That Time I Did the Parent Thing Alone {Lessons Learned}

I will by no means ever complain about having to take on extra parental responsibilities when my husband goes out with friends or goes out of town 1) because those things happen so infrequently, 2) because even when my husband isn’t available, I have family nearby, and 3) because there are many, many single working mothers in my life who rock it hard without any help.

So, the purpose of this post is not to complain that my husband had to go out of town for three days for a work conference. This is about how I made my days those days as a solo working parent a little easier.

My husband and I were away for a friend’s wedding the weekend after Thanksgiving, and when we returned, he had to leave for a conference in Fort Myers. He would be gone Monday-Wednesday, which is not the end of the world. Until I realized that in my son’s 19 months of life, I had never been in the house alone with the baby. Ever. And until I realized that in my 26 years of life, I had never slept in a house without another adult. Seriously? I immediately felt like a 10-year-old child with this realization. But that’s another story altogether.

Nevertheless, it’s true. It was either my parents or my brother or my roommate in college or my husband. I’ve never lived alone and I’ve certainly never parented alone. And for damn sure, I’ve never parented on a work week alone before. Starting on a Monday. After a week off. God help me.

So, maybe you’re a veteran and your husband or significant other already works overnight. Or maybe you’re a single mother and you rock solo parenting harder than I ever could. Maybe your other half is in the military or travels quite a bit for work. Or maybe you’re like me, and you’re used to a 2-parent household. Whatever your situation, here are some things that worked for me this week:

  • On Sunday, I planned ahead. Grocery shopped, finished laundry, stayed up late to finish grading my students’ papers, made sure I had whatever I would need to get me through the week.
  • I had my husband drop my son off Monday before he left for the conference. One less thing on mah plate.
  • I arranged for my brother’s girlfriend to watch the baby at my house so that I wouldn’t have to do drop off and pick up 20 minutes in the opposite direction of my job for those three days.
  • I kept up with my workout regime. Health and sanity=better mommying.
  • On Tuesday, I went out to eat. Since I’ve been working out and getting healthy, I don’t eat out a lot. Taco Tuesday was a nice treat, my son got to see his grandmother, and I didn’t have to cook OR do dishes solo. Winning!
  • Oh yeah, and Bubble Guppies. Seriously. I wouldn’t be able to shower or prepare dinner without a toddler climbing the walls and pulling the dog’s tail if it weren’t for that very strange underwater show. The kid sits on the couch, eyes glued to the television, and I don’t feel a bit of guilt.

What tips do you have for making your working momma day go more smoothly, whether working dads are in the picture or not?


  • HeatherK says:

    Solo parenting is hard! I really don’t know how single moms or military spouses do it! My husband travels quite a bit for work: about once a month for 3 sometimes 5 days. I very rarely travel for work: maybe once a year. I have my solo routine down pat, but it is still difficult. First: I usually make a huge meal Sunday night that I know my kids will love: baked mac&cheese. This will last us Mon-Wed and my kids will eat it without complaining. If my husband is gone the whole week, I will order Chinese delivery or pizza: a rare treat that, again, I know my kids will like. This way I don’t have to worry about cooking and I can plan a fun activity for us: the playground or pool when it’s nice out or we do something crazy fun inside like build a tent or put all the couch cushions on the floor and jump. I do whatever I can to TIRE them out! My neighborhood mom friend’s husband always works late on Wednesdays: so we tend to hit up her house too. Once the kids go to bed: then I clean up and get ready for the next day. Also I do special things just for me! I will rent a movie that my husband would never want to see or sip wine and read magazines in peace. And the weekend before or after he leaves I will go for a mani/pedi or out for drinks with my girlfriends and leave HIM with the kids, so I have something to look forward to also. It has gotten much easier with time, but I still much prefer to have him around! This January I am leaving for a whole week for an annual conference, and it is the first time my husband hasn’t flown in his mother to help him out while I’m gone! I am fully expecting my house to be destroyed by the time I get back : )

