Dear Suddenly Single,
Solo parenting can be rough – especially when you’ve gotten into the groove of sharing the work. Without a partner, there’s no one to pass the baby to, and no one to watch your back. Down time is ridiculously hard to come by, and life can feel like one long, revolving door of feeding, changing and crying. Single parents obviously do find ways to manage and many parents with partners often learn to cope alone, between business trips, conferences, sales expos, corporate retreats, funerals and family crises. These days, many jobs involve frequent flier miles and lots of people have relatives far from home. We’ve actually got a lot of friends whose childcare arrangements involve swapping time so that each partner has time for work-related travel. And though it’s really hard when the baby is still just a baby, it can get easier. We don’t want to paint too bold a silver lining as you’re looking down the tunnel toward non-stop bouncing and burping, but there can be benefits. Not having someone watching your back may actually be freeing. Not having to watch someone else’s back can be even more of a relief. Taking over responsibilities you had previously delegated can open your mind, as well as your repertoire of baby care and soothing skills.
Here are some ways to help tip the scale to the positive:
This may sound like the last thing you’re up for. But two parents with two kids can be easier than one-on-one. Sometimes you don’t even need help, you just need company. One of the hardest parts of being alone with the baby is the isolation. Hanging out with other people with babies can also help, as it makes baby care seem like a normal thing, rather than some strange situation you’ve been subjected to. Plus, time will move faster.
Use your time wisely
If you can’t afford to hire someone for even a short stint, try friends or family. The idea is for you to have a chunk of time during which you know that the baby is someone else’s responsibility. If you do have a babysitter for a couple of hours, get away as fast as you can. If you need to sleep, put in earplugs, lock the door and turn off the monitor. Or send the sitter and your baby out for a walk as soon as possible. If you all spend the whole time in the same space, you may not feel you’ve gotten a break.
Go to bed early
You’ve got no partner and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip has been cancelled; why stay awake? Go to bed so that any late-night shenanigans or crack-of-dawn action will not send you into a downward spiral of sleep-deprived angst (resentment, sickness, etc.).
Count the hours, not days
A ten-day blob of baby time can be a lot less scary when it’s broken into two-hour portions. Set yourself realistic goals for shorter chunks of time.
Go on outings
Lunch with your adorable baby? Why not try it? It may be a wigglefest, but it could be a civilized break from the couch. Movies? Try an 11 o’clock matinee. You may have to bail mid-movie. It’s a gamble, but not a pricey one.
Keep it simple
This may not be the time to catch up on your home organization or long-abandoned novel or collecting of vintage baby fashions. The less non-essential non-baby stuff you can expect of yourself during this time, the better.
And finally . . .
Negotiate for a break of your own
You deserve more than a teddy bear from the Dallas Fort-Worth airport. When your partner returns, can you take a three-day vacation from night/morning duty? Or some other perk? Tit for tat is behind the success of many happily co-parenting parents. We assume your partner is gone on important business that is supporting your family, whether directly or indirectly. But still, resentment is toxic. Work something out so you can look forward to a little payback.
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