Let’s talk about balancing ALL THE THINGS when you’re solo parenting.
In case you don’t know my situation, my husband is in the film industry. What this means is that he goes between extremes. When he is not on set, he is Super Dad. He has extreme flexibility in his schedule and mostly works from home. He carries almost all the weight of grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. Yes. I’m aware I have it made.
But there’s a trade off.
When he’s gone, he’s GONE. Like, he physically leaves and isn’t around to help with one single task.
So what does that mean for me? Solo parenting. Much like the spouses of so many other careers. From military and first responders to business professionals who leave the state or country for trade shows and meetings. Many of us face this seesaw lifestyle.
When I have to wear the hat of solo parenting, here’s how I manage the different priorities. I’ll go through each spoke of the Wheel of Life:
I do not complain. It doesn’t help anything. I choose to have an attitude of gratitude and pour all my energy into the tasks in front of me. Some days are harder than others (like when he left for most of my extremely challenging second pregnancy, and I had a three year old, and we both got sick, but I had to store my days off for maternity leave). On those hard days I try very hard to check myself. I may lose my composure and complain about the situation but never about him or his career.
If it gets overwhelming, I have found the most calming thing I can do for myself is put the kids to bed, turn on a favorite podcast and deep clean something. This usually will reset me. Something about a monotonous task and a completed project are cathartic. I always choose a podcast that will leave me better off than it found me.
This is where the life coach is expected to say, “I wake up at 5am before the kids so that I get in that workout because it’s so important for all the reasons.” Nope. Not true. The motivation behind my blog isn’t to hand out advice because I’ve got it all together. The motivation of my blog is to share my stories so other women know we are in this together, and I’m next to you in the trenches.
The reality is, this is the spoke on the Wheel of Life that gives up the most when he’s gone. I try to take great care of her when I can because I depend on her like a pack mule when I’m solo parenting.
The yo-yo I play with my body is I will take a fizz stick with dinner around 6pm to give me the bolster I need to survive bedtime routine. Then, after the kids go to bed I do the picking up and the prepping that’s necessary. Not to mention the basic daily tasks like showering and replying to personal emails or paying bills. Or writing this blog.
When I realize it’s getting too late, I reverse the effects of the fizz stick with melatonin usually around midnight or so. Then I’m up with the kids generally around 6:30am.
I need 8 hours of sleep, so often times what it looks like is two nights in a row of pushing it and then the next night I don’t do one single task and I crash with the kids and get 10 hours of sleep.
I typically eat pretty well when he’s gone because I know that if I’m not always getting a full night’s rest and I’m not exercising (chasing them around is my exercise) then I definitely cannot afford the additional burden of poor eating choices.
My best spiritual experiences are my quiet time. I would love to tell you that I put the kids to bed and go meditate but that’s b.s. I go wash the dishes. My meditations typically happen in the bathtub. I can rest my mind. This is my time to reflect and to listen to anything God has been trying to get through my cluttered brain and busy lifestyle.
Pre-Covid I would try very hard to make it to church since I found my happy place. Especially since they would take the kids, and I could have a moment to pause. The sanctuary at my church feels so holy that just stepping in the building I feel the peace of the Spirit. But childcare is still on pause thanks to the virus, so we aren’t churching it up right now.
Everything is spiritual. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. So the more I am willing to slow down, enjoy the laughter around me, and take in the beauty of the small moments, the more peace in my soul I can find. Last weekend I took the kids on a nature walk, which for me, turned out to be a beautifully spiritual experience. (And it had nothing to do with the monk who rode by on his bicycle whilst holding an umbrella, but he did make me smile)
When I’m solo parenting, my time has to be spent very efficiently. I try my hardest to stay focused at work and get the projects completed on time each day because I have to jump through way too many hoops to even stay half an hour late.
I rely on my hard boundaries. When I am at work, I am fully present there and give 100%. And then when I leave the building, I give 100% to my family. In February, hubby was gone, and it was our busiest month of the entire year at work. I relied on my support system to help watch the kids to get me through. (By that I mean that my kids spent 3 out of 4 Saturdays in February at my mom’s house.)
In speaking with many moms about their ability to succeed in their careers, a strong support system is a necessity. Many women do it away from families, but they build up networks of reliable babysitters, nannies, friends, church groups, etc. If we are going to succeed at work and at home, it will not be alone.
I feel like this is one of the major things that separates solo-parenting from single parenting, and why I will never say that I “single parent” when he’s gone. The reality is, this is the spoke that doesn’t look any different. Even when he’s not physically here, his paychecks still hit the checking account, for which I am so grateful .
Our kids are used to it at this point. “Daddy is away at work and we get to see him again on ______.” Our six year old has it down, but the two year old still gets a little confused. Fortunately, they’re still at the age that they cling to mom the most, so dad being gone doesn’t rock their world as much as it may later.
Also in this spoke falls our marriage. This is probably the hardest part of him being gone. I can manage the household, regardless of how chaotic it may get at times. But he is my person. At the end of every day, I unload my thoughts on him. I married a listener because I am a person who processes through conversation. The biggest hole I can’t replace when he’s away is our discussions after the kids are in bed. I just keep everything in and when certain weights become too much to bare I may email about them.
Eventually, the storing up of all these thoughts and emotions usually manifests as me over reacting and lashing out over something completely asinine like a broken glass or the dog peeing on the floor. This is where the next spoke comes in.
I try to stay very in-tuned to this need when he’s gone because I know the gravity of its importance.
If I do not take care of myself, the whole house of cards comes crashing down. There isn’t someone else to carry the load.
I try to listen to my mind, body and spirit’s greatest needs and priorities. These usually change day-to-day. One day I may need nothing more than a clean house because sanitizing that kitchen gives me a sense of peace and control. Other days, I will let the dishes go unwashed so I can soak in the bathtub and unwind.
Other self-care needs will arise like having to say no to LOTS of things and decline invitations. Or I may make plans and have to cancel them if I get to the weekend and life is too chaotic. Sometimes there isn’t room for anything other than cleaning, grocery shopping and meal prepping.
In contrast, sometimes the only thing I need is quality time with a girlfriend, and I just say I’ll figure the rest out later.
I try very hard to stay in tune to what the most pressing need is to help me feel empowered to make it through another day.
Solo-parenting is something that many of us face. I have also seen the strain that it places on marriages lead to divorce. It can definitely be exhausting, but I hope you are able to find your coping mechanisms and best balancing as we have done.
Unfortunately, I have seen many wives of film industry professionals become angry or bitter at their career needs. They can’t deal with how unavailable their spouse becomes (physically and emotionally) when on set. If you ever find yourself approaching a breaking point of frustration, reach out. I get it mama. Send me a private message, and I’m happy to chat.
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