I saw Bill Clinton on The Daily Show recently and he quipped to Jon Stewart that his wife “has a travel job.” I nodded sagely at the former President. My husband also has a job that requires travel. It’s not like the kind of travel that the United States Secretary of State has to do – and for that I am very, very grateful – but he’s on the road a few days every month. I’m not sure what metrics he uses to measure the length of his trip but I calculate them in bedtimes – more than one bedtime without him is a major trip. I’m a stay at home parent so not having my husband come home at the end of the day means I’m putting in 15 hours of solid child care with no back-up. It’s not easy and its definitely not my favorite thing. However, it’s also not the end of the world.
I’ve become an expert in Mom Home Alone Mode. The rules are a little different when I’m working solo and they’re tilted in my favor. Mom’s sanity is the most important thing, after all. Here’s a handy checklist of how I cope:
Dishes? Fuggedaboutit: Some chores have to go when you don’t have an extra pair of hands. In my case, it’s washing dishes. To facilitate that, we eat out! And with two kids, one of them less than 6 months old, our dining choices are limited. Sure, I could take the opportunity to hone my kids’ social skills in restaurants with real table service or maybe expand their palate but no. It’s easy options all the way. Look for me at Five Guys chowing on fries.
Cleanliness is Overrated: I can bathe one kid per night. That’s it. I pick the stinkiest one and get them in and out of the tub as fast as possible.The other gets their hands and face washed and I hope no one gets too close the next day. As for my own showering habits…yeah, you know baby wipes work wonders. Just sayin’.
TV Is My Pal: I try and keep my older child’s tv viewing to under 2 hours per day, normally. However, if I don’t have another adult on hand when the baby needs my full attention, I outsource entertaining my son to Phineas and Ferb. I choose to feel good about this on the grounds that it’s not SpongeBob.
Get Out: Nothing good comes of being alone in the house with your kids for too many hours. Sure, maybe you could build blanket forts and make craft projects in perfect harmony but only if you had a scriptwriter, director, and catering on site. Real parents should plan activities galore to pass time. Go to the zoo, the museum, a nature center, a friend’s house or one of those self-serve frozen yogurt places where they have a toppings bar. Everything is improved by red-velvet cake flavored yogurt with chocolate chips.
Bribery: Not for the kids. For you. You need treats and rewards. I like chocolates and popcorn with real butter. I also like wine but I’m too paranoid to drink when I’m the only parent home. Wine is my ultimate reward on the night my husband comes home.
Socialize On Social Media: Rock your Twitter and Facebook networks for quick companionship if you feel overwhelmed. Take a Pinterest break to savor pretty, non-chaotic things. Scan Instagram to see what your friends are doing and maybe get some ideas for time-filling activities for yourself.
Bring In The Big Guns: My husband had to go away for a week-long meeting when my daughter a month old. It was before my son’s school started for the year but after all his camps had ended. I imported my mom. There was no chance I could handle a week of full-on parenting a newborn and a 4 year old without back-up. My mom showed up bearing card games and a willingness to clean my house while I nursed the baby. I credit her with my intact sanity. If you can bring in help, bring it on in.
Most of all, remember that you don’t need to do it all. You just need to do enough of it to get by. Pick a baseline like “everyone needs to be fed” and make that your goal. If you can do that, you’re a raging success. If you can do that and also wipe up the spilled bowl of rice cereal? You are super mom!
Photo credit: photo stock
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