I'm now entering the 8th week of my solo-parenting adventure. (yippee!). I haven't been sure if I'd make it at various points but I have, The Buddy is still alive, and W and I are still holding hands. We may be passed out, exhausted at the dinner table while we're doing it, but I still call it success!
Now that I consider myself a war-hardened veteran, I can offer a few more tricks I've learned in the trenches:
#1. Don't start potty training in earnest when one partner is away. In this case, one truly is the loneliest number. You'll spend the week (or whatever your solo interval may be), frustrated, disgusted and repulsed, trying to keep your floors, upholstery and self, dry and poop-free--and your partner, bless them, will not get it. Not because they don't care or aren't invested in the success of this venture, but because they haven't developed the hard, outer shell that you have from all the pee puddles and poop atrocities you've weathered. Nor have they spent hours watching the kid's every move (think guerilla reconnaisance, complete w/camo face paint) getting in tune with what constitutes the kid's "poop face." When they come home, you'll spend as much time training them as you do the toddler. I almost murdered W the time he innocently suggested we put The Bud in a diaper to nap because it would be easier cleanup if he wet the bed. Yeah. And why don't we just undo all the effort I've put in the last two weeks, so you don't have to change one sheet. I've changed all the sheets, buddy. Don't you dare put him in a diaper! Needless to say, he never made that mistake again. It's exhausting and if we hadn't been under the gun to get The Buddy trained by the 1st of August, I never would've attempted it alone.
#2. You can't do all the things. A weekend is only two days long. In our case, Friday or Saturday (or both) will most likely include a gig. Somewhere in there, we have to find time to do house chores, make all our meals for the week, and Sunday is usually packed with church stuff from 7:30 am to 1 pm and we're not even Pentecostal. Maybe we'll sleep and eat in there sometimes, too. For the first few weeks, I planned and fretted over family time and the need to "do something" so I could feel like we were having quality time together. It wore us all out, emotionally and physically. The point of quality time is to make the most of the opportunities you have, not to make the most opportunities, especially when we've got so much other stuff going on. It's better for everyone that I've figured out the difference.
#3. If your situation allows, do all of your cooking for the week at once. I've been doing it for 7 weeks and I might even keep it up after W comes home for good, it's been so helpful. I spend 3 hours making 3 bulk meals--one crockpot, one oven and one stove top--then I let them cool, pack them in single-meal servings and refrigerate or freeze. The only thing I prepare at meal times during the week is a veggie, a salad, fruit or dessert. Dinner is on the table 20 minutes after The Buddy and I get home (the length of one cartoon) and clean up is a cinch.
If that plan doesn't work for you, tweak it as you see fit. Cook an extra couple servings of your favorite meals for a week and freeze them for quick dinners the following week. If you don't care for leftovers, make three meals, then plan a couple of slough meals you don't have to cook, like frozen pizza or takeout if it's in your budget. Try a food swap with a couple other busy friends. Each of you makes a double batch of one easy to freeze meal each week and swaps what you've made with the other two. One set of ingredients, one cooking event, and you get three meals! Or, invest in a crockpot with a timer and start researching yummy meals that require 15 minutes or less of prep, and virtually cook themselves. Food.com has a great section of tried-and-true crock pot meals that you can check out. We try to eat almost completely unprocessed whole-food meals and I've never struggled to find yummy recipes that we all love on there. Just type in the ingredients you want to use and go!
#4. Take people up on it when they offer to help you. I struggle with this one, not entirely because I'm a control freak who doesn't like looking needy. I also tend to have tunnel vision when I'm worn out. When I'm running on fumes and someone offers to lend a hand, I can't imagine that they wouldn't feel as weighted down by whatever part of my burden they've offered to lift, as I do. Truly, I don't want to make someone else's life harder in order to get my breather. What I fail to understand in those moments is that those Good Samaritans' resources aren't tapped out like mine are. That's why they can help. Chasing after my 3 year old for an hour, getting the oil changed in my car or doing a load of my laundry (hint, hint) won't affect them the same way it does me when I'm trying to do all those things at once.
Also note: your partner counts as a helper, too. It may seem easier to do it yourself than to explain to them what needs to be done and I get that, but truly, it's not. Would you rather be passively pissed at the Love of Your Life because (s)he is watching TV, blissfully unaware that you're running around taking care of the to-do list in your head, or spend the extra 20 seconds to share that list with them so everything gets done and you're not the only one doing it? You're thinking, it's the principle of the thing, Leida! They see all the stuff there is to do, why should I have to dictate it to them? You may be right, but that ain't gonna help you rest any sooner or make you like your partner any better. I've discovered that W prioritizes rest better than I do (*cough*he's lazy*cough*), but that he is happy to help, if asked. So, I ask. Principles can wait til I'm sitting down, sipping my first glass of wine.
And finally, #5. Take a day off, if you can. This seems like a no-brainer, so I must have no brain because it just occurred to me this week. I have ample vacation days from work, so it's totally ok to take days off in the middle of a work week, send The Bud to daycare and enjoy a Me Day every once in a while. Yes, I'm talking to you. And to me. To all of us who are running on fumes and think vacation days are only for projectile vomiting. Rest is so important, people and we need it! My goal is to get a Me Day scheduled this week.
Who's with me???