How to survive when you’re solo parenting
I married an archaeologist. Here he is, being all Indiana Jones and shit.
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.
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.
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, let’s the honest, both.