Going to bed alone at night…
Checking the locks by yourself…
Preparing everything for the morning on your own…
These are some of the joys of solo parenting. When you’re solo, you shoulder the entire burden of the household both physically (dishes, laundry, shopping, housework), and emotionally (appointments, tantrums, school meetings, carpools, running the schedule, etc.).
I’ve never been a single parent. I’ve been married since the beginning and have always have the pleasure, honor, and privilege of having a partner who is also 100% committed to raising a family and running a home, and supporting us financially. However, for the last 13 years my husband has been largely not home because he has worked many many night shifts as a doctor. Then last year when our 4th child was just 3 weeks old, he was also living far from home for work and only came home on the weekends.
So I just want to share some lessons from this time in case you’re a solo parent. Weather it’s because your partner travels a lot or is absent because of health issues, and maybe even there are some parallels to single parenting although I know it’s not completely the same.
What I Learned After a Year of Living Apart
- Get as much help as you possibly can – In our culture we expect all the things from this one partner. It’s as if two adults, by themselves SHOULD be able to run a household fully with everything that pertains to, without a community or any outside support. I think that’s rarely the case. Rarely can we thrive and feel healthy and energetic if we’re doing all of the things it takes to raise kids and run a household. It can be paid! I urge you to spend as much as you can if it’s in the budget. But it doesn’t have to be. Accept free help from family or others. Get inexpensive help like a mother’s helper. In my case I’ve never lived near family, so a tight knit group of homeschooling moms has been how we’ve traded babysitting for free and helped each other out. I go into depth about how to be creative about getting help in this podcast. You might be tempted to put on that SuperMom or SuperDad cape and do it all on your own. I don’t believe that’s healthy however because it can lead to burnout.
- Cut Yourself Some Slack – It can be very easy to compare yourself to the *HIGHLIGHT Reel* on Pinterest and Instagram – the amazing travelling, the house decor, the projects – but remember you have less hands on deck. You probably have financial and definitely parenting and household responsibilities that may not allow you extra time for all that cherry-on-top stuff that others are in a position to invest time in. Cereal for dinner, and more TV than you’d like might happen. Maintain sanity and peace as much as possible. Prioritize sleep, feeling OK, breathing, and basic self care, over baking granola from scratch, hand making Halloween costumes – heck even being a peaceful parent. When you’re at the edge of your capacity, you might yell more. It’s going to be less perfect than you might be used to, and look different than how it looks for other people who have all hands on deck. It pushes you to discover your innate power and leadership, learning to create a life that you love on your own terms.via @ParentingJunkieTweet This
- Embrace Your Leadership Role – As much as I missed my husband while he was gone, I DID enjoy getting to know myself in a different way. I enjoyed running our daily flow exactly as I wanted to. Whilst it might be easy to feel lonely, or like a victim, there’s also a lot of fun to be had when you are running the show as you’d like! I personally found myself with extra time to channel into my work and hobbies while the kids were asleep. While we’re in the solo-parenting role, we might as well enjoy our lives! One upside is a lot of freedom, and no friction in terms of aligning two adults points of views – which we know can be super hard! I talk about this in my Parent in Love course.
- Focus on connection when your partner returns – Coming together can feel like an extra special moment, because it is. Being apart can allow us to appreciate our togetherness even more. Even if you were holding it together while your partner was gone, running the ship and doing a great job, it can be easy to slip into resentment when they return. It might be tempting to say things like “While you were off gallivanting and having fancy board meetings, I was here slaving away. It’s been so hard!” That’s really a victim mentality though. The truth is, when one person’s losing everybody is losing. The children might be seeing conflict and disconnection which is stressful for them. Your partner feels unappreciated and criticized, unwelcome even, and then he’s not feeling like being appreciative or super helpful either, and you both experience disconnection and stress! It’s a lose-lose.
Once together, the highest priority needs to be connection. Only then can our partners be appreciative, see everything we’ve done, understand us and feel helpful. Even then, we’re not raising kids for them. We need to own our choice a little bit too! In a free world, we too could be out gallivanting and travelling if we really wanted to make that happen. In my case, I’ve made the choice to be at home more and arrange our lives so! Most people have a choice, or at least some choice. And even those that may really have no choice, there’s a choice of how to see it. For example, one could ask is this “Is this happening to me?” or “Is this happening for me?” Do we see it as something we’re doing for others or do we see it as something we’re doing for ourselves. Do we see it as giving, or do we see it as taking?
I know in the beginning it was especially hard for me. When my husband came home on the weekends there was just no way I could have him do everything I wanted him to. Feeling like your partner owes you and needs to pay you back is a lose-lose situation and can lead to serious disconnection. What you CAN stock up on when you’re together though is connection. Warm embrace, physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time together, via whatever your love language is, stock up on that connection while you can!
Resentment builds up when we’re in a victim mindset and waiting for someone to save us. When we save ourselves, take charge of our lives, and make the best we can with what we’ve got, there’s no room for resentment!
If you’re solo parenting I salute you, but I also want you to remember that it has many gifts. It forces you to create and find new avenues of friendship and support, and to expand your awareness of those around you and deepen those connections. It pushes you to discover your innate power and leadership, learning to create a life that you love on your own terms. It made me realize that I alone am responsible for my own mindset, and gave me clarity on how my mindset creates my reality.
What lessons have YOU learned from solo-parenting? Or if you’re solo-parenting right now and it feels difficult, how can you re-frame it a little differently? Share in the comments below.