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.
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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