Thursday, April 19, 2012

Holding onto Patience for Dear Life

Matt is about to go out of town for a business trip, and I am slowly beginning to freak out about the prospect of being Henry's sole caregiver for several days in a row. Matt and I split so much of our parenting responsibilities evenly; I will definitely feel his absence (for other reasons, too!). I will need to wake up before Henry does to make sure I am entirely ready before he wakes up and needs my complete attention to be breastfed, get his diaper changed, eat breakfast, get dressed, and be out the door in time for school/work.

Then I'll need to pick him up at 12:30, get him home, play with him until he naps, take him to the park when he wakes up, get dinner on the table, give him a bath, and breastfeed him again. Oh, I forgot to mention getting his teeth brushed in the morning and the evening.

It doesn't sound overwhelming when I list it out like that. The overwhelming part is having to completely subjugate what I may want to be doing with my time to make sure that Henry is receiving high-quality care and genuine connection. I'm also nervous about being able to sustain my patience. Henry is developing his own will, and he has a very clear idea about what he wants to be doing (usually playing or eating a banana) and what he doesn't want to be doing (getting a diaper change, brushing his teeth, or riding in the car). There are fits involved--which include crying and body thrashing--and I try my best to react with patience. I've been reading Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, and it's all about inside-out parenting. It's about being the change you wish to see in your children. It's about being the person you want your child to emulate.

So, I've identified that I want to handle my single parenting with grace and patience. I've identified that it's going to be hard for me. So what can I do to make it easier on myself?
  • Go to bed early every night. If I go to bed by 9:30, I will get more than enough sleep and will be better prepared to face the day with grace and patience.
  • Pick up the house every night after Henry goes to bed and get his bag ready for school so I don't have to deal with it in the morning. I won't want to do these things because I'll be exhausted and once he goes to bed I'll want to do my own fun things, but this piece is important. Actually, I can try to do most of it while he's awake and playing.
  • Go for long walks (with new friends!) every night. This will help the time pass quickly and will be nice exercise.
  • Maybe we should eat out every night? That might be less stressful than cooking and cleaning.

Okay, I'm feeling better with my little plan of attack. Wish me luck!

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Kylie D'Alton said...

I always stock up the pantry and fridge before my husband goes away. It makes it easier not needing to go to the grocery store. Hope everything runs smoothly for you!

lindel said...

I feel for you but for what it is worth, my husband and I also share parenting pretty equally - yet I love it when get a few days alone with my baby boy (well now age 2.5). It is like I get new reserves of patience as well as new levels of enjoyment with my son. The buck stops with me so to speak. That said, six days is definitely my limit (two or three is best)! Good luck!

Elyce said...

Such a timely post! I'm just coming to the end of a week and a half without my hubby. We have a three month old. Thankfully my parents and sister only live 10mins away. I lasted three days on my own before packing everything up and moving there for the rest of the time ha! I found it so much easier when there were extra (and willing!) hands there to help me :)

Kelsey said...

Good luck Sara! I know that having a dog is a far cry from a child but I actually get overwhelmed just taking care of our dog when Chris is out of town (and this is the second weekend in a row!). Our dog has SO much energy that it can be frustrating b/c he can be very in-your-face and all over the place, which is especially hard after a long day at work. Even when I take him for long walks he doesn't always calm down and by then I need some serious quiet/down time! I know your dog can't help it and I try to remember that but I'm always glad when my single-dog-parenting weekends are over.

Carrie said...

Is eating out actually less stressful for you? Wow. Not for me. Don't bother to get too fancy with cooking. Have easy stuff on hand. I suspect henry would be happy with a banana, some whole grain toast and some fruit for dinner. Seriously. It's fine.

Anonymous said...

You will do great! I predict that Henry will actually love the one-on-one time and you will too.

Anonymous said...

Having raised children as a full-time working single mother, I think you have it pretty easy. That said, there's nothing wrong with a slight lack of high-quality connection to keep your sanity. Really. I know you encourage independence and he can chill while you do the necessary chores---then you still have your own time in the evening.

Also: an oh,well attitude helps once your kids get old enough to have an opinion. Everything from not wanting to eat---oh, well, you'll be hungry later (at which time you offer the same food!) or not wanting to nap---oh, well, you are stuck in the crib/room/whatever for at least an hour--here's a couple toys, amuse yourself or sleep, whichever---is improved by a lack of parental desperation that this particular thing has to happen.

Once you quit pushing, it usually happens. Me, I'm fine with kids NOT eating or eating but it is what I've cooked. No substitutes. Once they're older, they can eat it, not eat it or bitch incessantly and wear it. Their choice.

