Solo Parenting: A Primer

I will be honest, when Marcus told me that had trips taking him away over back-to-back LONG weekends in September (with my parents also being out of town for one of them!) I was less than thrilled.  That is just…a whole lot of time without any rest for mama.  I know that plenty of people solo-parent 24/7, but I do not and so all of it seemed to be a little bit overwhelming.

As the first trip approached, I kept on trying to confront my worst fears about caring for Critter on my own ’round the clock (what if he doesn’t sleep?  what if he is cutting a tooth?  what if he gets sick?) by reminding myself that surely any of these worst case scenarios would not specifically stalk me during the time I was stretched the most thinly!

LOLOLOL.  And then for the first long weekend (which was also the one where my parents were gone) Critter cut his second tooth, caught his first true cold and got his first spontaneous fever (which lasted a solid 36 hours).  I was completely wiped out and Critter not only looked like the most tragic baby to ever have babied, but also WAS the most tragic baby who ever babied and we still survived.

I probably gave us more grace than I was even originally planning to because of that whole debacle.  It set the bar very low for our second weekend together and as an added bonus, I had parents available for that one.

In-between trips, I got a plugged duct and had some sort of food poisoning/migraine experience that resulted in a 4 pound overnight weight loss. So I think that physically I handled it well. 

All of that said, my husband did not spontaneously jet away, and I didn’t just sit around waiting for this time to approach.  I did an amount of planning and unplanning that would probably make more sense for a military mission than parenthood and it started several months in advance.  What did I do?

  • Get help.  I wrangled a specific group of family and friends into being my support squad while Marcus was away for a host of reasons.  (1) It is boring as sin to be at home with a baby all day (much less for multiple days in a row) without any adults to talk to.  (2) If I actually needed to get anything done, then I had the option.  (3) Sometimes you just physically cannot hold your baby anymore because your tank is empty.  Having people around from 4 PM – 6 PM was the most important to me because that is our wind-down to bedtime.  Critter is the fussiest during those hours and I am usually the most wiped-out as a parent.  Also, during the week, 4 – 4:30 PM is when Marcus gets home so I am sort of used to having an extra set of hands for Critter during that time?  I will also confess that for the second weekend, I was so physically tired that I outright decamped to my parents’ house during the day.
  • Plan to achieve nothing.  In some ways, I was able to relax a little bit more over the weekend then I would have otherwise because I had No Goals.  I did not need to clean my house, I did not need to prepare meals.  I did not need to go places at certain times (though I did sign us up for baby yoga class which was a brilliant move).
  • Prepare food ahead of time.  GUYS.  Honestly one of the most surprisingly frustrating parts of parenthood is having to feed yourself.  In my past life I could cater to whims and cravings and now if I don’t plan, I either do not eat or end up eating something that is TERRIBLE for you because it is convenient.  No shame in that, but it is not really the best strategy.

During the first weekend, I did end up making cauliflower and orzo salad on Friday night after Critter went to bed, and I whipped up some sweet potato oven fries for Sunday night dinner.  But I didn’t have to if I didn’t want to.  I made a spaghetti pie before Marcus left so that I could eat it all weekend.

For the second weekend, I defrosted and baked a Garden Pie.  I ate leftover enchiladas. And toast. And more cauliflower and orzo salad. 

This is also why I have been batch cooking and freezing meals like a maniac.  Besides the fact that I need ready-to-go meals for Marcus on the days where we’re not cooking and I have plans, I needed those to be an option for me as well when he was away.  I’m also not too proud to admit that I bought a wheel of Gouda and a wheel of Brie and a box of crackers so I could just enjoy the single girl dinner of the century if that was the mood I was in.

  • Shower at night.  If we’re going to be totally honest, I actually despise showering at night.  Unless we’re at the cabin in which case, I do not care.  But based on the things I needed to accomplish in the morning, I was not going to be able to sneak a shower in until first nap.  Selfishly, I did not want to waste precious naptime on showering!  I wanted to use it for my own napping or working out or reading or anything else really.
  • Use naptime for napping.  In ordinary time, I sometimes use naps for napping but more often they are for yoga or blogging or reading or eating a meal.  While Marcus was away (and probably also because of the plights of sickness that plagued us), my first plan for naptime was laying down and my second plan was…anything else. I’m standing by that one. 
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