Our weekend was glorious. Alex does not have a test this week and so he was able to take not one, but two evenings off of studying. He did bath time and bedtime. We watched movies and ate ice cream. It was just like the good old days (all of 5 weeks ago). (Seems like a lifetime ago.)
And now it's Monday and we are back to the class schedule and the hours of studying and after a night of almost zero sleep due to 97% humidity (heart you MN summers) and me being too stubborn to turn on the AC, I'm realizing that I need more in my solo parenting arsenal than over-priced cookies from Wholefoods.
It's only been 5 short/long weeks so I can't claim to be an expert here, check back with me in two years and I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say. But so far here is what I've found to be helpful if you find yourself doing a lot of solo parenting.
1. Keep Expectations Low
This is one I have to remind myself of daily. I love to be productive and get stuff done and see the fruit of my labor. But some days you just can't do anything. And that's ok. The house is still standing and everyone got fed. That's all and that's ok. Really, it's ok.
2. Get A Mother's Helper
Here's my mother's helper. My 11 year old niece.
Can I just say that this has been the most AMAZING experience. My more seasoned mom friends have told of the glories of a mother's helper but I never knew just how wonderful it was to have one until, well, I had one.
A mother's helper is someone in that magical age group where they really truly love playing with babies/toddlers. They're not yet old enough to be home alone with them. I don't make mine change diapers or get snacks and meals ready. But the trade off is that you don't pay them as much as your high school or college-aged sitter who can be alone with the kids and do all those things.
Every Monday afternoon my niece comes over to play with Johnny. And I can do Whatever. I. Want.
I always make a list of a few things I need to do that are really hard to do with Johnny around, like emptying the compost bucket, or changing sheets, stuff like that. But I always allocate some time for something enjoyable, like writing a blog post, or working in the garden, or knitting. And that right there is all my hobbies.
I also try to make something good for dinner on Mondays because I have a mother's helper, and I can.
3. Get Out Of The House.
Leaving the house with small children is not easy. I know this. But staying in the house all day long with small children is a recipe for disaster. Sometimes a change of scene does wonders. Go for a walk, hang out in the back yard, go to Trader Joe's. GO SOMEWHERE! Whatever you do, just please, don't stay inside all day.
4. Plan A Play Date
I wrote a while back about my need for community. It's still there. I need to see other human beings' faces during the day. And it's a plus if they are friends and not the Target checkout guy. And it's another plus if they have little ones for my little one to run around with.
It is true that the play dates don't plan themselves and sometimes it seems like it would just be easier to stay home, but once I get down to planning one, I'm always glad that I did.
5. Make Time For Rest
Nap time is sacred around here. If I don't want to do something with you between the hours of 12:00 and 2:30 please don't feel bad. It's because that is the nap time window and if we miss that window Johnny and I are both a hot mess for the rest of the day. He needs his sleep, he's only two. And I need the break. I need that quiet 60-90 minutes to recharge, either by sleeping myself, or doing something refreshing, like reading, or knitting, or just sitting and enjoying the stillness and an iced coffee.
Yeah. We like naps.
6. Don't Be Afraid To Ask For/Accept Help
Some of us stay-at-home-moms are very independent and we like to be able to manage on our own. But we aren't meant to manage on our own. We need support and we need community. When a friend asks "can I do anything?" or "can I bring a meal over?" take them up on it! Reach out to family in the area. Grandparents for the win!
Don't forget to ask your partner for help! My husband needs to spend A LOT of time studying, but surely he is not too busy to take 45 minutes and do bedtime with Johnny so that I can catch a little break! I have to remind myself that my husband can't read my mind and doesn't always know when I'm headed for a meltdown. I need to ask him for help before said meltdown has a chance to happened. And he is always happy to step in.
This is usually what happens when Alex takes study breaks with Johnny.
7. Make What Family Time You Have REAL Family Time
For us this is dinner time and Sunday afternoons and evenings. We eat together at the table without screens and electronic devices. We ask about each other's days, we have meaningful conversation. We try to do something fun, like walk to DQ, or go to the park even though it's kind of close to bedtime. We just enjoy each others company and enjoy being a family.
keep in touch!