care.
This isn’t necessarily a solo parenting rule, this is a work-from-home rule. I had to buckle down and accept the fact that La Rubia (age 4) needs full time care while I’m working. When I’m working, I’m not really tuned into parenting. Plus, it’s nice to have that access to full time care even if I don’t intend on having her stay full time.
6. Let your colleagues or boss know what’s up.
I know you’re awesome and you can do it all and you don’t want to use solo parenting as a crutch at work, but there’s going to be a time when you can’t because you can’t. Clue your colleagues, clients, and boss in early in the game so they have your back and aren’t left to jumping to their own conclusions if your work habits shift. At the same time, find creative ways to keep performance up by working non-traditional or flex hours if that’s an option.
7. Clue in the school and teachers.
Your child’s school and teachers are part of your solo parenting team. Let them know what’s going on so that they can help you help your child succeed. Not only will they have your back, they’ll have a frame of reference for observing your child’s behavior and performance.
8. Have the Team Talk with your kids.
Let your kids know that it’s time to pull together and work as a team because Mom (or Dad) can’t do it all alone. Don’t be afraid to enlist your kids in keeping life running smoothly. Get them on board with chores, maintaining the household by staying organized, and by setting a daily routine that works for everyone…particularly the solo-parent.
9. Let your spouse know what you need to hear.
Sometimes when we’re on the phone, I feel like my spouse just doesn’t get exactly what my day really looks like. The time difference alone makes work week communication difficult. He’s winding down his day as I’m gearing up for work. Sometimes I need him to just say, “ugh, that must be crazy”, and he needs me to say, “Dude, I really wish you were here”. It sounds corny, but it really does make you feel better.
10. Don’t play the who has it worse game with your spouse.
He feels lonely, I feel like I’m never alone. I feel like the days are ridiculously long and he feels like he’s missing out on life. The best thing you can both do is agree that both of your realities suck in some ways and are pretty freakin’ awesome in other ways.
11. Say no.
Say no to things that add unnecessary stress like social events, short-turn-around travel to family events, or overbooking your child with extracurricular activities. You’re only one person.
12. Say yes.
To things that matter and that make you or your kids feel good. Going on that field trip (Dad is field trip dude when he’s home), eating with your child at school lunch (Yep, Dad is lunch Dad), to a girls’ night out, to help, to an offer for sitting, to fun. YOLO and all that jazz.
13. Remember that you are a SOLO parent and not a SINGLE parent.
There are going to be times when you really want and need your co-parent’s perspective and feedback. Don’t be afraid to hold parent-to-parent talks to work through challenging parenting moments. It’s a win for keeping the away-parent in the loop and involved.
14. Make new traditions while keeping old traditions.
Life doesn’t sit still and it shouldn’t. Establishing new traditions is a great way to keep morale up for everyone in the house. We instituted Korean Food Fridays when Homeskillet left. Every Friday we close the kitchen (winning) and head to one of our favorite Korean restaurants in honor of Daddy’s geography.
As equally important is keeping old traditions alive too. Just because Daddy can’t be here, doesn’t mean we should enter a year of mourning. Life goes on as it should. And thanks to technology we can share all of these special moments with Dad via Skype and pictures!
What are your best tips for surviving as a solo parent? Anybody facing a solo parenting challenge and need some advice or help? Let me know in the comments below!