Daryl traveled to a pastor’s conference a couple weeks ago. I was genuinely thrilled he was going – he hasn’t spent a night without the kids since before our second born arrived, and times of focused study, rest, and renewal are a gift.
I was also terrified he was going. It would be me and the kids alone at home for four days.
Some of you are laughing right now, because you are single parents or your spouses work nights or they travel frequently so you’re often solo. But because Daryl and I are co-pastors, we usually tag-team the kids. I’m with them every other day and in the office the rest of the time and vice versa.
In short, we get lots of time with the kids and lots of breaks from the kids to serve our church (during which time we actually get to finish sentences and no one asks us to wipe their bottom). It’s pretty ideal.
But not a couple of weeks ago. Last week I had to do my best Super Mommy impression. I knew that I was in trouble when I’d only been alone with the kids for three hours and the four-year-old had spent one of those hours in a full blown screaming tantrum.
“Oh goody,” I thought. “This is going to be really fun.”
When he returned I handed him the kids and went for a loooooooong walk. But before then, I actually learned a few things.
1. Accept help
I offered to cook dinner for a friend. Then she offered to pick up pizza. I hesitated for .5 seconds.
“Yes,” I texted. “That would be awesome.”
When people offer help, if it would genuinely be helpful help, just say yes.
2. Break up the time
Plan things to look forward to for you, for the kids. The days can seem eternally long, but knowing a friend is coming at 4pm or the library story hour starts at 10am can keep you going.
Project Runway releases new episodes on Thursday nights. Just sayin’.
3. Give yourself grace
We are often our own harshest critics, so go easy on yourself. When you’re tempted to internally berate yourself for the sink full of dishes (from three days ago) or the fact that you snapped when the toddler asked “Why?” for the eighteenth time in five minutes, ask yourself what you’d tell a friend if he or she shared the same story with you.
Odds are you’d say, “It’s ok! There’s grace! Try again tomorrow!”
Tell yourself the same thing.
Remember that there’s no award for super parenting, and that the cleanest house on the block isn’t often the happiest.
4. Remember the essentials
Are your kids alive? Fed? Reasonably clean? (I’m not talking nightly bath, I’m talking, ‘Washed their hands after the mud pies at the park and before eating microwaved chicken fingers.’
You’ve done well.
Do they know they’re loved? Did you read a book at some point today?
You’ve done exceptionally well.
5. Keep yourself fed and watered
I’m talking food and water, of course, but also those things that keep you nurtured, grounded, and alive.
I need to exercise. Not because I want to fit in my pants (though I do), but because if I don’t exercise the natural stresses, anxieties, and frustrations of life have nowhere helpful to go and I get cranky.
So when I was alone with the kids, I’d turn on a YouTube exercise video early in the morning and work out while they climbed all over the living room furniture. It helped us all.
Find those things that nurture you and keep them going, even when you feel like a Mommy-Machine or a Dad-bot. Blog, talk to friends, keep going to choir practice, find a poker night, join a softball league.
Having those anchor points isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity.
Do you solo-parent often? What advice do you have to share?