Tuesday, 7 February 2017

solo parenting: 

when your partner works away

02 / 07 / 17

Patt has come and gone after only a few short days in town with us. He was away working for most of January and home just for the first five days February. This is how the first few months of 2017 will go and I don't love it, but I will accept it after how the recession impacted us in early 2016. Living apart is not easy for anyone in our family, Patt least of all, because he would love to be here with the rest of us. And while parenting on my own presents its own set of challenges, once I get in the groove of solo parenting, being a stay-at-home parent to two toddlers is still such a privilege.

Finding the balance between taking care of my children, my home and myself while my husband is away was a learning curve, but it is getting easier. I thought I would share some tips for anyone who might find themselves in the same boat...

Parenting When Your Partner Works Away

Develop A Weekly Routine: 

With toddlers who have no place they have to be, the days can feel somewhat reminiscent of the old movie “Groundhog Day,” where Bill Murray’s character relives the same day over and over again for what seems to be an eternity. Marking the week with various activities will help give a sense of movement. For example, on Sundays we make a special breakfast that usually includes banana pancakes with sprinkles, and on Friday evenings I make popcorn with the girls and let them watch a "movie" (usually The Hungry Caterpillar on Netflix because its calm and short). I also loosely schedule weekday activities and make sure we go somewhere new and interesting at least twice a week.

Get Outside:

Yes, even when its cold, even when you have small children. I cannot stress this one enough. Its tough to be motivated to get outside, but it does wonders for my children and I, both physically and mentally. I notice that we are all calmer and happier when we go for a nature walk, and I know I have a much more positive outlook about life in general if I'm being even a little bit active. Being outside gives the children an endless bounty of world to explore and lets their imaginations run wild, such a joy for me to see. We usually go to the park near our house, but I also try to explore somewhere new at least once a week to keep it interesting. We always take a small snack, usually a cookie, as a reward for getting out. 

The Evening Hustle: 

The evening time often seems longest for me, probably because that’s usually when Patt would be home if he worked in town. I make it a priority to have a sit-down family meal each night, despite it being just two young children and myself. While I make dinner I get the children to play at the table with an activity or have a small snack. This gives me time to get dinner in the oven without someone holding on to my leg, or wanting to be picked up. At dinner I ask the girls about their day, or tell them the story. Juliette, who just turned three, and is starting to engage more in conversation now; its incredible to hear her perspectives and dinner is an excellent time to ask for them. After our meal the children free play while I do the dishes, then they have a bath and get their pyjamas on. I read them both a book in Juliette’s bedroom, then leave Juliette to lay in bed with a book while I nurse Louise and put her to bed. After Louise is put to sleep, I lay in bed with Juliette for a little while and cuddle her. By doing this bedtime routine I have special quiet time with each of them. I stick to this routine as much as possible so that the children don’t fight bedtime.

Be (A Little) Firmer:

As a naturally easy-going parent, I will at times give in when a child presses for something. Sometimes I just feel tired and don’t want to deal with a struggle, but I notice that I have to be firmer when my husband is away, or the girls will knowingly push boundaries often. If I say “its time to clean up” I make sure they clean up, if I say “its time to go” then we go. The energy put into being firmer pays off in spades, because they know they can count on my direction.

Keep Isolation At Bay:

By far the hardest thing any stay-at-home parent will encounter is isolation and this is magnified when a partner is away. As much as I love spending time with my girls, I need the company of other adults for my personal wellbeing. Patt and I make an effort to talk on the phone daily and have real conversation that goes beyond 'what did you do today?' It's important to talk beyond the surface to keep that sense of connection despite the distance. I also connect with others by inviting friends over for dinner, hosting potlucks, and seeing people on the weekends. Having time for myself is important to me, and I get help with childcare once or twice a week, either from a babysitter, family, or by swapping childcare with another stay-at-home mum. During my time without the girls I see friends, go to the pottery studio or get a massage… I make sure to use my time to fill my cup and not run errands (they can be done with my children along). And after a few hours away from the girls I am always so happy to see them. 

Parenting alone isn't easy, but it can be enjoyable. These pictures are from when I took the girls ice skating while Patt worked away. We went with my brother and his girlfriend one afternoon and I realized I could probably manage to take the girls on my own. We tried going the next week and it worked! Find ways to pursue your interests and include your children as much as possible, everyone will be happier for it. Let me know if you have any parenting strategies for when you're on your own, I'm always curious to learn more...

P.S. Falling In The Mud At Big Hill Springs and Sibbald Creek Picnic + Beef Bourguignon

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