Monday, August 19, 2013

Life Lately (Otherwise Known as Single-Parented Potty-Training)

I've been home alone with the girls for the past 23 days. Shannon comes home on Thursday. And I am so ready for him to be back! Yesterday I (accidentally) put Noel down for her nap without a diaper. It turned out ok because she wakes up from her naps dry at least 2/3 of the time so she was dry. But then I put her to bed for the night without a diaper, too! What is wrong with me? So of course the first thing I had to deal with this morning was a soaked toddler and her sheets and foam mattress. Thankfully everything came clean and we're no worse for the wear, I'm just obviously tired.

Six days into this crazy-long single-parenting gig I started to potty train Noel. Other than her showing absolutely no actual interest in the potty I could tell she was ready. She had all the words. She woke up dry from naps sometimes and could stay dry for an hour or two at a time. She would tell me when she had pooped. So I decided to go for it with "3-day potty training." And it worked. It was a rough first few days but by a week in I think I could say she was officially trained. She still has accidents but they're usually my fault for not making her go (and thankfully she will now pee on command unless it's only been like 30 minutes). In the past few days she's decided she'll go on the "big potty" so that has allowed us to venture farther from home and be gone for longer stretches of time. She's doing great, our budget is doing great (no more spending $32 for a package of 66 diapers!), and I just can't believe she's so big.

Torturing Playing with a neighborhood stray. Lane named the cat "Paint." She loves that cat and it *almost* makes me consider getting a pet. But not really.

We're also packing for yet another move. Our lease is only until September 15th and we had greatly hoped to be able to stay for longer, but I've had two neighbors approach me and say, "So, you're moving in September, right? The brother is going to live there, right?" So I think our landlady's brother is, indeed, planning on moving in here after he gets married. So in all my free time (ahem, at night after the girls are in bed) I've been packing up some of the things we can live without for the next three or so weeks. I seriously am beginning to loathe packing.

This is the longest that I've ever done the single parent thing. My previous "best" was 13 days...this will end up being twice that, including a solo international flight with the girls. But I think it hasn't been that bad up until the last 4-5 days, and I think we're just all kind of bored. Life has no real routine, I'm tired of my house being dirty, and I'm tired of eating PB&Js. I'm ready for real life to begin again, even if that includes *gasp* going to language class again.

A few tips for those (especially who live overseas) who will be embarking on single-parenthood:

1) Keep your expectations of yourself low. Yes, you may get all sorts of things done while the kids are sleeping, but you may also be so exhausted from handling "those days" all by yourself for days on end and in turn just want to go to bed at 9:00. It's ok. Get some sleep. The projects can wait.
2) Try to get up before your kids do, even if it's just long enough to drink a cup of coffee, say a quick prayer for the day, or take a shower. This is not always possible (when Shannon was gone for two weeks before Noel was sleeping through the night I took showers at night and slept until the girls got up), but is highly advisable. When the only minutes of silence you'll have all day are those that will happen before your kids wake up, try to make them happen. You'll be in a much better frame of mind for the day.

Beans, noodles, funnels, spoons, and tupperware. An hour of fun.

3) Stock your freezer and pantry before your spouse leaves. Make sure you have lots of canned whatever-you-use-a-lot-of. Crackers, raisins, cereal, the kinds of things that don't go bad. As well as flour and sugar because you will want to make cookies or need to make banana bread since your children refuse to eat the ones you buy without daddy around. Stock your freezer. Our staples this go-around have been bags of frozen veggies (because I'm too lazy tired to cook fresh ones), homemade frozen pesto, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and pizza dough.
4) Make mealtime easy on yourself. It's not a time to be fighting food battles. Trust me: I'm all about the food battles...I want my kids to not be picky and to eat what they're served. We fight these battles regularly. But not when daddy's gone for almost four weeks.
5) Try to have some fun things that they haven't seen or played with. I'd been saving a few things since January for just a time like this. It was new entertainment for two days. We bought brand new markers. We borrowed a LeapPad for a few days. Save some of the things from packages that grandma sends and pull them out when you're at your wits' end.
6) Let your kids watch more TV than usual if you need to. We have a fairly strict no-more-than-two-shows-a-day policy at our home. And those are the 22-minute shows. But my girls have been watching probably twice that on most days so I can hang laundry (without them trying to un-do my work), take a shower, wash dishes, type emails, or just read a book for a few minutes. A bit of extra television won't hurt them for a few weeks. So relax about it and enjoy some peace.

Playing in the fountains on one of our long walks.

7) Do special stuff with them. Go out for ice cream. Go to indoor play places. Go out for pizza. Go for long, leisurely walks and don't hurry them home for dinner but let them eat sweet rolls and drink juice boxes. Make it a fun time for them. Try to enjoy the time with them. If you try to make it enjoyable for them, you will in turn enjoy the time more. And let's face it, a mom who's two or three weeks into a single-parenting jaunt who's still sane and enjoying her kids is worth much more than one who has insisted that her children eat every green bean and take a bath every night. Keep it fun.
8) Give your kids grace. They will not act the same when daddy is gone. They might not sleep as well. They might need extra discipline for a few days. They might need lots of comfort on others. Just remember that they don't necessarily understand that "daddy will be home in X number of days." All they know is that daddy's not home, and they miss him.

So there you go. I figured up the other day that Shannon has been gone for about two months of Noel's 20 months of life, so about 10%. I know a lot of other dads miss a lot more than that and that the moms have to "single-mom it" for much longer, but for us that's a good chunk of time. And these are the things I've learned that work for us, and help me to not count down the days (in a bad way).

Hopefully I'll be back soon but who knows with all the single-parenting and all the packing... 


  1. Matt is leaving on Sunday for two weeks. I'm already dreading it. So this post was perfect. Allie has been more clingy this month (teething?). Owen and I have been having more battles than normal lately so I think I'm just going to have to chill out. We just got a pool membership and their Otter Beach play area is open for a few more weeks so I'm pretty sure we'll be regulars at Toddler Time.

  2. You should add #8) Try not to get sick. It's bad enough taking care of kids when you're sick and your husband is around but it's much worse when you're sick and you have no relief...until your husband comes home.

  3. And I just remembered that I did the single-parent potty training too while Greg was gone to North Africa for two weeks. I remember you being there when Ava pooped in the potty chair. Ava was potty trained - she GOT it back then. Just didn't stick really well after that, ha.


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