Parenting Solo – What I’ve Learned When The Husband Is Away

Although he has the luxury of ‘working from home’, the Husband spends most of his weeks travelling which leaves me to hold the fort and experience the joys of parenting solo.

parenting solo - Caitlin and Ieuan arguing in the garden
There’s never a dull moment

Now I am not claiming that my experience of parenting solo is anywhere near that of a single parent but my time alone with the kids has given me an insight into the trials and tribulations we parents face when the role of good cop and bad cop falls to us for days on end.

In the early days, I used to feel very anxious at being left alone and I still hate locking up at night. Houses tend to make all sorts of funny noises when they cool down and I am such a scaredy-cat that I hate passing uncurtained windows just in case someone is lurking.

Of course, I can’t pass on any of this anxiety to the kids!

Here’s what I’ve discovered when I’m parenting solo.

The kids will gang up on you

My two have worked out how to wind me up with all the subtlety of MI5 in order to avoid i) eating unnecessary vegetables and ii) getting into bed before I have spent 30 minutes pacing the floorboards while they clean one tooth at a time.

The logical extension of this is that the kids will then start to parent you, viz, “Mum, you’re really grumpy so we think you should go to bed at the same time as us tonight”.

They will all want to use the same toilet

It doesn’t matter how many toilets there are in the house, they will all want to use the same one – especially if you are in it.

They will also synchronise bladders to precisely 5 minutes before bedtime, even though they otherwise have the bladder capacity of camels.

There will never be any toilet roll left.  The cardboard tube will be rolling around the floor and new toilet rolls will have to be unearthed from the cupboard under the stairs using a torch and several choice expletives.

You will not find out that the toilet roll has run out until 11:59 pm.

There will be something very urgent to be communicated as soon as you go downstairs at night

For example, whether Caitlin can go to the beach to collect sea glass or if Ieuan can buy his 27th light-sabre.  How the Hadron Collider works – that sort of thing.

Your attempts to cook will be futile

Firstly you’ll be so knackered from the constant negotiation to get them to school and back, plus homework and the usual after school activities that you won’t feel like it.

If you do cook anything it won’t be as good as dad’s and you may just as well resign yourself to pizza, spag bol and something inventive with fish fingers.

parenting solo - my baked potato hedgehog
My lovely Hedgehog Potato

Any household appliance about to burn out or break down will do so

Our boiler likes to cut out from time to time ensuring a short, sharp icy shower.  It never does this when I am bathing the kids, but saves it for me.

If the kids are going to be ill,  it’ll be now

You know that tremor you feel in your gut when you hear 60% of your kid’s classmates have gone down with the latest plague?  That suspicion that you’re next on the list?  It usually happens when the husband’s away.  Best get the bucket and Dettol out just in case.

And if the kids aren’t ill, it’ll be you

In which case don’t bother because languishing in your bed waving a lace hanky around and demanding smelling salts won’t get you anywhere.  The best you can hope for is gnawing a chunk of yesterday’s pizza slumped in front of Power Rangers in your dressing gown whilst the kids moan about your cooking.

In any case, you will have run out of Calpol

I swear the stuff evaporates.  We do, however, have a cutlery drawer containing 25 Calpol syringes.  I should throw them out but they may come in, you know, useful at some point.  For feeding baby hamsters or something.

You won’t get to talk to your other half on the phone

When the Husband phones, I either have to physically remove the phone from the kids whilst they run through their day minute by minute, or the poor sod gets little more than a grunt from them because they are lost in YouTube or Roblox.

He does little better with me because I am, by this stage, cross at being left alone whilst he,  in my eyes, is living it up in 5-star luxury in a place which never runs out of toilet roll and has things like a mini bar and staff.

You talk to yourself

I do this anyway but in the absence of any other adult conversation, I find I can have very interesting two-way conversations about business, politics, literature – all sorts of things.

When it becomes a three-way conversation I know I’m getting a bit stressed.

You need your mum and your mates

It’s great to have someone to turn to when it all gets too much and, for stay-at-home mums like me, I have made some great friends on Facebook.  There’s also the wisdom of other parenting bloggers too. We’re all going through the same things and sharing our experiences.

You might indulge in a bit of ‘whingeing’

Having given up work and despite being lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mum, there are times when I hanker after the freedom that comes with leaving for a job every morning and having someone left behind to carry the load.

I don’t doubt that the Husband works very hard but sometimes I think we mums just wish we could hit the off switch for a bit and give our brains a rest from all that fretting and mothering!

You count your blessings

You know it’s not actually so bad and you do discover you can cope with more than you thought.  You do get an insight into what it might be like to be a full-time single parent.  I have written before that single parents have nothing but my absolute admiration.

It makes you appreciate your partner a lot more, although it does shine a light on your individual parenting styles.  The Husband always says I am not consistent in my approach which is often true – but when there’s one of you, you don’t always want to be the bad cop, do you?

I do think there is what I can the “superstar daddy syndrome” – where the partner comes home and the kids react as if David Beckham has just walked in.  You are suddenly invisible.  That mad woman chewing pizza in her dressing gown moaning about the lack of toilet roll.

This usually lasts about 24 hours – or until the Husband lays down the law about vegetable eating or cleaning teeth in under 15 minutes.

Then,  happily, balance is restored.  Mummy is rightfully restored to her place as all-round nurturer and the nice one who soothes brows and knows where the Calpol syringes are.

It’s very easy to get quite competitive for the kids’ attention, isn’t it?

There’s nothing like one partner working away and the other holding the fort to throw a torchlight on a relationship and your parenting styles.

Being older, the Husband and I are quite traditional in our approach and we have a system that works for us but you may find that time spent parenting on your own for a bit throws up all sorts of issues that need an honest discussion and possibly a renegotiation of responsibilities.

Do you have to parent solo from time to time?

Make sure you’ve got enough toilet roll and pizza.

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