(This post is part of our Real Talk with Real Moms series. Be sure to check out the other posts today from The Fresh Exchange || Design for Mankind || Lovely Indeed || The Proper Blog|| The Sweetest Occasion || Parker Etc || Sacramento Street || Oh Lovely Day)
This topic came up super organically. There's a group thread going on email for this series and a couple mamas chimed in about skipping posts because they were in the middle of long solo parent stints and the lightbulb went off. It's also a frequent question that I get via DM on Instagram. First things first, though, I feel like I should say that I'm so grateful for our situation and it really works for us. This situation, though challenging at times, is a choice that we have made and not a situation outside of our control and I know that the same is not true for everyone else out there solo or single parenting. There are so many other incredible mothers out there working so hard for their kiddos and I am cheering you on so hard and sending you all of the good vibes.
Here's our situation: Aaron travels anywhere from 2 or 3 nights a week to longer stretches of 7-10 days at a time and has since we were dating. This has always been our normal which I do think makes it easier than people who had a more normal routine and then were introduced to an offbeat schedule. Often times we won't know his travel schedule for the following week until Friday afternoon which is an added challenge because it makes it hard to plan ahead for childcare, etc. With both our kids he started back to traveling for work when they were 6 or 7 days old. It wasn't so bad with Parker, but when we had two I definitely felt like I was running on fumes and coffee for about three weeks (or months?! ha!).
Here's what I love: I actually love the sweet time that I get one on one with the girls while he is gone. I also love a quiet night or two to myself. But the struggle can also be very real when you're trying to get everyone ready in the morning and to bed at night.
Here are a few things that make our home run a little more smoothly when I'm on my own:
Routine: It's essential to my sanity that I have a plan for our day and know how I'm going to get everything done. It's also essential to my sanity that I have time to myself at the end of a day where I have been doing everything by myself. The only way to meet each of those ends is to have a routine and not just one we stick to when Aaron's gone, a daily routine that makes going to sleep and waking up and doing all of the other things easy (or at least easier) because we do them every day.
Here's the Actual Logistics of Our Nighttime Routine:
- Wherever we are, we are home by 5pm.
- 5p-6p: Prep and Eat dinner
- 6-6:30p: Kids can play while I clean the kitchen and living room, Parker helps me with the playroom and office. Going to sleep with a clean house is another key to my sanity and I would say I achieve that 90% of the time when Aaron is gone. It's nice to start the next day with a clean slate. I'm too tired and unmotivated to do it after I get them to sleep, so this is my window. Sometimes they're already getting fussy, but this is laser focused 30 minutes of cleaning which means you can pull on my leg and whine at me all you want, but I won't hold you during these 30 minutes.
- 6:30p: I set the alarm downstairs and take both girls and their water cups upstairs with me to start the bath. While the water is running I lay out both girls pajamas in Ever's room. I brush both of their teeth before we get in the bath. I've noticed the closer you get to bedtime the more likely you are to be met with resistance so we just get this out of the way early.
- 6:50p: Out of the bath and into PJs. Parker goes to her room and plays while I read books to Ever and sing a couple songs before putting her in bed. (Even though I'm usually tired by this point, both girls bedtime routines are one of my favorite parts of the day!)
- 7:15p: Parker's turn for books and prayers and snuggles.
- 7:30p: Done!
Plan Ahead for Meals: Taking both kids out to dinner at the ages they're at now can be a recipe for disaster (pun intended!), so I try to plan ahead simple dinners that everyone will eat and that will make for good leftovers for lunches the next day. I also always have some quick and easy pantry staples on hand like Annie's Mac and Cheese and simple linguine noodles and pesto. Last week I made these enchiladas on Monday and was able to eat them for lunch the next few days. I did the chicken in the instapot that morning so when it was getting close to dinner all I had to do was put everything together and into the oven for 25 minutes. If we skip a night or two of veggies, they will survive.
Make a Plan to See Other Adults: It's easy to get in a rut when you don't have any other adult interaction which is why if you're not going into an office every day and parenting by yourself it's important to make a play date with a friend or get a babysitter for after they kids go to sleep and meet up for dinner.
Celebrate Your Wins and Let the Hard Times Go: You know when you feel like a total super mom? You planned ahead, everyone got along and arrived where they needed to be with 5 minutes to spare and you even managed to leave the kitchen clean on your way out the door? Revel in those wins! Pat yourself on the back! Let those simple wins bring you so much joy. Just because you made it look easy doesn't mean that it was. You know those other times that aren't so easy? No one wants to eat what you made for dinner. A dish broke. A nap was interrupted. You're late for everything. The house is a disaster. Let it go. You did your best, but you can't control every last variable with kids and sometimes the ship just sinks. Tomorrow is a new day. Take a deep breath, get those kids to sleep, and spend a few quiet minutes before bed taking care of yourself and reminding yourself that you're a damn good mother.
Be sure to check out the other posts today from The Fresh Exchange || Design for Mankind || Lovely Indeed || The Proper Blog|| The Sweetest Occasion || Parker Etc || Sacramento Street || Oh Lovely Day
Loved your post Jen! It's always great to see how other mamas handle these things. My post focused on so many of the challenges and reading yours I was reminded of the benefits as well -- alone time with the kids, quiet nights where i control the remote, etc. also, getting to miss your spouse! Thanks for the reminder 🙂
Jen Pinkston says
I'm so behind from the week but so excited to catch up on everyone's posts! There are so many challenges!!
Omg can we just Have a post featuring ever’s chunky thighs? They are. The. best.
Jen Pinkston says
Haha! I would totally be down for that!
Oh, here here! Routines are so crucial. Our morning and bedtime routines are so regimented it's ridiculous. But I swear that's what keeps me sane! I have no idea how you do it so often with TWO littles. A three year old and her doggie sidekick are more than enough for me lol
Jen Pinkston says
Girl your hands are full and you are amazing! Excited to read everyone's posts this weekend!
I didn't realize he travels so much for Ellen! I'm assuming he went to Rwanda for the ground breaking last month!
Jen Pinkston says
Yes he did! That was his second trip to Rwanda and he has so much love for that country!