I’ve been MIA lately from the blog, but I’ve been a little busy: We bought a house in October, I found out I was pregnant a week later, and I started my last semester at USC before graduating with my bachelor’s degree last week!!!! (Sorry, I have to brag a little bit.) And in the middle of that, we found out that my husband was being sent to active duty training in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, for 6 weeks beginning at the end of January.
Cue the record scratch.
I’m no single mom and I honestly have no idea how single moms do it! But here I was wearing the “single mom shoes” for a few weeks. Now, I got phone calls all the time from my husband and we did actually get to see each other a few times during the 6 weeks (which was a pleasant surprise). But the majority of the time, it was just me and my son (and my ever-growing pregnant belly) making do from day to day.
My husband had been away before, for 17 weeks to attend the police academy when our son was 3 months old, so we were at least in some ways prepared. This time was thankfully much shorter and I have so many more friends who are moms too, which made things easier. But in other ways it was harder, since this time I was in school, pregnant, and have an active almost 3-year-old to run after. Oh, and our dishwasher broke a few days after my husband left. Which brings me to my first tip for surviving while your partner is away …
Forgive yourself for leaving the messes
Right after our dishwasher broke, I went out and bought disposable plates, silverware and cups. Best decision ever! Was it great for the environment? Probably not, but for 6 weeks of not having to wash the dishes by hand, it was so worth it!
I also chose not to notice that the toys weren’t picked up after every nap or even every night … and that the kitchen floor probably needed to be mopped (simply because it had been awhile, not because there were any spills) … and that I wasn’t vacuuming as much as I would like (but I didn’t have any crumbs sticking to my feet!). And I’m not even going to touch the state of our yard. But my son and I had always had clean clothes to wear, the bathrooms were relatively clean, and the garbage made it to the curb every week.
Really, choosing to ignore the little messes made my life easier for the short time my husband was gone and it was cathartic for me to give the house a good deep clean during my “nesting phase” after my husband got home anyway! If the mess really bothers you, but you just don’t have the time to clean it up yourself, consider hiring a maid or cleaning service as needed while your significant other is away.
Forgive yourself for the fast food
I blame it on pregnancy cravings, a child who is a picky eater, and generally being a bad cook who doesn’t want to eat leftovers for days: We ate a lot of fast food while my husband was gone. It was fast, easy, and often involved a play area for my son to run around and burn some energy so I could relax, though it wasn’t always the cheapest option. Try to pick the healthiest options you can since “bad food” is just going to make you feel bad tomorrow, but the occasional double bacon cheeseburger or doughnut when you really need it is okay!
Lean on your friends and family for support
Even knowing I should do this, I still didn’t do it enough! I had many friends offer to have my son and me over for dinner; but partially because of scheduling conflicts and partially because of winter illnesses, I didn’t get to capitalize on this enough. I also had friends and family offer to babysit if I needed a break or to run to the store, so I tried to take advantage of this offer without actually taking advantage of my friends/family (it’s a fine line, I know). I was extremely lucky my parents agreed to take my son to their house for a week so I could catch up on what I needed to do and use the concert tickets that were my Christmas gift from my husband without having to worry about my son. This is a great time to hit up the grandparents for some quality time with their grandchildren or to swap babysitting services with some friends (a.k.a., you watch my kids today and I’ll watch yours the next time you need it).
Take the time to do something special for yourself and your children
It took a little while for my son to really get that my husband was gone (due to my husband normally working nights and being asleep during the day, and to my son’s age and understanding of time), but when he did finally notice, he was sad — and therefore I was sad. So we went to the zoo and park more often than we usually do (ignoring the cleaning I probably should have been doing), we went out for ice cream (just because), and when my son was with my parents I went to the movies by myself (because I’m weird and that is a special treat for me). I took more time for myself and I kept my son busy with playdates and fun activities. We still kept the major parts of our schedule the same — school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and church on Sundays — so there wouldn’t be too much change, but we filled our free time with “special treats” since Papa was gone.
It wasn’t an easy time. But we survived and so will you. It is always difficult when your significant other is away, but “with a little help from your friends” and family, you’ll make it through.
Have you had to be a solo parent while your partner was away? Share your tips for coping in the comments.