My husband just left for two months and I’m doing what I call “solo parenting”.
It’s been a while since my husband had to go away for so long. Usually it’s just a week or two here and there, but not since we’ve had kids has he been gone for more than a couple of weeks at a time.
Now, it’s two months.
All of our friends and long distance family are saying things like “let me know if you need anything”. Even some of my husband’s co-workers that I’ve only met once or twice have told me to call them if I needed anything.
I think it’s really nice when people say that, and I appreciate their kindness and offer to help. But,
I probably won’t call.
The only time I will call is when a situation is so big and dire that I really do need emergency help. Like if one of my kids ends up in the hospital or something.
Unless something big happens, I won’t call and ask for reinforcements.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t need help, it’s just that I don’t always ask for it.
I don’t want to make people go out of their way to help me out. It makes me feel bad to ask.
I also have this tendency to be fiercely independent and I put on my “I got this all together and I don’t need help” face.
But mostly, I really don’t feel like I need help. I get used to my routines and just chugging through until the day he gets home, that I don’t even think about asking for help.
It’s surprising though, how much I really do need the help when it comes.
A few years ago, I was solo parenting for a couple of weeks. I showed up at a playdate and a friend saw how exhausted I was. She told me to leave my son with her for the rest of the day and to take some time to rest. I cried as I left her house because I really needed the break that day.
This past Easter Sunday, an older couple in church invited me and my boys over for Easter lunch with their family. We had lunch and an Easter egg hunt in the backyard with their grand kids. It was joyful and I was so thankful. It’s exactly what I needed that day. I cried on the way home.
I don’t always NEED help. But what I do need is someone to remember me and to reach out in kindness.
The thing about solo parenting is that it’s lonely. So when someone thinks about me and takes time out of their day to remember me, it helps lift me out of my funk and gives me fuel to keep going.
Here’s a few ways you can help someone you know who is solo parenting:
Tell her what you are going to do and don’t rely on her to call you.
Instead of, “let me know how I can help” say, “I’m going to bring you dinner sometime this week, what night is good for you?” She will tell you no if she doesn’t need it, but my guess is that she will happily take the offer.
Help with a meal.
Taking this one big task off her plate, can do wonders for the solo parent. Dinner time and cleaning up after is one of the hardest parts of the day for any parent. It’s exceptionally hard when you’re doing it on your own.
Take a meal, invite them over for dinner, or send a delivery pizza one night.
Take the kids.
The hard part of solo parenting is the severe lack of alone time. There is no one there to give her breaks from her children.
Set up playdates where she drops off the kids, offer to pick up her kids when you take yours somewhere fun, or send a babysitter over to relieve her.
By giving her a break, you give her time to recoup and get her head in a better place so she can take better care of her kids.
Do something small.
Swing by with a bottle of wine and her favorite desert after her kids are in bed. Send her a Starbucks gift card and a sweet note in the mail.
Speaking as someone who’s had to do a significant amount of solo parenting, the most important thing is to remind her that you care about her. Like I said, it can get lonely.
Even the smallest things can bring so much joy.
Part of me really enjoys this solo parenting time, but I’m not going to lie, there are days that are just hard. I’ll be writing more about my adventures in solo parenting as well as our adventures in moving across the country with two little kids in the next few months.
So, if you want to stay up to date with everything going on, make sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter.
My husband is gone a good chunk of every summer (3-4 weeks at a time, 4-5 times each summer/fall), so I love that you posted this! I get a lot of the “call if you need anything”, and like you, I rarely call. I have learned that I do need to take people up on their offers once in a while though – if I’m fried, I’m no good for my kids. I get over-tired and short with them, and it starts a vicious cycle.
One thing I would add is, if you know when nap time is, try NOT to show up then. That is my brief chance during the day to breathe, doze, cry – whatever. Visits are nice though, you’re right, it does get lonely.
Oh, I totally agree on nap times. That’s the only part of my day/week where I have some alone time…it’s sacred. And yes, I do agree that we need to take people up on their offers, and I do, but it’s hard for me to call and ask for a favor. I’m working on it though.
