How to survive when you’re solo parenting

Toddler in a plaid dress dragging a handbag behind her

I married an archaeologist. Here he is, being all Indiana Jones and shit.

A man in a blue plaid shirt standing on a stone wall

This means that throughout the spring and summer months, my partner occasionally disappears for weeks at a time to muck around in the dirt looking for old things, leaving me to solo parent a toddler.

This is challenging for me, because many normal daily activities really work better with two sets of hands when a toddler is involved. My daughter balances on my hip while I attempt to slice bread with one hand. She screams at me while I try wash my face. She crawls onto my lap while I’m peeing, shouting, “Mummy pee-pee caca!”

“No caca this time!” I say cheerfully, like this is completely normal.

Simple things, in other words, become difficult. For example, here’s how we handle the rubbish when there are two adults in the house:

Adrian takes out the bin bags. I watch the Popple.

Here’s how I take out the rubbish when I’m on solo-parenting duty:

  • Gather the bin bag, the food composting bag and the recycling bag.
  • Popple asks for “uppies”.
  • Explain that I can’t give her uppies because I’m holding three bags of rubbish.
  • Popple cries.
  • Ask her if she wants to hold the food composting bag.
  • Popple stops crying and grabs the bag. Dumps the contents onto the kitchen floor.
  • Spend the next five minutes scraping up coffee grounds and potato peels and swearing under my breath.
  • Somehow manage to pick up all three bags again AND the Popple. Open the door and hobble awkwardly down the stairs.
  • Realise I’ve forgotten the back door key.
  • Hobble back upstairs and go back into the flat. Put the Popple down while I grab the key.
  • Popple cries.
  • Go back downstairs and out to the bin shed. Throw rubbish away.
  • Spent the next 20 minutes watching the Popple run around the bins while yelling, “RUNRUNRUNRUNRUN!”

That being said, I’ve figured out a few things that can help make solo parenting easier.

(Apologies to all the single parents who are rolling their eyes right now. I know – and I think most coupled-up parents know – that you guys are way more badass than we are and you can do this stuff in your sleep.)

Prepare meals the night before.

It’s nearly impossible to prepare a meal while a toddler stands at your side screaming, “UPPIES! UPPIES!” It’s actually impossible to prepare a meal once you’ve picked them up. They grab your knife, stick their hands in your food and ask for cookies. Because toddlers always want cookies.

To be fair, I pretty much always want cookies too. But then I just go get them. Adulting has its perks.

I cook dinner for the following night after the Popple goes to bed, so all I need to do is shove it in the microwave the next day – which, thankfully, I can usually manage with one hand. I prepare my morning coffee, fill a bowl with muesli and get my lunch ready the night before too. That way, when the Popple has a tantrum in the middle of my morning routine, I have an extra 2.5 minutes or whatever to deal with it.

WINNING.

Let it go.

The household. Your rules. Yourself. Accept that your floor will not get swept, your bathroom will not get scrubbed and your bed may not even get made. You may not be able to apply makeup (which for me means scraping an old mascara wand over my lashes and plucking my chin hairs) or do your hair. Your child will watch too much TV and eat beans on toast for lunch three days in a row.

Just go with it.

Reward yourself.

It’s hard looking after a small person on your own, and you’ll feel better about the appalling state of your house and hygiene if you treat yourself to a little something nice after your child falls asleep. This could be a trashy TV show, a long bath or a nice book.

But it’s probably going to be wine.

Or chocolate.

Or, let’s the honest, both.

21 Replies to “How to survive when you’re solo parenting”

  1. Hehe great tips! I HATE it when my partner is late home from work, never mind when he’s away overnight! Total respect for the mummies and daddies who do this parenting thing on their own all the time! #dreamteam

  2. I hear you; my husband is often out at the crack of dawn and home after my toddler’s in bed – the only way to ensure it doesn’t end in disaster is to be super organised the night before (and even then this sadly doesn’t guarantee a catastrophe-free evening lol) #DreamTeam

  3. I was a single parent for about 18 months, but with just one. It was so hard. We lived in a flat, so while he was little I felt like I literally had no way to take the bin out! When we had visitors i’d say “can you just watch him while i take the bins down” nightmare!

