Do you go into survival mode when your spouse is out of town? My husband has been working out of town for six months now, and while I'm grateful he gets to come visit once a month, I've also learned how to manage the duties of both parents at once. Here are my top 10 survival tips for the next time you're on your own.
The first month my husband was gone, I made the mistake of trying to keep everything just how it was. I soon learned that I couldn't keep up. Simplifying my daily schedule by eliminating some activities has helped me to cope with life on my own. I've had to cut back on good things, like volunteering, but I know it's only temporary.
When you're on your own, preparation goes a long way. Plan simple meals, use evenings to prep for the next day's events and try to stay organized. If you need help carpooling to activities or a babysitter for something you can't miss, plan ahead so you're covered.
3. Accept help
I've had generous offers of help from my friends and family to help with the kids for play dates and carpooling. The weekends are very lonely for me, and offers to have dinner with friends are very welcome. Don't try to do everything on your own. Accept the kind offers from others to help.
4. Plan for fun
Sometimes, I feel like a drill sergeant as I order the kids to do homework, make their lunches, practice piano and get to bed! It's good for me and my children when we squeeze in some fun. We like family game nights and movie nights best, and we just spent a great day at the beach together. Even if it's just a late night treat or a trip to the park, make fun part of your plan.
5. Get your sleep
I have great respect for long-term single parents. It is tiring work to parent on your own. To survive life without your spouse, make sleep a priority. I used to enjoy the quiet hour after all the kids were in bed, but now I try to get to bed earlier so I can be happy and well-rested for the next day. Midafternoon power naps help too.
6. Find downtime
I used to always look forward to evenings when our family was together and my husband could help with homework, activities, baths and bedtime. Now that I'm on the clock as the go-to parent 24 hours a day, I have to be creative about when I get my downtime. I try to read and relax while my youngest is at preschool, and I send myself to bed early after making sure the bigger kids are settled for the night. Find pockets of time to recharge so you can be your best self for your family.
You can't do it all when you're on your own. I've realized some household chores are going to have to wait until my husband comes home. Look at your life and see what can be put off or ignored for a while so you feel less stress while you're managing things alone. Projects, extra activities and other things that make life complicated need to go.
8. Keep in touch, but don't complain
Maintaining a relationship long distance can be difficult. Sometimes, I begin to feel resentful that my husband is away, but we are both working to make our family's future better. I try not to complain too much to him since there is little he can do to help me when he's three time zones away. Both spouses need to be willing to support each other when together and apart.
9. Accept reality
Reality is that I'm the one tucking in the 4-year-old at 4:15 in the morning when she's had a bad dream. Reality is dinner thrown together at 6:15 in between piano lessons and homework. Sometimes, the reality of being on your own is frustrating, but it can also be empowering. You can manage life. Your kids can be happy and well-adjusted even without two parents around. Generally, spouses are away for a set amount of time. Gear up for that time and know it's only temporary.
10. Go easy on yourself
This general rule applies to many of the tips listed above. If you don't get everything done, it's OK. You're doing the best you can, sometimes in difficult circumstances.
It's rarely easy to be without your partner. Whether your spouse is gone for four days or four months, these tips can help you survive the separation and stay connected to your kids and your spouse.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.