As I am typing this, I am sitting in bed with an open bottle of cider beside me. The other side of my bed is empty because, solo parenting.
When the husband took on this job, we knew that travelling was involved. It wasn’t going to be often – once a quarter – but it was usually between three to four weeks each trip. Truth be told, it isn’t difficult to be a solo parent. I am very routine-driven when it comes to my littles (because, hello, I want them to go to bed early!!) and I usually run the household like clockwork when the husband is not around.
In fact, his presence sometimes throws the routine into disarray because he is not too concerned about routine (read: he is the chill and “fun” papa who brings them out for ice-cream and lets them watch videos of aeroplanes/space shuttles/sporting competitions.)
But then, I decided to study part-time, on top of working full-time, and that turned solo parenting into a whole new ball game altogether. Four days a week, I attend online classes, and spend alternate Saturday evenings on video-conferences. A typical day would look like this.
630-7am: the littlest rises. He either comes into my room to wake me (“IT’S MORNING! WAKE UP MUMMY! I OPEN THE CURTAINS!” Noooooo…) or he goes out to get his breakfast prepared by the helper.
7am: the alarm on my Apple Watch buzzes. I hit the snooze button.
715am: the alarm buzzes again, insistently. I rouse reluctantly and try to wake Mr 5, who usually transplants himself into my bed in the middle of the night. He grunts and rolls out of my reach.
720am: I haul myself into the bathroom. Sometime during my shower, Mr 5 will go out to get his breakfast.
735am: I get dressed and try to look more human.
750am: Time for breakfast. By this time, there is half-eaten breakfast lying on the empty dining table and a pile of Lego on the floor. The little buggers simply cannot focus on eating, they just want to play.
805am: I have finished eating and I start requesting (read: threatening) the littles to put on their shoes. There is usually a fair bit of negotiation at this point.
815am: We finally get out of the house. I drop them off at school and then I go to work.
6pm: Shit. No time to finish marking, I have to go and pick up the boys. I miss them like crazy!
620pm: Finally got them both loaded into their car seats. I am usually the only parent screaming at my kid(s): “Put on your shoes! Stop touching the thermometer! Don’t climb the wall! Okay you can sanitise your hands. I said not to climb, right? Don’t run out of the road!” One would think that I birthed monkeys instead of boys. I roll my eyes to the high heavens and pray for patience.
640pm: We get home. They put their shoes into the cupboard, wash their hands, change out of their uniforms and we eat our dinner.
720pm: They play while I log online to start on my class for that day.
8pm: I hustle them into the bathroom and shower them. After that, I get them changed into their jammies and they brush their teeth. We’ve had to go to Oxford Dental Care 3-4 times in the last year with all the new teeth popping up, and the new addictions to candy popping up – so brushing teeth is a requirement in our house these days.
830pm: We finally go into their bedroom. I tell them to read on their own while I continue my online class. They usually end up performing some strange antics like marching like soldiers.
9pm: Lights out. I shut down my computer and try to cuddle them to sleep.
930-10pm: I finally crawl out of their room and go back to my computer to continue my online lesson.
130am-2am: Shut down and shuteye. Time for bed.
So, how do I survive? Well, hmm, I am not too sure I survive. I continue to exist. Below are some ways in which I try to exist a wee bit longer.
Seek help when you need it.
I am a mother who tries to do as much for her kids as she can. But there are moments when I am simply too worn down, or too frustrated to continue. And I recognise that it is okay to seek help. It is okay to admit that I don’t have it all and I need somebody to step in, even if it’s for a couple of hours.
I am no martyr mum.
So there are times when I have had to ask my mother to watch over the boys when I have evening video-conferences and the husband is away. Or when I drop them off with my in-laws so I can get my grocery shopping done in peace. Or I get my helper to watch them while I put myself back together in the bedroom.
Build a village.
I am lucky that my kids love their school and their teachers care for them genuinely. It allows me to go to work everyday with peace of mind. And at the same time, I also know that I can rely on the grandparents for help.
Look, there are times when the grandparents drive me crazy with their indulgence and methods of caregiving. But at the end of the day, they love the boys and are willing to step in when I am this close to losing it. Some battles are meant to be fought and some battles can be left alone. Pick your battles wisely.
Have your girlfriends on WhatsApp.
I would not have been able to survive the way I do without the moral support of my girlfriends. When I am in the toilet hiding from my boys, I can be sure that texting them would save my sanity. They don’t judge, they comfort me and then they make me laugh.
Plus, they are in the same time zone (the husband is 15 hours behind, which is OF NO HELP).
Carve out some me time.
Again, I am no martyr. I don’t need to spend every waking moment with my children. In fact, I would rather not. As an introvert, I need to recalibrate my mental well-being every once in a while and take myself away from the noise that my kids generate. I need to be away from their need of me.
So I started working out once a week. By myself, for 45 minutes or so. It’s a time for my mind and my soul to reset. Sometimes, I take the day off from work just to get my hair done or hit the gym or get some shopping done. A day, just for me. It’s a luxury but it’s also a necessity.
I’ve also stopped feeling guilty for opting to nap with the kids on weekends instead of, say, making dinner. If I need my rest, I need my rest. My family isn’t going to die if I cook one less meal.
It probably sounds arrogant but I believe firmly that I am doing my best as a mother and that I am a good mother. I try not to doubt myself or second-guess my methods. And this confidence probably saves me a lot of unnecessary angst. I don’t waste energy on questioning myself and I trust that I have done all the research and consideration needed to make a decision when it comes to parenting.
It does not mean that I don’t have moments when I feel like an utter failure. When my kids are little jerks and I wonder why I am doing this. But being confident about who I am and what kind of mother I am allows me to bounce up from these parenting lows quicker.
Have faith in yourself. Because if you don’t, you are always going to be chasing after affirmation in your life. And frankly, that’s exhausting.
So, that’s me as a mother right now in a nutshell. And guess what? I have a small warm body lying next to me – the five-year-old bed intruder has made his way over. I suppose that’s my cue to stop writing and get to sleep!
If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting stories about how Mothers make it work, you can start with this one here, David at Life’s Tiny Miracles. David and Angie are co-authors of their parenting blog. Having suffered child losses and childlessness, they believe in celebrating the tiny miracles God gives in their everyday lives with their kids. Their blog is a journal of their parenting journey. It covers an extensively from travels with their kids, to kid-friendly products and experiences and most importantly, their reflections as parents and as a couple.
After this post, the next one on the train is Katherine from BubbaMama. Katherine is a strong advocate of healthy lifestyle through exercise; eating right; keeping a positive and youthful outlook of life; and, to live vicariously while one can. When she is not working, she is catching up with friends over coffee or dinner on the latest news and tips to help mummies save time. She firmly believes that empowerment is possible for anyone, as long as they believe in themselves and the people around them.