8 Things I Learned After a Week of Single Parenting

Just before Elijah was born, my husband found out from his work that he’d have to go out of town for a whole week. This bit of news was particularly frustrating since he would just, finally, be finished with his overnight calls and onto a much more friendly 8-5 schedule after 3 years of 80 work weeks. He tried to get out of it, tried to bargain, but there was no wiggle room. So last week he left his role as a dad and became the onsite doctor for a camp for kids with special needs.

We were fortunate in that he was only an hour away, so on Tuesday we went and visited for a few hours, but aside from that night, it was just the baby and me. For 6 long days. I love this child fiercely, but the week together was not nearly as easy as I imagined. I figured since I am his primary caregiver that it wouldn’t be such a big change. Boy was I wrong.

After having a weekend with my husband home, I’m now ready to recount the 8 things I learned in my week as a single parent.

(Before I go on, it’s clear from the comments that I need to clear something up here. I am BEYOND aware that I do not fully appreciate what it is to be a single parent. I’m a pretty intelligent person, so I do not imagine that I understand single parenting after a week of my husband being gone anymore than I would understand how to be an astronaut after a week in a NASA lab. I get that I do not understand the financial obligations (though all the assumptions about our income and me being a “spoiled housewife” are both hilarious and offensive), nor all of the longer term components, though notably, I was raised by a single mother for a decade, so yea, there’s that too. The entire point of this post was to explain that I realized in a week that single parenting is far more than 2 times harder than parenting with a partner. I attempted to give credit to single parents as often as possible because I have a greater appreciation for how difficult you all have it now that I have experienced however small a part of that. I can’t and won’t continue to defend myself in the comments any further and just ask that you remember that I’m just a mom like you and that my intentions were good with this).

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  • 1. It’s unbelievable difficult. 1 of 8
    1.  It's unbelievable difficult.
    I realize this is about as uninsightful as it gets, but there it is. I just didn't understand the levels of complexity associated with being a single parent. It's so much more than just staying home during the day with the baby. It's being the baby's world, 24/7. It's being the only person who can make a bottle, feed a bottle, clean up spit up, change diapers and on and on. It feels like far more than double the work of a 2 person team. My hat's off to the single parents who make it seem so effortless that I have underestimated the difficulty.
  • 2. There is no “me” time. 2 of 8
    2.  There is no "me" time.
    My husband typically comes home between 5 and 6 and after he changes out of his hospital clothes, he takes the baby. During the next hour, I usually shower or cook dinner or just otherwise enjoy some me time. With my husband gone, there was no me time. Showers were group events with the baby in the bathroom so I could keep a (neurotic) eye on him. Meals were enjoyed with a baby on my lap or watching me from his swing. I practically threw the baby at my sister on Thursday just so I could lay down flat on the carpet because my back was killing me. Which brings me to my next point...
  • 3. There is a lot of heavy lifting 3 of 8
    3.  There is a lot of heavy lifting
    My kid is on the small side at just over 12.5 pounds, but having to lift him and his carseat in and out of the car over and over, in addition to all his paraphernalia was exhausting. Also, being the only person to hold the baby resulted in a very sore back at the end of every day. I don't think I've slept as soundly since he was born as I did that week because I was so physically exhausted.
  • 4. Taking a break is a good thing 4 of 8
    4.  Taking a break is a good thing
    The first time I dropped Eli off at daycare I cried the entire hour drive to my company's corporate headquarters. He was only there for like 4 hours, but I had to make an effort not to cry the whole time. After a week alone with him, I had to go to do computer training for work and you know what? Not a tear was shed leaving him at daycare. He needed to see someone's face besides mine and I needed to drive in the car singing at the top of my lungs. I was thrilled to pick him up after 4.5 hours and after my first full day of work I'm closer to the crying again, but it is good for both of us.
  • 5. Having a support system is critical 5 of 8
    5.  Having a support system is critical
    My mom was unfortunately out of town all week, or Eli and I would've gone to my hometown for some Grandma time. Instead, we stayed home through the 6 days together. I don't know that I could've survived this week without several trips to visit my sister. I needed someone else to take care of Eli so I could take care of myself for a little while.
  • 6. It is lonely 6 of 8
    6.  It is lonely
    I don't pretend to speak for anyone else's experiences, but this week of single parenting was among the loneliest weeks in my life. It's tremendously challenging to be far away from everyone with a baby to care for. I felt so isolated, both mentally and physically.
  • 7. Some things are easier alone 7 of 8
    7.  Some things are easier alone
    One of the few silver linings last week was that Eli and I were efficient. We got out the door quickly, we got ready quickly and the control freak in me loved that everything was done my way. Now, would I trade my husband for control of everything? Hell no. But if I have to find a positive, there it is.
  • 8. I really want my husband around 8 of 8
    8.  I really want my husband around
    I may have proven that I don't need help, but this was a great reminder of how much I appreciate it. My husband loves and takes great care of our son and I am more thankful for that now that I've seen how hard and lonely life is without it.

It only took a week for me to become hugely impressed by all single parents. You are far tougher in every way than you are given credit for.

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