    • Shannon says:

      I love all of this! I like the idea of making a meal to last a few days–my husband isn’t a fan of doing that, but I used to do that a LOT when I was a kid. My mom would make her sauce and meatballs, and we’d eat all week! I also agree on the doing something for yourself. I watched Finding Neverland last night, curled up on the couch and enjoyed myself :) I also took my son to the library and park to tire him out a bit. Good stuff! I can’t imagine having to do it 5 days a month though–phew!
      Shannon recently posted..Unpaid Maternity Leave and Human RightsMy Profile

      • HeatherK says:

        Haha! Your husband would starve in my house! I never cook for just one day! It (solo parenting) really isn’t that bad, you do get used to it. As long as it is short! Last month my husband went to Australia for work for TWO weeks! I called my parents in for backup for a week.

  • Tricia says:

    My biggest tip is to just take it ready on yourself when you are doing the solo parenting thing. I’ll do lots of what you did – plan ahead, treating myself, doing what needs to be done and not letting myself feel guilty about it. It’s rare for my husband to be away too so when he is, I go easy on myself and the kids. I have huge respect for anyone who solo parents more than I do!
    Tricia recently posted..In my armsMy Profile

  • Cheryl says:

    My husband is doing his longest stint away yet next week, from Saturday to Thursday, and I have to admit I’m a bit anxious. That is a lot of time to have everything fall on me and I have no family or other outside help (beyond the usual daycare arrangements). My kids are 9 and 5, so in two different schools. I will do my usual Tuesday work at home day, but I’m adding in Thursday since it’s an early release day from my daughter’s elementary school. Monday and Wednesday will be shorter days at the office since I’ll be doing both drop offs and pick ups. I won’t be able to make my usual Zumba classes since I won’t have childcare, but am hoping to cobble in some other kind of exercise. I expect we’ll eat out some and TV will be very helpful. But this is a lot of time to fill all on my own, and I’m nervous.
    Cheryl recently posted..Thank YouMy Profile
    Twitter: cherylstober

  • Liz says:

    I’m a recently single mom of a two year old with nearest family 5 hours away… so this is my life! It’s hard, no joke. And no way around it, really. But there are a few things you can do to make life easier. Here are a few that have helped me survive so far:
    – Chill out about the cooking, fo sho. And I LOVE to cook, but at this point in my life, it’s just not worth it for just me and a toddler who may or may not eat what I put in front of her. But I try to make wholesome, homemade meals that are fast and not too hands on: pasta, quesadillas, spaghetti squash, soup, stew, chili that you can freeze (on the weekends if I get my act together). And Trader Joe is my new husband (and helps more with the cooking than the old one did)!
    – Really be present and try to engage with your kid with whatever moments you do have. So much of the time I’m running around trying to get everything done, but I find when I take the time to get down on the floor with her, play pretend, dance parties, whatever… she hangs on me less when I really need to take care of some stuff around the house. She knows she’s seen, heard, and to be honest, that human interaction helps me with the loneliness too.
    – On the other hand, a little screen time also does wonders. My daughter’s obsessed with the PBS Kids app on my iPad and iPhone, so I’ll let her just pick whatever she wants to watch on it for 15-20 min at a time so I can take a breather. I try to limit it to that, but some days are better than others. :)
    – I echo the workout thing! I will get up early to do a 20 min video, or hop on the elliptical (which I’m “storing” for a friend in my family room) and watch my favorite show after she’s in bed. Does absolute wonders for my mood and attitude.
    Twitter: Hungry_Lizzie

  • Lara says:

    This comment is about my sister in law. She is recently widowed and has three children aged 14, 10 and 4 (the older two have ADHD). She works full time leaving home at 6 with all the kids and home again 5pm. Granny lives on the property and helps as much as she can but has a full time job and a small home of her own to run. I’m on the other side of the world from her but she asked me to help out with routine ideas and charts. Shew it’s hard! Any tips?

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