Before anything else, I’m going to label this with a chuffing big caveat THIS IS NOT ABOUT SINGLE PARENTING, this is about parenting on your own when there’s usually two of you. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to raise a child on your own so I’m not going to do anyone the disservice of pretending to know how you do it. What I’m going to be wittering on about here, is when you have a young baby or toddler and you are left on your own with the kids.
Like most couples that are duos, we rely on each other to share the burden. In doing so you often fall into a routine. You may find you end up doing particular tasks or activities, or that one of you is better at getting little one to sleep than the other. The list could go on. But at some point you might find you are going to have to do a night, a few days, or even longer parenting on your own.
This has happened to me a fair bit as we’ve gone long periods when Hubs has worked away during the week at very short notice, is away overnight for meetings, or even out of the country. We did get a short reprieve of the first few months of Small Boy’s life but not much longer. We do now get long stretches of weeks, if not months, when we are both at home, but I have learned a few things that might help you.
- Plan to get out of the house to a playgroup or activity with another parent. Having some other adult company will do you good. It also means you can tag team supervision of each other’s kids while you go to the loo or stand at the counter ordering a coffee.
- Plan some activities you enjoy doing with your child and that you’re good at, and get supplies in. This is particularly try with older children. It’s worth having crayons, play-doh and the like to hand. Keeping your child occupied is half the battle.
- Let your friends or family know that you will be on your own and put together a quick list of people you can call on in an emergency (eg. you’re ill and need someone to come and sit with little one).
- Stock up on groceries and essentials so you don’t get in a panic because you’re down to your last loo roll or tub of formula. Nobody wants to be dragging an infant to the supermarket at night.
- Agree with your partner that you’re going to need some “you time” when they’re back, even if it’s as mundane as getting your haircut or a late morning in bed. Agree when it’s going to be. This can be tough on your parent if they’ve been away for a while and they want to spend time with you too, but an hour isn’t going to kill them. You will benefit from the break and they may well appreciate the time alone with the little one/s. If you agree this in advance you avoid the awkward moment when you hand them the child in passing as they’re getting through the door.
- Batch cook in advance. It will be much easier to look after a little one on your own if you only have to whip something out of the freezer or fridge and reheat it. The slow cooker can also be your friend.
- Adjust your routine. This is key for me. If you’re going to have to get up at night with a child that doesn’t sleep well or is an early riser, you won’t do yourself any favours by staying up late. Don’t feel guilty about mirroring their routine and going to bed when they do, or napping when they do.
- Take offers of help, whether it’s the nursery one or babysitting so you can still go to your yoga class. Take it!
- Pay for help if you need it. There is no shame in popping your child into nursery for an extra session or two if you can afford it. It’s okay to need a break.
- Embrace the upsides. This includes having less washing and ironing to do. In my experience the house is generally tidier too.
See, it doesn’t have to be so scary.