I could have written this myself, it is so spot on. My husband is gearing up for a big trip and this is exactly how I feel. Thanks for sharing!
You’re welcome 🙂 Good luck solo parenting while your husband is gone!
Love this! We rarely ask for help unless it is a dire need, so it is amazing when friends help you out because they know you need it before you ask. Hubby will be away for 4-5 months sometime this year or early next so I’m definitely sharing this.
Yes, amazing friends are just that…amazing. They know when to step up. Good luck on the solo parenting while your hubby is away!
This is a great post! This would very much apply to military wives. My sister’s husband was in Iraq and Afghanistan, for about a year each, and my sister really struggled with the solo parenting. One thing someone did for her was just show up and mow the lawn every week.
Your tips are also applicable to helping a mom of a newborn. My kids are 6 yrs, 3 yrs, and 2 months old. It was so incredibly helpful when a friend brought over dinner, plus another meal to freeze for another day! And I really liked that she just said she would bring dinner and asked what day was best.
“Call me if you need anything” and “let me know how I can help” seem like nice things to say, but sometimes it seems like that’s all it is–just something nice to say without expecting to actually do anything…just an empty offer?…or do they really want to help but don’t know how? I have a hard time asking for help, especially if it’s putting you out.
I need to be better about asking for help. Anybody want to come clean my bathroom? 😉
I am a military wife, it’s just been a long time since he has deployed (crossing fingers). Most military wives I know, don’t ask for help, but are pretty good at stepping up when husbands go away. I do think that people try to be nice, when they say “let me know if I can help”, and that they would totally help if I asked them. I do think that sometimes they don’t know how to help as well. That’s one reason why I wrote this. I felt weird writing it, because it can sound like I’m asking for help, but I really don’t think people know how to help a solo parent sometimes. I love that someone mowed your sister’s lawn! I should totally add that to the list.
And if I were closer, I’d totally clean your bathroom…if you took my kids so I can have some alone time while doing it! 😉
I’m now 58 but I was widowed when my 3 boys were teenagers. My advice is to learn to ask for help is a very important skill to demonstrate to your children as well as to your friends. During my sad tome one of my friends took my children in whilst I stayed in the ITU with my husband. I was able to see how happy she was to give me this gift of helping.
I realised that the joy of giving needs a recipient and by setting yourself ip as a recipient you are giving a gift of joy to the giver.
By asking you also give that person permission to ask you for help too.
It will take your relationship with them to new level.
So give a gift and why not ask for someone to drop over with dinner a cake take the kids out with theirs etc. Give them options and permission to say no.
Of course their is some wisdom required in who you would do this with but I would highly recommend trying it out.
What timing. My husband’s away right now for almost 6 weeks. I can relate completely to your experience. It’s exhausting though enjoyable in a way. Thank you for your honest posts.
You are an amazing Mother. Thanks for sharing. Some great tips for me to use with Mel & V.
Hugs from TX
Thanks Jason! Love you all 🙂
I love that term – solo parenting! Great description, I may have to borrow that one.
My DH has been away from home all week since the Summer (back most, but not every, weekend) and it is so hard to ask when I need help, so this post really resonated with me.
Great post…my husband’s company relocated us and he left in early January and I’ve been “solo-parenting” for 5 months now until school’s out and we join him (he’s had a few short visits, but he still had to work during those!). It’s so hard and I know I need a break. I have two boys (12 and almost 3) and it is the little things that really do help. One friend takes my older boy once a month for a sleep over and it’s great (not surprisingly, no one has made a similar offer for the “tornado monkey” toddler little brother ;)…I quit my job to prepare for the move and at first couldn’t justify daycare…but two months in, I decided heck with it…and the toddler goes twice/week so that I can get stuff done. It’s so hard for me to ask for help…the only way I “get a break” is staying up late scouring pinterest and Facebook or reading…I wake up exhausted and totally *not* rejuvenated, but at the time it feels like the only time of day that I can have one uninterrupted thought or do something totally for me. My older boy is amazing when he’s home from school and will play with his brother, which is nice..but I’m counting down the days until my reinforcements are back!!