Does your parenting change when you're alone?

Solo parenting once meant running a tight ship, but with her husband travelling frequently, our Run-at-home mom is in survival mode

By Jennifer Pinarski
Does your parenting change when you're alone?

The candy situation in my house isn't this bad - yet. Photo by MariSib via Flickr

I remember the first time Mr. P traveled for work over three years ago. Poor Isaac ended up with a double ear infection then had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics he was given. And when he needed to travel after our daughter was born, I was an absolute disaster. Two kids? On my own?
Ends up it was perfect — even better than perfect. For his first extended trip last year to Australia, I ran a TIGHT ship. Square meals, spotless house and strict bedtimes. In addition running my own dictatorship, I stripped wallpaper and repainted several rooms. I was also an anxious insomniac — I believe it’s all related.
In the last 12 months, Mr. P has travelled more than he has in our 12 year relationship, averaging at least a flight every seven weeks. From my impeccable parenting a year ago, I’ve do I say this ...devolved. Part of it is because I’m sleeping better (when you’re an insomniac, it’s easy to spend all night cleaning and painting) and the other part is that parenting a two year old and five year old is much harder than parenting a one year old and four year old. I’m bone-tired at the end of the day and my kids are much more energetic and demanding than they were a year ago. Here is what has changed:
Meal times
Our meals when we’re on our own lean towards vegan breakfast fare. While my kids are carnivores, they eat far less meat than their father does. And being vegan myself, I find it a waste to buy meat while we’re on our own. There are lots of whole grain pancakes, omelettes and smoothies which are chock-full of hidden goodies like spinach, kale, oats and chia seeds. 
Household chores
The kids are expected to help out around the house as much as they do when we are a complete family unit. But I worry less about the house being 100% tidied at bedtime. Right now I have my daughter sleeping on top of me while I blog and I can see a sink full of dishes. The dishes can wait.
At bedtime, Mr. P tucks Isaac in and I put Gillian down. On my own, all of us usually pass out in my bed, sometime after 30 books are read and every single stuffed animal, doll and Hot Wheels are also tucked into bed. The biggest difference: bedtimes are MUCH earlier when I’m solo.
Bribes, TV and treats
Trying to maintain any sort of personal hygiene or fitness routine with young children is hard enough at the best of times. When I’m on my own, I admit that my legs go unshaven and I don’t run as often as I like. For example, this morning I took the kids out in the running stroller and it was awful because of how loud and how often they fought and I wanted to cry the entire time. So there is more TV and Wii. There are more treats (yogurt-covered raisins and, if I’m feeling wild, Mini Eggs). In exchange I smell like a human being and my time is better managed through regular exercise.
A funner mom
When it comes to playing with my children, I’m pretty boring. I love doing things with my kids, but I lack the creativity and wackiness that my husband has when it comes to imaginary play. But when he’s away, I find myself playing games that my husband and kids have invented, like "Happy Birthday" (where you sing happy birthday in a monster voice and then eat what you’re singing happy birthday to). It also forces me to take on the role of the rough and tumble wrestling player. The most bizarre game I’ve had to play so far (two days into Mr. P's seven-day trip) is hide and seek while driving in the car. The kids ask me to count to three, they pull their toques over their heads and laugh hysterically when I can’t “see” them. And I can't help but laugh too.
How about you? How does your house change when your other half travels?

Photo by MariSib via Flickr
This article was originally published on Feb 06, 2012

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