So I'm going to start this piece with a massive hat tip to single parents - how you guys cope solo parenting is totally beyond me. I'd love to hear from you - what are your top tips for managing everything by yourself? Let me know in the comments.
For those of us that normally dual parent, suddenly becoming the solo parent is super tough. You're used to sharing the burden somehow - parenting, working, cleaning, cooking and all those annoying little jobs like mowing the lawn, taking out the bins. Normally you'll split those between you in a way that works, but then suddenly your partner goes away and you're stuck with it all. How do you cope?
Well, that's how I've found myself for the last month or so. My husband is in the army and has gone for a nice restful break to a sandy country, leaving me behind with our two adorable (ahem) kids, aged 3 (going on 13) and 10 months. It is a LOT. As I write this at 9pm, dinner in the oven, 10 month old starting to stir for his first night-time wake, I have chuckled to myself about WHAT ON EARTH AM I GOING TO TELL PEOPLE because I definitely do not feel like I've got it figured out.
But that's the entire point.
My first lesson is: you can't do everything. It sounds like an enormous cliché, but if you think about it, it's totally true. You literally have half of the amount of hours, and nowhere near half the amount of work. Maybe a few less pairs of underwear to wash a week, and one less plate to wash up a night. But HALF the amount of time. So first things first, you need to come to terms with that. (I still haven't.)
My second lesson is: ruthless prioritisation. What HAS to be done, what would be NICE if it were done and what can you get rid of. I'll politely suggest that you probably still need to feed the kids (and yourself!) and you might want to keep the washing going particularly if you're still in poonami territory, but do you need to dust every week? Or mow the lawn fortnightly? Obviously this will be different for everyone (here's me pretending I used to dust weekly before he went away...) but figure out what things you can drop. And then immediately drop them.
My third: TAKE THE HELP. I am terrible at this. So many people will offer you help. Take them up on it graciously. It's so tempting to try and be "super-mum" or "super-dad" and do it all yourself - literally, no one but you cares. Just take the damn help.
My fourth lesson: make some time for you. You HAVE to feel like you matter too, because it's absolutely relentless looking after kids all day, whether you have 1, 2 or 8. Somewhere in that day, even if it feels like the lowest priority at that moment, you have got to find a couple of minutes to do something for you. Even longer if you can. Sit in the garden and feel the sun on your face, have a hot cup of tea, call a friend, do some yoga - whatever it is that's going to remind you that you, YOU, matter too.
Lesson five? Wine box.
Tell me - does this sound familiar? Have you got any tips to add?