Parenting is tough on the best of days, and when you solo parent for a short time or for a long season – it is no joke! I have personal experience with solo parenting over the last few years, and I have chatted to many mamas about their solo parenting challenges, advice, tips and tricks that they’ve learnt along the way – and I thought it was time to share this with you mamas. Some themes definitely emerged but it’s also clear that every mama faces her own challenges during solo parenting phases, and some things come much easier to some.
Some common challenges definitely emerged – Loneliness, Drowning in mess, chaos and sometimes anxiety, Battling to juggle everything, Feeling like a failure or a bad Mom, Utter exhaustion and brain fog. I hope that our top tips and tricks help some mamas who may be in this season too (there sure are a lot of you in Saskatoon that I’ve been chatting to), and are looking for ways to cope a bit better with this life stage.
Ask for Help
Planning meals, school drop-off, breastfeeding the baby, grocery shopping, cleaning the house, oh and trying to play with the kids and keeping yourself showered and fed and happy too?! This sounds impossible but why do we think that we should tackle all of this alone, without help? Because we are strong mamas and we want to cope? We want to do it alone? I’m saying enough is enough to this.
As a mama, asking for help is quite a struggle (for most) – I know for me it’s not something I do. Like ever. Until recently actually. I’ve been working on this very thing for years now. It took moving away to a completely different continent and culture with no family and very close friends or major support system, being pregnant at the time then birthing my second baby, and adjusting to two under 3 years old all while traveling a lot together as a family and solo parenting. But I’m here now and I am finding it easier to not only ask for help, but ACCEPT it and to stop feeling guilty about it. Here’s a practical takeaway if you’re wired like that – Make a list of what is making solo parenting impossible or difficult for you, Now think of who you need to ask for help to make things better. And here’s the trick – accept it and try your best to not feel guilty (I know how hard it is mama)!
The most common things that mamas are asking for help with are:
1. House Cleaning
If you are drowning in laundry, mess and chaos – your mind will not be in the best mental state. If you can, try get some help with this – even a once-off clean to try help you catch up. This is something I have only recently done and it helped a lot! When my husband got home from his most recent trip, we were all able to enjoy the weekend together before his next trip and not worry about all pitching in to try get the house clean or at least livable (gasp!). If you aren’t able to get a cleaner in to help you, perhaps you could ask a friend or family member to watch your kids for a few hours so that you can focus on the house work? Some local cleaning companies to consider: A & C Detail, Exquisitely Clean Service, Go2Girls, Handy Housewives, Home Dynamics Housekeeping, The Cleaning Fairy, Tidy Time Saver. I can personally recommend Home Dynamics Housekeeping, and I will be trying out Go2Girls soon too.
Oh, and side-note. If you have a cleaning service help you, please don’t keep this a secret. If someone comments on your home and how immaculate it is, and how they are drowning in mess and can’t cope but other mamas seem to ‘have it together’, PLEASE tell them that you get help.
While chatting to mamas over the last while about solo parenting, it’s obvious that people are asking for help. Why do we try hide it? Can we start telling people more that we get help? Maybe a mama won’t feel so inadequate?
2. Babysitting/ Daycare
If you feel overwhelmed and need some time with the baby, it’s alright to see if someone can help you with your other children. There are Moms out there getting help, you can too.
3. Grocery and Meal Preparation
Grocery shopping, meal planning and preparation are some of the hardest things to find time for (but one of the most important things to have organised). Ordering my groceries online and collecting them has been one of the biggest life savers for me lately. I use Independent Grocers (pick up) and have had an incredible experience. Most mamas are using: Save on Foods and Superstore. If you aren’t managing with the meal prep, why not try HelloFresh or use SkipTheDishes one or two evenings per week?
Make some time for just you
This seems impossible, especially with small children and/ babies, but it doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but it must be scheduled and made a priority. Some examples could be: 20 – 30 minutes of movement (yoga or pilates or exercise program at home), reading a book before bed, a bath alone, a glass of wine or a cup of tea or some chocolate once the kids are in bed, doing some journalling, watching some Netflix. Anything. Whatever you enjoy doing to relax and whatever makes you feel like yourself, do it.
