How to stay sane while parenting solo & drinking your coffee in the bathroom.

It’s Saturday morning and I’m laying in bed, it’s difficult to say what woke me up, maybe it was the sprinklers or (more likely) the cat, but either way I’m awake and I’m not going back to sleep.

Then the lightbulb in my brain bursts into brilliance, I could get up and be ALONE.

Alone people.  In my house.  With my couch and coffee and maybe my computer.  I could write out a prayer, one to get me through the weekend without Kel… again.

I glance at the clock, the green digital numbers indicate that it’s 6:15.  Not too shabby, I’m up alone AND I got 8 hours of sleep.  

So I sneak to the kitchen, start the kettle for the coffee and then I hear it.  The sound of  little, sock covered feet heading my direction. I let out an automatic “CRAP!!!!(probably the wrong thing to do) before I fumble out a fake, cheerful: “Good morning buddy!”

He immediately starts in with his endless list of whispered demands:
“Hi mom, I want coffee, I have to go pee pee, Can I have a snack? I want my robe, it’s cold, I want to watch Mater’s Tall Tales, what are you doing mom?”

ten minutes later….


At this point, I seriously consider a melt dow of my own. The day has only just begun and already I feel burnt out.  In an hour or so Kel will get up, pack a bag, and head out of town.

I’ve made no kid friendly plans for the day, I’m on the verge of tears and starting at a blank canvas of a weekend.

crabby Noers

Me too baby girl. Me too.

I don’t feel like being a solo parent, I don’t feel like entertaining two preschoolers, I don’t want to make their food and reff their fights and “help them” pick up their toys.

I don’t wanna. I don’t wanna. I don’t wanna.  But that doesn’t matter in the slightest.

This “I don’t wanna” feeling happens to me every weekend now. When people at work say: “hey it’s the weekend!” I give them the hairy, stinky eyeball.

I used to love the weekends, but now? Loathing, dread and yuck.

I’m just being honest. It took two of us to create these children and it takes two of us to parent them well.  (single mothers and Army mothers I consider you superheroes whose capes I am not fit to untie, if this was a marathon you’d be sprinting by me as I throw up on the side of the road.)

So anyway… for the first month I tried throwing tantrums about it.  This was not constructive.

Then for the second month I tried scheduling us like crazy and planning big weekend projects to distract myself and impress Kel with how “totally together” I am.

This was constructive, but stupid and really hard on everyone, because I wore out fast and paid little attention to the kidlets.

Also, Kel doesn’t really care how clean, decorated or organized the house is.  He wants a happy family, more than a seasonally decorated mantle.

So, here we are in month three and I’m scratching out a new game plan, a rhythm in which we can survive the weekend.

I’m writing this for myself, and just hoping it helps.

A few tips on how to survive, one parent down.

1) Keep doing the dishes.  You can let a lot of standards slide, but this one needs to stay. How are you going to rinse out a curdled sippy cup with a sink full of peanut butter crusted dishes? Do the dishes.

2) Laugh as often as possible. Because kids are ridiculous and say the craziest things imaginable. As I sit here, my kids are playing “Jaguar Restaurant”  a scenario where they take turns roaring at each other and making pretend hamburgers.  This is awesome.  Embrace stuff like this.

3) Get yourself a warm fuzzy (not alcohol) Grab a book or some knitting, something that is soothing for you. Nurse it as needed. Fine yourself a good novel, it’s good to escape your own issues by immersing yourself in someone else’s.  

4) Use television as needed– Before I had children I thought that parents who set their kids in front of the TV were doing it wrong. Then I realized that watching an hour of Curious George or Cars is better than an hour of getting yelled at by a stressed out mom.  So sometimes, when I need a minute, I let Big Bird babysit the kids.

5) Text grownups sarcastically and liberally- Remember how said “kids are crazy?”  They are and not always in cute, lovely sort of ways.  Sometimes they’re loud, tantrumy jerks.  So throw a digital lifeline, tweet the crazy, folks understand and will resonate with your plight.

6) Simplify- Make meals easy, utilize leftovers and freezer meals, grab take out chinese if you need to.  Go easy where you can.  Simplicity is like, the best.

Hang on I have to patronize the Jaguar restaurant.  Which brings me to my last point.

7) It’s not You vs Them, it’s Us vs Time– I’ve learned that if you look at things with a “how are we going to get through this?” and not “How am I going to get through this?” perspective you’ll feel closer to your kids and more able to engage them.  Grab a burger at the Jaguar restaurant.  Be with them, it’s more important than everything else.  Even the dishes.

So that’s my list, the things I plan to employ this weekend while I’m chasing my busy, beautiful kids from here to next Tuesday.

Do you have any tips to add to this list?  Help a sister out?  We really, truly are in this together people.  That being said, when you see my crazy tweets this weekend… refer to #5.

  • Beth

    Solo parenting was one of the most difficult seasons of my life. I tried staying busy. It’s exhausting. We couldn’t always eat out. It takes money. Can you ever go with him for the weekend? Like once a month or once every other month? Can you go to see family for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon or evening? Can you trade babysitting so you get some downtime on the weekend? Telling people you are struggling and allowing them to help you is the best advice I’ve got.

    • Leanne Penny

      Absolutely, We do get a date night on Wednesday nights while he’s home and I try to keep us busy to go for visits. I always worry I am honing in on other people’s family time though. Trading babysitting is a good idea but so many of my friends are wanting to be “all together” on the weekend since they work apart all week.

      My best days come when we have a few things on the calendar for change of people and scenery.

      • Beth

        I’m so glad you get a date night! It’s just hard. Here’s hoping your third month at this finds some settled-ness and routine.

  • Natalie Hart

    My advice: never, ever say, either out loud or to yourself, “I get to start out the day on my own with coffee and my own plans,” because it is guaranteed that someone will get up and you will be crabby about it. Actually, I was originally joking about that, but it actually is true, and is connected to your truly great #7. Such a small verbal/mental switch, from you vs. them to us vs. time — wise.

    • Leanne Penny

      Love it. I swear they hear me think about getting up and beat me to it. They’re sneaky but at least we’re on the same team… most of the time.

  • Teresa Richardson

    Solo parenting is not easy. Once a month, my kids and I would do ice cream for dinner; I’d buy bananas and sliced peaches, several flavors of ice cream, all the toppings made for ice cream, and 2 cans of whipped cream.
    Also I had special games and toys that I brought out to play with them. They would get so excited when I would pull out a special game because “Mommy is going to play with us.”
    Also I learned one very important thing as a solo parent – never use the word dinner and dessert in the same sentence. When I made dinner, I never told them they had to clean their plates in order to have dessert. I let them eat as much or as little as they wanted for dinner, then an hour or two later, I would tell them I had made a special treat.

    • Leanne Penny

      Genius! We were just playing the “eat more if you want dessert” battle here tonight. Of course dessert is just blended bananas with cocoa powder but still seen as a treat.