If you follow me on social media, you will know that my partner travels regularly with work. He’s away usually for a two week period at a time. I have 3 children under 8 years and he has travelled at this level on and off for about 5 years now. While he is not in the forces and away for months at a time – those families are amazing and I don’t know how they do it, it is hard at times. Many people ask me how I cope and how I do it, so I thought I would share a few tips that make solo parenting that little bit easier.
Routines, Routines, Routines
I honestly cannot cope as a parent without a routine. I have to adjust my routines when my husband is away, allowing more time for some things or doing things at different times. I have a week day schedule and I tend to stick to it pretty religiously. A time we get up, have breakfast, brush our teeth etc.
Get Help Where You Can
Doing it all can completely wipe you out. I find that self care can often go out the window when my husband is away and this really isn’t a good thing.
As always it depends on your budget. I struggle to walk our dog as she is such a big dog when my husband is away. She is so strong she has pulled over the pram on me. So one of the things I do is get a dog walker.
I have a cleaner for two hours per week, and for the weeks my husband is away my son will probably have some extra couple of hot meals at school rather than a packed lunch.
Other things that help: getting your groceries delivered, having the odd ironing collection, asking for help from friends if you need it, for example my daughter does an after school class at the same time as a friend’s daughter and the friend has kindly offered to drop her home for me some weeks, small things like this are super kind and helpful.
I am also grateful for the help from my family. My Mum or mother-in-law regularly come to stay or visit and help with childcare when my husband is away too which is a God send.
Have a Plan for Your Weekends
The weekends I find can often be the toughest. Most people have plans or spend time as a family. For me if I don’t make plans it can be 48 hours of no or very little adult conversation. I think there is a tendency to hibernate a bit (particularly in the winter), but getting all of us out, making plans to do things just works so much better. I find the children are better behaved, we enjoy the time we have together rather than getting cabin fever and frustrated at home.
Encourage your Children to be Independent
This one really depends on how old your children are. Mine are currently 8, 5 and 20 months. There is nothing my toddler can do, but there is plenty my older children can do. Make their own beds, put their own washing away, help unload the dishwasher, make their own breakfast (with supervision), run a vacuum around. Encourage and show them what they can do to help, it’s also teaching them life skills which can only be a good thing.
Give your Children a Comforter
Inevitably the children miss their Dad. There would be something wrong if they didn’t. Some families I know do a countdown jar or similar until their partner is away, but this doesn’t always work for us. It kind of focuses them too much on the countdown rather than the now. I also worry if there is a flight delay that this might just leave them unnecessarily upset.
What they do have is a Daddy cushion. I made these up on a popular photo printing website. Simply uploaded some photos of them with their Dad and had them printed onto a cushion for them. Now, when he’s away they can take their Daddy cushion to bed with them.
Make use of Technology
Modern technology makes travelling so much easier. Where possible we aim to FaceTime once a day.
It can get tricky with time zones sometimes for example we don’t really have time to do this before school, so it has to be after school.
Have a Contigency for Emergencies
Without meaning to get into a negative space. Things will happen when your partner is away. I first realised this when we had a powercut and that my husband kept the torches squirrelled away somewhere in his study which I then needed to fish out with nothing but the torch on my phone.
Make sure you know how to sort the fuses, the stop cock, what to do if there is a powercut, if anything it will just make to sleep easier.
Have a Hobby or Something for Yourself in the Evenings
The evenings in my experience can be lonely. I now use this time to ring fence in advance shows or films I want to watch that I know my husband wouldn’t like. It’s also a great time to take up a hobby just for yourself. I also like to sit and read quietly in an evening which is something my husband doesn’t tend to do.
See and Talk to People
Working from home as I do, when my husband is away it can be that I don’t see many people. Sometimes the only adults I see are on the school run. It can be quite isolating and lonely.
My advice would be pick up the phone, when I feel I am starting to climb the walls or I need to talk something through with someone I pick up the phone to them and chat through it. Organise coffees, meet ups and playdates with people.
Invite people over in the evening. Before Christmas I couldn’t manage a meal out with friends, so instead I invited them over for takeaway and wine. It meant that I didn’t need to worry about childcare.
Believe it or Not Somethings Will be Easier
If you’ve not had much experience of this yet, you may not believe me on this one. But some things are actually easier when my partner is away. A lot of things are not, of course. But there is less washing, less food to cook and buy, and I find things are easier to keep tidy as my husband isn’t always a particularly tidy person. I actually keep things much neater when he’s away. There are boring things like we spend less on food and petrol.
Plan Simple Meals
It took me a while to work this one out, which probably sounds daft. I tried to be this perfect mother where I cooked meals from scratch while their Dad was away. Before realising that to do so often left me struggling with a screaming baby who needed my attention, school homework and reading getting missed and the washing forgotten and screwed up in the machine.
Keep it simple, simple does not have to be unhealthy. Fresh pasta you just have to heat up and chuck a sauce on, slow cooker meals, batch cook in advance and have some you can just grab out of the oven and reheat, I buy the prepared roasts for the weekend as well as the odd pizza. Omelettes, jacket potato with scrummy fillings and soups.
Live in the Now
This one has taken me years to start and actually get it. It often feels like we’re in limbo when my husband is away. Just waiting for things to get back to normal. But last year alone he travelled for about 10 weeks, so nearly a quarter of the year. That’s a lot of your life to not be truly living.
It’s ok to do nice things, it’s ok to accept invitations even if they’re not there to go with you, it’s ok to have a nice time and enjoy things. For so long I have felt guilty about this, and the penny only really dropped on this issue during his last couple of trips. And don’t get me wrong it is hard that he misses out on things, but you and the children have to go on in your own way at home. You can’t spend a quarter of your year in limbo, it’s hard but it’s true.