Get in Community
The idea of Moms supporting Moms is more important than we think. If you don’t have a mama tribe or some mom friends in your area that you can just call for anything, it’s time you put yourself out there and joined a mommy class. Our city has so much to offer when it comes to mom meet-ups and classes. Not all are paid for to attend, some groups are free and have an open door policy. If you are looking for a group and a way to make some mommy friends, send us a message and we will help.
You need your mom friends who will support you during this time but also help you remember to not feel sorry for yourself. That you still need to live in the present, and that if you are just trying to survive the whole time, you will miss out on what’s right in front of you. These beautiful moments that are fleeting. Let’s grab hold of them and treasure what we have, even in the crazy season we are in.
Re-iterating the sentiments above – this season is hard. One Mum said “The days fly by but the evenings (and weekends) alone are long”. There will be many days that you won’t feel positive and it will be hard. Your mind is strong and you can do this. Also, if your mind is positive, you will find that you will cope more and you will see joy in this season. I know you can lean into it mama. Lean on your Mom Squad!
There are certain things that are impossible to control with young children. When possible, try stick to your non-negotiable routines. Bedtime to me is sacred. I have a strict schedule when it comes to my kids bedtime. Yes there are times when we are chilled and certain plans change things up a bit, but for the most part, we have an order of how we do things and a bed time for both kids. This means that if all goes well, I will be sitting down relaxing and having my me time by 7:30 the latest and I love that. The evenings are mine! And I need them – they have become sacred to me. If you have older kids who attend school or if you need to pack snacks or lunches for them, most moms say that this meal prep is best done the night before so that the morning routine isn’t chaotic. A practical guideline: Make a list of everything that needs to get done per day in your household or for activities etc, and plan out your routine.
Get out the house with the kids
We have fantastic programs in our city, and a lot of them are free! Our Libraries offer incredible programs that you can attend – Story Time, Dance parties. We love going to the library to get out some books and for the kids to play. Most of the libraries have toys and let’s be honest, other people’s toys are always more exciting than their own! Win! Now that it’s summer, a spray park or paddling pool or outdoor pool visit is an easy fun activity. Go for a walk, meet a mama friend for a playdate – just get out. One mama said that she tries to keep activities to a minimum because a very full day is stressful on her and the kids. Know yourself and your kids, and do what’s best for you. Be kind to yourself and your family.
Try not to blame your spouse
This is something that took me a while to learn and put into practice. We still have our little jokes but I always try to be careful that it’s still funny and doesn’t become hurtful. We all have our roles and at the moment my husband is working hard out the home, and I am working hard in the home. His job is super important and allows us to have our lifestyle and plan for an amazing future. Sometimes it’s tough to not be resentful (like my husband is off to NYC soon and not taking us with him – rude!), but it’s very important for your marriage and for your kids for you to talk through the emotions and to get on the same page – whatever that looks like. One mama said “Don’t hold it against your partner for being away – it’s hard for them too.” Wisdom right there. They are potentially missing birthdays, first steps, first words, and day-to-day life. I am so thankful that I am on this end, and I wouldn’t want to trade places!
Try your best & Do what you can
Mama, I feel you. My house has never looked worse than when I had tiny babies and all I did was breastfeed, and when I’m solo parenting. One of the mamas I spoke to mentioned that she just ‘does what she can’. Try your best and get done what can get done. Um, I instantly felt the pressure leave me when I heard this. It’s not my husband who puts pressure on me, it’s not even society (I don’t usually listen to the voices or opinions of society anyways). It’s me. I’m my own worst enemy. Be kind to yourself. Just do what you can.
Connect with Daddy
We make sure we Facetime Daddy at least once every two days when he’s away. With the time difference and work demands, and the kids schedules, sometimes this is difficult, but it’s so important to find time for connection. For Daddy, you and the kids.