I don't care if you're flying solo for one night or one week; parenting on your own is hard. (Don't even get me started on how those of you who are single parents do it.) These past three weeks in the trenches are something that I never want to repeat. (Oh. Except I'll have to for the three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Drat.) However, there are some things I've learned over the past three weeks. Let's call them Survival Strategies.
Know your priorities.
My priorities are just plain different when Tyson is here. Take mealtime: eating well (organic, local when we can, prepared at home most nights) is very important to the both of us. When he's gone? It's just not possible. Not at this stage, with two demanding almost-two-year-olds always needing my lone, hungry, pregnant self just as I'm trying to get dinner on the table. Packaged sides, prepared foods, and takeout have become weekly rotations while Tyson is gone. Breading my own fish fillets isn't difficult, for heavens sake, (and it sure as heck is cheaper) but even the few extra minutes it takes to do so just aren't worth it when I'm on my own. Similarly, screen time rules and limits are virtually off the table while Tyson is gone. Winnie the Pooh lets me get ready in the morning, Daniel Tiger helps me get dinner on the table and all meals cleaned up, and anything will do in a pinch if we all just need to chill and take some time out.
Get out of the house.
I felt like I need to do this at least once each day already, and Caden and Brooklyn seem to feel the same way. Our days go so much smoother if we get out of the house at least once, whether it's to the library, for a playdate, or just to make a Target run. Thankfully this is becoming easier, as I am meeting more people and figuring out what's going on in our area each week. It also helps to get in some adult conversation, since days where your only "conversations" take place with people under 21 months old are enough to drive anyone crazy.
Stick to a routine.
Routines make it more convenient for scheduling (and I personally need to have Caden and Brooklyn on a daily routine to keep my own sanity, and theirs), but what I'm really trying to get at is a routine for discipline and consequences. It can be so tempting to let things slide, but it makes it that much more difficult later. Consistency is key. Throwing food just once (which we've had major problems with lately *cough*Caden*cough*) is their gateway drug to doing it even more. It is so tempting to ignore the behavior sometimes, (if I just let him throw his food, I can get two whole bites of my own in!), but I also know that reversing these behaviors once Tyson is home for good will take that much longer.
This one can be kind of difficult for me, because I am a typical Type-A, I-Totally-Have-Everything-Under-Control type of person. Let's just say that with your other half gone, you absolutely do not have everything under control. Someone wants to bring a meal? Let them. You're invited for a play date? Leave the breakfast dishes in the sink and just go. Some saintly person wants to watch your kids for a few hours or an evening? For the love of God, grab your keys and go. Just. Say. Yes.
Take care of yourself.
Possibly the most difficult of all. Lately I've been planning out my shower strategy like most college students map out their courses each semester. Monday-Wednesday-Friday at 1:00! No, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 am! I've switched from nighttime, to during naptime, to every second or third morning...right now Winnie the Pooh helps me out in the morning. I need to at least get up, slap on some makeup, and get dressed first thing to get myself going for the day. And I always make it a priority to sit down to lunch as soon as they go down for a nap. Lunch is only 15 minutes, but it is the only meal that I get all to myself each and every day without having to share my food or get up every 4.97 seconds because someone wants more of something or to wipe up yet another spill. Similarly, I know that I need to take time to recharge every evening. It can be hard, especially this time of year to just stop doing anything (ALL the online Christmas shopping!), but at some point I just need to sit back, veg out to some old Bravo something or other, and eat some ice cream. Amen.