    Sounds like you cope very well! #familyfun

  4. Mine has been going away a bit more lately – it’s definitely easier when there’s two people around for at least some of the time! (Although I have found having my shower in the evening once the kids are in bed is actually nicer than in a rush in the morning!!)

    #familyfunlinky

  5. My partner works 12 hour shifts, plus with the commute to and from work, I’m winging it all on my own on work days – I find some of those days hard, never mind long periods of time! I take my hat of to those who solo parent often, and especially single parents – superstars!! Great tips; especially let it go – we can’t do everything, so I have learnt! #DreamTeam

  6. Whenever my OH is away I always think of those superhero single parents who manage to cope with it all alone. It must be quite exhausting. It’s got a bit easier now Little H is older. I just let her play ‘making tea’ (which is actually shaking her beaker of water everywhere but the small plastic cup she’s aiming for) and that buys me time to do quite a lot. You are definitely a pro and getting things ready the night before.

    Plus why stop at just wine and choc. You can take those with you for a bath and with netflix on a tablet…. #FamilyFunLinky

    1. Just swinging by to say I shared this on #BlogCrush on Friday. Great post xx

  7. Ha ha definitely both! My husband disappears on business a lot too and actually – still hate it as much as when mine were small but at least I have three helpers now – well most of the time! This did make me smile and, like you, I hate complaining because of all the single mamas who are just acing this parenting mallarkey! #DreamTeam

  8. My husband works from 05.00 until 18.00 so yes, I know what you mean. It does get easier as they get older but from when I had 2 under 2 and for about 2 years after that, it was a frickin nightmare!
    Too much TV? No such thing when all you’re trying to do is survive and keep the kids alive.
    Wine! Yes!!
    #familyfun

  9. The few times I’ve solo parented, my respect for single parents has gone up in leaps and bounds! It may sound patronising, but I really don’t know how they do it. I suppose because if you have to, you do.

  10. back from #FamilyFun lovely x

  11. I was a single parent for a couple of years before I met hubby. Even now the kids are older now I still don’t know how I would cope on my own again, I’ve gone soft lol.
    #FamilyFun

  12. I am in utter awe of anyone that manages this even on a temporary basis, let alone full time. I have managed to get the morning thing down as my OH leaves home at 7am, but evenings? If that man is not in the kitchen by 1710 (and not one minute later) there shall be no order, no dinner, no sanity and no wine left! I salute you and all the mommas preparing their dinner with one hand! :0)

  13. Solo parenting is hard. My hubby used to leave Monday evening and come home on Friday afternoon every week. He did this until my big lad was 5. It was so hard I have no idea how I got through at times. Post autism diagnosis hubby changed jobs thank goodness and was home. Your tips are great especially reward yourself! Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

  14. I am familiar with the need to solo parent occasionally due to the Hubbys work. I don’t prep meals the night before but that is genius! Especially as I have two of them craving my attention at the exact moment I need to start cooking!! #StayClassyMama

  15. Ha yes to all of this. I have my two on my own a lot of the time as OH works weekends and often late in the even. He usually makes home just in time for bed… I’ve basically made a deal that the house will be clean again and food freshly cooked when the kids start school, until then… well we’re just getting through the day. Thanks for joining us at #familyfun

  16. Dave is going away next month for 2 lots of weekends. Not long in retrospect but I’m choosing to go crash my parents, one of which does mean a 7 hour train journey with 5 trains and the underground!! I must be mad but at least I will have company when I get there! ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬

  17. As a single mum, I agree with your tips! That and enjoy it – enjoy the one on one time you have with your child 🙂

  18. Oh yes I know how you feel. We have archaeologists in the family so I can relate to that too! #familyfunlinky

  19. The ’emptying the bins with Popple’ episode really made me chuckle. I’m not on my own a lot but occasionally my husband has to travel for business and I have to admit everything becomes a little bit harder also I have two so you can imagine how the bin episode would unfold in my household…. Anyway, great tips and I definitely could not agree more with the reward part. We so deserve it. Thank you for sharing with #StayClassyMama

  20. That bit about the bins really made me laugh. I can definitely relate! Piglet insists on “helping” and will not let me bring in the recycling box when it’s been emptied, but struggles through the house with it all on his own even though it’s bigger than he is!

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