Solo Parenting

Shortly after our daughter’s first birthday, Rob left town for a week. I brought her home from daycare and thought it would be business as usual.

It wasn’t.

I felt really comfortable, although weary, with solo parenting a baby by then. We are lucky to have a good sleeper with a generally good attitude. We are supported with a loving and nearby daycare environment, and my working at home helps me deal with some of the daily grind.

Then Romy got cranky for what felt like the first time. And she noticed Rob was gone for probably the first time. And she was more demanding and impatient, especially as she was aware and comforted by her daily routine. If the daily routine was out of whack, so was she. And I came here to start writing about it, that I was tempted to ease our family rules and let her watch TV or eat whatever she demanded. I called out on Twitter for parents in situations like ours, met with very few helpful answers, even though I know we are not unusual.

I realized pretty quickly, with Rob’s heavy travel, that relaxing the routine and rules wouldn’t help us. It would be the norm for us to be breaking the routine and rules, and that wouldn’t comfort or teach the baby. But it was also such a challenge because at one year, those things mattered so much more suddenly to our new toddler, and I was faced with more work.

So I try to keep a routine for her. We don’t have a schedule, but we do the same things in order every day. It’s been really useful for us to keep these things normal when either of us is away from home. I’m not just thinking about discipline, but I don’t want her to think that Mama is easy to manipulate when Daddy’s not around. I also think that keeping a routine makes breaking it even more fun.

We have only dealt with separation anxiety, in terms of Rob’s business travel, for one week, very recently. I know there will be more times and it will be even more intense. This time was bad enough that I made him rearrange the following week’s work so he wouldn’t be gone two weeks in a row. He had been the baby’s primary helper in her daily routine for most of June during vacation, something he wanted to do to help me relax and feel more connected to her again. It backfired and the first morning Rob wasn’t the one to get her out of bed was horrible. It was so hard.

So now we also work hard on splitting the daily duties when we are together, even if one of us has been solo parenting for a while. We naturally split the fun stuff and the hard stuff, so we each get to be the fun parent sometimes. We enjoy the time we are together and try to keep it as normal as possible. One thing I don’t want is to feel like weekends are either full of catching up on work OR full of all-out entertainment.

Now that Romy is seventeen months old, we are incorporating more Skype chats with her dad into the routine, planning ahead of each trip whether we will Skype in the morning or during her dinner. Even if the call is short, she benefits. She definitely understands the idea of seeing a video and talking to someone. We do use Skype often with our faraway families. I think Skype will be more important as Romy grows to deal with our times apart. I also plan to put up a calendar on her door soon so I can start to illustrate when Rob will return. Rob has also been taking photos with a toy of hers when he’s on the road sometimes. I think that will become an even more important ritual.

I remind myself that I’m not the only sometimes single mom. (And sometimes Rob is the sometimes single dad!) What do you do to make solo parenting work? If you have older children, do you have any advice in hindsight? I want to know more about the long-term issues with separation and anxiety we might be up against, or if I’m worrying for nothing. How do you do this with more than one child? How does discipline work for you? Have you had times where you are not the favorite parent, but you’re the one at home? I would love to hear anything from people in a similar situation.

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4 Responses

  1. This is a great post and I love how you are so thoughtful in advance about how to help your baby in the separation periods. Very wise! Being a solo parent is something I’ve struggled with for many years. My book “Married Mom, Solo Parent” will be out October 1 but is already available for sale at amazon.com. In there I have a ton of ideas for how I’ve dealt with stuff from celebrations without dad, loneliness, all kinds – and through all the age stages, as well. My kids are now teens (oldest is 16) and things change as they grow for sure. But one thing that does not change is that they need both parents to be involved and to know they are loved by both.

    And yes… about being the favorite parent? Yep! I know all about that! I have four children and often felt like when Dad came home he got all the fun while I’d been busy disciplining, wiping bottoms, walking cranky babies, and teaching manners! it’s not fun and games to be the everyday parent when dad comes home – especially if he comes home with treats! :)

    I’d love for you to pre-order my book (http://amzn.to/rcvluR). I’ll have some free resources available to go with it on my website for once you’ve bought it.

    Bless you! Great post!

    • Thank you! I will check out your book. I felt surprised when I called out on Twitter and no military moms who I otherwise communicate with responded. We’ve both actually dealt with the favored parent at different times. It’s hard, and what’s actually interesting is how she reacts negatively to my own, rare, business travel & my returns.

  2. Skype never worked for us. Kids would scream and cry and say “I don’t want daddy to be in the computer!”.

    Now when one of us is away (usually him) we rarely even call as it seems to upset them. We’ll do brief texts or emails at the end of the day to keep each other posted.

    But you’re right, sticking to routine is key for us too.

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