Solo Parenting

I’m incredibly thankful that I have an amazing partner to help me survive all the crazy. I’m also so lucky that he has an amazing job that keeps him home with us most of the time. He also does just as much around the house and takes just as much of a part in raising our kids as I do. So when he does have occasional travel, it’s rough.  Its four against one alllllll day long.

I have an immense amount of respect for those moms that have partners that travel regularly or have military spouses. They’re better women than me. I honestly don’t think I could do it. Even now when I know that Mark has travel coming I dread it. Everything in our daily lives is set up for a two-parent household. We divide and conquer a lot. One of us will make dinner while the other is taking Oliver to Baseball. Mark takes Zoe early to chorus one day a week so I don’t have 45 minutes to kill between drop-offs. It’s what works for us.

Survival Mode

Currently, I’m on day one two three (that’s how long it took me to write this post) of a seven-day trip to Seattle for Mark. When the kids went to bed tonight I started looking at my calendar for the week and instantly felt totally and completely overwhelmed. It’s not that this week is any busier than any other week, it’s pretty normal, but looking at it as the one person responsible is a lot. That’s actually how I describe much of my life. A lot. A lot of kids, a lot of commitments, a lot of expectations.

Since this trip wasn’t a surprise, I’ll tell you how I’ve prepared for it. My secret is lower expectations. It’s saying, “that’s just not going to happen” and being ok with that. (Read here how I learned to say no to balance my life.) It’s being realistic about what I’m actually going to be able to get done.

For example, mid last week I got a notice that it’s conference week at the kids’ school. Surprise! (That’s a whole different rant.) I just can’t. I can not take four kids, especially the feral two-year-old, to conferences for three kids by myself, that’s a minimum of three hours. Nope. Just not happening. There is a phone conference option, but unless their teachers want to hear me yelling at the kids the whole time or they want to call after 8:30pm it’s not going to work. So, I said no. My two kids that don’t need it, I checked in via email, and the one I feel needs more support we will have a conference next week. When I have backup.

We meal plan, which I swear I’m going to post about one of these days. When I was planning out this week, I aimed low. That meant planning Dino nuggets, breakfast for dinner, and rotisserie chicken from Kroger rather than the usual, more involved meals. I also planned my more complicated meals toward the beginning of the week and knowing from experience that my “fuck it” level would be high by Thursday. It’s also knowing that I’ll probably switch it up a few times through the week just because life happens.

It’s also no secret that I tend to be a type A personality, planner. Last week I tried to get all the extra “stuff” done that I could. This meant going to the grocery store before Mark left. Making sure I was caught up on laundry. (Don’t worry, I didn’t fold it, it’s festering in baskets in the hall.) Doing any big cleaning projects ahead of time. Truth is, there’s pretty much zero chance I’m cleaning a toilet this week or vacuuming unless a glitter bomb explodes in my living room. My goal is to keep the house standing and the garbage from overflowing. And you know what? That’s OK. I’m giving myself permission to “slack off”.

Expect a Little More

As I pulled away from the airport I said to the kids “Alright. We’re going to have a good week, as long as we can all hold it together. I know you’re going to miss your Dad, but we can do this.” The big two know that they are going to be expected to help more than normal. That may mean watching Bits while I take a shower or be more on top of picking up after themselves.

And typically the big kids will step up to the plate. For example, this morning Zoe got up, got herself ready and once she was done with breakfast and when I wasn’t down with the boys and Bits, she had started making lunches. If she had made the coffee it would have been a perfect morning. Oliver took the initiative this morning to get all his baseball stuff together for tonight. I’m a firm believer, that if you set up the expectations they’ll rise to the occasion. For the most part, that’s how it’s worked for us.

Remember to Breathe

It’s easy to get super caught up in all the things that everyone else needs and forget about you. If you read this post, you know that I’m trying to be better about self-care. My goal for this week while Mark is gone is to not totally lose myself. I’m not talking about my nightly glass of wine as self-care. I am going to try to make sure that I actually stop and do some things for ME this week. I am not exactly sure what that is yet, I’ll try to update as I get through the week. Maybe a girls night in? Maybe I’ll wonder Target with Bits while the big three are in school. Mostly, just try not to lose my shit while I count down the minutes until Mark is home.

