March 30, 2006

How Do People Parent Alone??

strawberry_shortcake_bath.jpgWow. My wife got back from her conference last night, and the kid and I headed back to DC to meet her. Another not-infrequent [for us] stint of solo parenting had ended. With our work travel, we regularly find ourselves covering for each other for a day or two or three or whatever.

We always come away feeling really grateful for each other; parenting is exhausting, and to do it without a break for any length of time is enough to drive anyone crazy. How do people do it?

After a couple of days, I noticed my patience for two-year-old antics was getting thin. Even after thinking I'd jettisoned any expectation for getting anything done on a schedule, I still felt like I wasn't getting anything done. My tendency to stay up late and work left me more tired than usual, too, especially in NYC, where our apt. gets so much more light than DC, that the kid always wakes up an hour earlier.

As I type this, TV seems like the solo parent's most obvious, most reliable friend. Should've thought of that. And except for "Calgon, take me away!!" [which does me no good, since I've never been the bubble bath type], I'm still not coming up with much useful experience to pass along. What else you got? Any tips for surviving a solo stint?


I parent alone four nights a week. My daughter is four, and my son is just about eight months.

It's really rough, and you're right, the TV is the easiest solution. At first, I fell into the trap of putting my daughter to bed with the TV on. This let me focus on the baby and avoid the daily bedtime battle with my daughter. I wasn't happy with this, though, so we've changed things around.

Routines help more than anything else. After dinner, we all head up to the bath. I put both kids in at once, quickly wash off the baby, pull him out and get him ready for bed while my daughter plays in the water. We then go into her room and read books all together. She goes to sleep, and then I can get the baby to sleep.

My biggest recommendation is to set a clear routine, even if the routine has to change occasionally. Also, if you are not happy with using TV as a babysitter, try not to go there. It's kind of hard to get out of that pattern. Possible, but hard.

Keeping an early bedtime is the only way I keep my sanity. (well, drinking helps too) Knowing that I have alone time coming in just a little bit makes it easier for me to deal with the inevitable tantrums, battles, crankiness and general crazies.

we've discovered playdates, with other solo parents. whether its 2 on 2 or even 2 on 1, having the other kid around deflects attention away from yourself: the kids can play with each other, and you only have to arbitrate.

Even if its just for a night, having another solo parent over to commiserate, or letting one solo parent get a break can be a godsend.


i've got a 5 month old, and was left alone with him for the first time last week for three VERY LONG DAYS.

it makes you more than a little crazy, to be sure.

i got through it by boycotting baby einstein and opting to watch Krzysztof Kieslowski's "red", "white", and "blue" trilogy before bed instead. the flicks have amazing lighting, and great use of color (of course) and the cuts are slow enough to captivate the little one while keeping momma's brain from rotting out of her head.

[awesome. and I hear you on the ALL CAPS -ed.]

Do what my husband does, have your mother move in.

My wife's done her fair share of multi-day trips, leaving me with the kid; I've got the scars and the thousand yard stare to show for it. New trick we've learned: audiobooks accompanying the real deal. Give the kid the book, press play, let the stereo read to your kid while you're getting dressed, cleaning up, taking long deep breaths into a paper bag, etc.

[see, there's my problem; I've been using a plastic bag. -ed.]

As a dad of 15 month old twins, the only people I have any sympathy for are parents of triplets. When the wife leaves, it's pretty much a minute by minute countdown to her return.

Two words: mother's helper. And yes, that's what they're called as opposed to parent's helper. Usually, it's a high school student or college student who comes in to help you with say cooking or cleaning--light chores like folding the laundry, or watching the kid to give you a little break on those looooonnnng days.

During the last long solo stint here were some things that helped the day go by in a more productive parent child way.
1. I cleaned the house when the kid was asleep.
2. I prepped his meals the night before so time wasn't wasted on getting things done together when he was hungry and crying like he's never ever had a meal.
3. We had lots of outside time.
4. We had lots of goofy inside time.
It's all pretty standard stuff, I guess. What really helped was keeping in mind that he doesn't communicate the way I do and I need to be patient and also, he's only going to be this small for a small ammount of time and to live it up while I can.

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