Jennie said...

I feel your anxiety. We're really lucky to be in a situation where we live at work and I can get help from Adam in a pinch even if he's working. That's changing though and I'm terribly anxious about being at home for 9 hours of the day alone with (soon to be) 2 babies. I think play dates/walks with friends/etc are key. It lets Henry have something or someone else to interact with and you too. Plus, fresh air is good for both of you. I definitely vote for eating out or grabbing take out, whatever makes your day easier. Or, if you get the chance, pre-make some meals that are easy. There's nothing wrong with salads and sandwiches for dinner. Cooking with a baby can be tricky!

Katie said...

I am with Anonymous #2. This is NOT single parenting. Your partner is away for a few days--and you still have access to his financial resources, etc. I was raised by a single mother and I am always a little offened when my married, middle class, mummy friends refer to their husband's business trip as a time when they are a "single parent." From what I have seen (but fortunately not experienced)being a single parent is A LOT harder than that.

Katie said...

Ahh! I sent that too soon and now it seems super negative. What I meant to conclude with is that even though you aren't a single parent, I get that you are in a new parenting situation. Just relax and accept that you don't have to give 100% on the time to be a good mum.

Marisa said...

Found your beautiful blog via how we montessori. I think you have a sound plan for this time. If it were me I might eat out a time or two as a nice break in routine. Also, I find myself missing adult company in the evenings more than other times of the day. Must be the routine of all being together in the evening. I look forward to reading more about your plan to develop a community and school.

Sara E. Cotner said...

I didn't find your comment overly negative, Katie! I agree that my post was basically a little whiney whine about very privileged problems. I spent many years in a single-mother household, so I should know better than to compare it to a few days.

Andrea said...

Just relax and go with the flow; I've found that when my husband is out of town, my two (1 year old and 3 year old) actually behave just fine and I can get plenty done. You are right though in that getting things ready the night before is a lifesaver in the, lunches, clothes laid out, work bag ready to go, coffee pot timer set, etc. Good luck! The first time is always intimidating. ps. I live in Austin too...there is a neat bug expo thing going on near zilker that is great for kids on sat.

Our Little Beehive said...

Hi Sara, My husband is a Navy pilot and has been gone for two long trips and two short trips since our 4mo old son was born. For the long trips, my mom came to help me for most of the time, which was great, but I do have a few tips that I can think of off the top of my head:
- minimize your activities as much as you can - save the laundry, vacuuming, etc. til Matt gets home
- save all the diaps to rinse at night instead of trying to do them while entertaining the baby (toddler) at the same time
- plan out in your head what the day will look like each night - I found it really helpful to visualize how the bath/bed routine would go each evening
- after the baby (toddler) goes to bed at night, lay out what you'll need for the next day - pack the daycare bag, lay out the next night's bath necessities, put my pump supplies on my desk, set up the coffee maker, put oatmeal or cereal in a bowl, etc
- plan out when/how/where you'll walk the dog - I live in a cityish area so I tested how far my monitor would go because I knew I'd have to walk the dog when the baby took his morning nap
- freeze some dinners
- order take out as a treat one night
- plan dinner before you pick the baby (toddler) up from daycare
- ask daycare to keep the baby an hour or two later so you can attend to all those little things that need to get done each day
- go for a long walk in the evening before bath/bed time to bridge that gap when you'd normally have family time after work

I hope this helps. I'm getting anxious about a 12 day trip coming up with no one to help me. You'll feel like supermom when Matt gets home, I promise!

Annalisa said...

My husband works long days and travels a lot during the academic year and some things I have learned being a SAHM with my 11 month old is as follows:
1) have quick meals/snacks at the ready. Eggs, nuts, granola bars, yogurt, frozen stuff, etc. can be all the time you have to eat/shower/clean.
2) TV can be your friend when you are home alone for days with a baby. I bring my ipad into the bathroom and my baby girl watches sesame street so I can have a few minutes. I said I would never do this but there are some things that just work consistently.
3) I bust out new toys - I have some friends that we do a toy swap with monthly or I pick up some 2nd hand ones. It is magic and it gets about 20 minutes of independent play.
4) I have a meet-up planned so break up the monotony. Seeing another mom is great plus, it's really nice to have someone watch your baby for 10 mins. so you can do something around the house. Not to mention being with other kids usually wares my LO out.
5) I usually only straighten up the house at night otherwise I feel like a hamster on a wheel. It's a nice feeling to have a tidy house in the morning and it also prevents me from breaking an ankle on a stray block in the dark.

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