Before even starting the post I have in mind I want to mention that I am quite aware that I have no right/reason to complain about solo parenting when so many others out there are doing it for longer stints than I am, or even permanently. I RAISE MY DRINK TO YOU. After only a week of doing this on my own I have had moments where I questioned my sanity, where I cried, where I have seen myself get more frustrated than ever, where I have felt weak, and where I have struggled. I have also had the contrasting moments where I have felt proud, empowered, strong, patient, and “adult-like”. It’s been a whirlwind experience. Parenting is hard, no matter that parenting style or situation you are. So I RAISE MY DRINK TO ALL PARENTS. (Yes that puts me on to drink number two!)
Lets also make it clear that I am not actually sailing. Our boat is on a mooring ball in a protected bay and I have absolutely no intention of moving it until Eben gets back, unless the weather forces my hand.
Seven days ago Eben jumped on a plane to Tanzania, where he will be spending a total of three weeks. In the short amount of time that he has been gone I have come to realize one major thing, that I get treated like quite the PRINCESS on our boat. (I am only admitting to this here because I know that he wont be reading it, given that he is in Africa with limited access to internet! Shhh I don’t want my princess status revoked!) Not to downplay our family roles, but mine consists mainly of raising, educating, and playing with the kids. This is not always the easiest of jobs and I am not saying that Eben doesn’t help doing that, HE DOES, but I am saying that outside of cleaning and laundry, those are about all of my “chores”. Now that he has left me to fend for myself I see all the extra time and work that he puts in. Cooking, dishes, boat maintenance, those all fall on him. And wow do those thing ever take up a crapload of time and effort.
Without having him around to bounce ideas off of, to pass the torch to, or to “tag out” when I am at my wits end, I have had to become Super Mom. I have also seen where my mega weaknesses are. Bedtime is my achilles heal. But this post isn’t about me losing my shit and having mental breakdowns when the kids won’t go to sleep or ask me for the 18th “last” hug and kiss. (As I am writing this Ellia is in bed, avoiding nap time, whimpering to herself that her bed isn’t big enough and that it’s my fault. She’s testing me!)
This post is about how I have learned to loosen up on the reigns while my hubby is away, so that we can embrace this special mama-daughter time and we can all make it through this new experience happily. I don’t want this time away from Eben to mean that we buckle down and bare with it, I want it to be a fun experience where the girls can thrive and remember this time in a good light (and hopefully forget their mama sometimes pulling out her hair!)
So here is what I have learned to do:
Go Easy On Myself
I can’t dwell on those moments where I lose my patience and turned into the She-Hulk. Those moments when I am just so tired and fed up that I find it really hard to keep my cool. I have to notice what triggered them, learn from them, forgive myself for turning into the ugly green beast, and move on, trying not to repeat it again. Yes I need give myself a minute or two to realize how insane I must have looked and to feel bad about it, but then I must forgive and move on. Melting into the couch and kicking myself for my sometime lousy parenting skills is not an option, those kids still need to be put to bed and loved. Notice the triggers and move on.
Go Easy On The Kids
When the girls are being crazy, unruly, or showing behaviour that just “isn’t them”, I have to constantly remind myself to take it easy on them. I am not the only one who is learning the ropes of this single parent scenario. They are also adjusting to the situation. And they are also missing Eben just as much as I am. I may be husbandless at the moment, but they are also fatherless for three weeks, and that has to be hard on a three-year-olds understanding. It is expected that they won’t handle this well, that they will feel sad and angry. I can’t go ballistic at naughty behaviour when all they are really looking for is a little extra love.
Breakout Of Groundhog Day
Kids love routine. I love routine. Routine is healthy. But I can only do so many “Eat, Play, Sleep, repeats” before going crazy. Most of the time our trick is to change scenery, go to a new island, discover a new place. But since I am not moving the sailboat on my own, I have had to become a little more creative to keep things fresh and new. We have been doing a lot of different projects, crafts, and activities everyday so that we don’t feel like we are stuck in a continuous loop of “the same old” even though our boat is stuck in the same spot. Remember that a drive to the park, or to the store, or to town, to change things up isn’t quite so easy when it actually means a 2 mile dinghy ride braving the waves and weather to get to the closest “main” island. We will do it a couple of times while Eben is gone, but for the most part, I have had to become entertaining in our own home.
|Everyone looks entertained. I am winning!|
Don’t Over Complicate Meal Time
I don’t do much cooking on the boat. I enjoy cooking, but Eben enjoys cooking even more, so he does it. Now with just me as the full-time chef I find that meal planning and prep is draining. So this is definitely not the time when I am going to start making things complicated and attempting all these big new meals. You will not be seeing any Chicken Cordon Bleu on the menu while its just me and the girls. I have decided to make it easy on myself and make the meals that they enjoy. I ask the girls what they want for supper, and most of the time that is what they will get. Luckily for me our girls have very healthy appetites and I have no problems granting them the chicken salads or Indian food they request. On the flip side, there have been one or two lunches that have consisted of peanut butter sandwiches with raw veggies on the side. And that’s ok too.
Remove the TRIGGERS
You’ve probably picked up that my hardest time of the day is naptime and bedtime. This is mainly because I know once the girls are asleep it is now “my time”. Subconsciously I feel that every minute that they fight me on going to sleep is a minute they are stealing from my quiet time. Cue the Ugly Green Beast! To keep that beast at bay and to not throw my kids overboard out of pure frustration I have started being a little more lenient at bedtime. I’ve decided to choose my battles and this one I can ease up on. Out of the 6 nights Eben has been gone I have ended up with one, if not both, of my kids sleeping in my bed. We have talked about it and they understand that once Eben comes back the sleeping arrangements will go back to normal, but for now we play musical beds and all enjoy the cuddles.
As strong and independent as I imagine myself to be, I have also come to realize that I can’t do it all. We have two buddy boats anchored near us right now and I have had to lean on them for help. They have been there for me when I realized that I am physically unable to deadlift a 5-gallon jug of water from my dinghy onto our boat deck. (I obviously need to start working out my biceps more!) They have been there for me with afternoon playdates on the beach, where the kids can run free and I can vent about the days events. And they have been there for me with big open arms when I am missing my husband and need a hug (Brittany has been doing the hugging, not Scott or Peter FYI!) It has been a huge help having them all around for mental and physical support.
All of this has occurred to me in only one week of being on my own with the kids. I am curious and scared to see what the next two will bring. But I am positive that I will most likely RAISE ANOTHER GLASS!