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.
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