When You Get a Case of Mom Burnout

We’ve all been there. The kids are making us crazy, we’re short tempered, we’re exhausted, the house is a disaster but it’s just not getting picked up. Everything and everyone is on our last nerve. It’s not any one things that contribute to us getting to that point, but what can we do to keep from getting Mom Burnout? I’ve never planned on being a Stay At Home Mom. I honestly feel like I’m not very good at it. I am not a domestic goddess by any means. I don’t particularly enjoy play dates or mommy and me classes. I like having my own “thing” that gives me a purpose. Previously that was my job or volunteering with Safe Kids as a CPST. Currently, I’m working with FARE to coordinate the Triangle NC Food Allergy Heroes Walk (Learn more about why here). But I still feel like I get that Mom Burnout feeling from the daily grind.

A lot of the time, it sneaks up on me. I’ll notice that I’m snapping a little more at the kids or Mark. Or I’ll find myself irritated with little things, like the tiny socks I seem to find all over the house. Or it’s just a general feeling of the “can’t evens”.

How do you keep from getting to the breaking point? I’ve found that it’s important for me to try to head it off at the pass. Life with four kids (or any kids for that matter) gets crazy. It’s easy to let the week fly by in survival mode as we coordinate baseball schedules with chorus practice, make sure homework is done and everyone eats at least one meal a day with vegetables. Often when I look at the schedule on Saturday as I’m meal planning I think it’s going to be a long week but in reality it flys by.

Self-care

Self-care is a big buzz word in the mom community right now, but you know what? It’s important. When we’re rushing through the week and I’m trying to take care of everything and everyone else it’s easy for my needs to fall by the wayside. You can’t fill from an empty cup and I can bet if you asked 10 moms, 8 of those would admit to Mom Burnout and the other two are probably lying.

How do I do self-care? Sometimes it’s little things like watching trash TV during nap time instead of folding laundry or retreating to take a long hot shower with Pandora on loud while Mark does bedtime. Or maybe it’s saying “fuck it” to making that pan roasted pork loin for dinner and popping in a big old tray of Dino Nuggets because vegetables are overrated.

Sometimes I need to get out of the house alone. Grocery shopping, coffee (alone or with another mom), or getting my nails done, running some errands where I don’t have to buckle and unbuckle the car seat 37 times. Heck, even going to get an oil change on my Swagger Wagon can help. Sometimes it feels good to just have a little space to breathe without someone trying to climb back into your body (Eli and Bits are the most guilty of this) for an hour or two or four.

Date night is another way I do self-care. That seems sort of weird right? Being on a date is not by yourself, but being connected to my spouse helps keep me grounded. We need time when we’re Mark and Crystal instead of Mom and Where is Mom. We are better parents and better partners when we take that time for us. (Read more about how we stay connected here)

Have a Moms Night Out. Sometimes you need to get out with your “tribe” and relax a little. Have some drinks, talk about all the absurd stories about the shit your kids pulled this week. These are the people that get it because they’re in the trenches too. Remember 8 of your 10 friends need it because they’re suffering from Mom Burnout too.

Just Say No

There was once a time when I was absolutely over-committed. I was the master of taking on too much. Make cupcakes for school? SURE! Go on that field trip? ABSOLUTELY! Volunteer for that school committee? WHY THE HELL NOT? I’ll tell you why….. Mom Burnout.

Something I have learned in my old age is that it’s ok to say no. When someone asks you and you don’t want to do it, don’t. There is no need to feel guilty that you just can’t make 75 SunButter sandwiches cut into triangles for the preschool picnic. Three kids with school conferences in one week? It’s ok to skip conferences for the kid that is doing great in school and to check in by email instead. It’s ok to skip that play date because, for the love of God, you just need the baby to take a nap today. Protect your time, it’s ok.

There is no reason that you should feel guilty for being realistic. There is only so much you can take on and it’s ok because you’re human. Stretching yourself too thin is a disservice to yourself and your family. Everyone already has enough stress in their lives. Don’t add to it because you feel obligated to do all the things. So what if Jimmy’s mom is on the PTA?

Next time you look at your calendar and you have 5 things scheduled for Tuesday night, I want you to say no to at least 3 of those things. Practice saying “That’s just not going to work for us.” It feels good, I promise. And next time you start feeling that hint of Mom Burnout, as soon as your partner gets home, take that glass (bottle) of wine up to your bathroom, close and lock the door, blast your own Pandora station (with swears!), fill the tub and take a second to breathe and center yourself again.  You’ve got this!