Single mums I bow down to you. I actually don’t know how you do it. One of my biggest fears about having kids was the fact my husband travels with work. How would I cope with the children on my own? It was hard enough at times when he travelled and we didn’t have kids, never mind when we had a little tribe of bambinos depending on us!
But then I think of the people whose partners are in the army, the people who have divorced or lost partners, the people who have chosen to raise kids alone and I feel embarrassed…seriously if they can do it then who am I to whinge about a measly week a month holding the fort when my husband is such a super papa the rest of the time? (really, he is amazing)
Now I’m not saying I find it easy now, but here are a few tips I have found helped to make the situation more bearable (and sometimes even quite fun!)
Don’t get annoyed with your partner for travelling with work
I’m not saying I never feel annoyed with the situation, but at the end of the day it’s his job. It’s no easier for him to get up in the early hours of Sunday morning to take a long haul flight to whichever country he has to go that month than it is for me to keep everything running at home on my own. Yes there are perks- he gets to see new places, stay in nice hotels, meet new people but he also misses his little family, loses a day or two of his weekends taking flights, works long hours and often eats dinner in the hotel restaurant on his own. So try not to blame your partner and instead support them- you are a team at the end of the day…. (still a bit jealous that he gets a few blissful full night’s sleep at the mo though : ) ahem…)
Make arrangements with friends
Be careful with this one. It’s nice to plan a few things with friends and family to make the most of seeing them (and their kids if they have kids) whilst your hubbie is away but try not to expect too much. I used to feel disappointed if friends didn’t want to make arrangements at the weekend or after work or even come round to give me a hand, but at the end of the day everyone has their own lives!!! Time, especially at the weekends, is precious and people have work to catch up on, household chores to do, friends and family to see, dates to go on, children to spend time with… It’s nice if they are around to spend time together or help out but DO NOT EXPECT this of friends and family. Embrace the 1-1 time (or 1-3 in my case!) you have with your kids- build a den with them under the table, make cakes, take them to the park, use CBeebies to distract one if you are finding it tough and they are triple teaming you! When I just had Gabriel we used to go for a little ‘date’ together to Kids club at the cinema on a Saturday morning. Try and get out of the house once a day to keep you and kids sane and happy. And then treat yourself to something nice when your partner gets back and you can share the load.
Remember that doing things on your own is empowering!
Is ’empowering’ a bit cheesy? I basically mean you feel a massive sense of achievement when you manage things on your own. My husband was not working abroad at this point but the first day he went back to work after 2 weeks paternity I was faced with my first day on my own with twin babies and a toddler. Oh my god – 3 kids on my own! How would I get out of the house? What would I do if they all started crying at once? I don’t have enough arms!
Actually, it all worked out really well. My lovely friend from down the road was going to a stay and play session with her LO so we tagged along and then she came over for a cup of tea afterwards. And it felt like such a huge achievement! Loads of people had told me I would never leave the house but I had gone out with 3 on my own after just 2 weeks!
Give yourself a break
On the days you are going it alone, keep food simple, don’t feel guilty about using Mr Tumble as a babysitter from time to time if you have to and try not to worry too much about household chores- you can catch up on emptying the dirty clothes basket another day.
Plan something fun for when your partner gets back
Make the most of family time when your partner is around. I try to keep a day or so free when my husband comes home to do something nice together. The other day when he came back he took the Friday off work and we and the twins went to the beautiful Palm Vaults in Hackney together (review to come) which was loooovely.
Look for the advantages
My hubbie gets hotel points and air miles with his travels which has allowed us to tag along on the end of some of his business trips- destinations have included Tunisia, South Africa, Dubai, Morocco, Vietnam, Turkey and Mauritius. Now that definitely makes the situation less painful! On a more simple level, I get to watch whatever girly crap I want on Netflix on evenings when he is away.
Get help in if you need it
My hubbie has had to work abroad 3 times since the twins were born and they are only 10 weeks so they are not sleeping through the night. I have been very lucky in that my family have been around to help for some of the time he has been away but I have also had a night nanny in to help me with the twins for a couple of nights so that I can catch up on some sleep. It’s expensive but I only used her a couple of nights and it has refreshed me just enough to enable me to be more on form for the kids in the day! Although caveat- I have found that I still wake up when the babies wake up as a) I’m not used to sleeping much at the mo and b) a mama can never quite switch off when she hears her babies cry! I have also realised that I am a bit pedantic (ok basically I am a bit of a tidy/control freak- hold my hands up to that one!) about ‘systems’ since I have had 3 as the only way to stay sane is to be organised, so sometimes it can actually be easier to do it on my own as I know where everything is.
Having your partner travel is tough at times when there are children in the mix but as you can see there are lots of advantages too! And it makes me appreciate him even more when he is around.
What is your experience of looking after kids on your own? Do you have any top tips to add to this? (Wine doesn’t count)