Top tips for the temporary and unaccustomed lone parent

Disclaimer: I understand that for the many many single parents in the world this post may seem like a lot of fuss over what is their normal life. You are right and I salute you. Ditto if you have a partner who works all-hours or gives bugger all help with the house and kids. But I suppose we are all used to getting along in a certain way and when that changes for a while, it can seem a bit tougher, hence this post.

It’s just two more sleeps until Olly gets back form his ten-day work trip, which means I’ve almost done it – woo hoo! I usually find the reality of him being away far easier than I’ve anticipated and that by day 3 or 4 the sense of dread has been replaced with quiet determination (except daily at 6.45pm when there is often a distinct fraying of nerves).

Olly’s been doing a global job since before Elsie was born, so I’ve got pretty used to his absences which are normally about a week long. This one of course had extra significance as we’re uprooted from our support networks but I’ve got through! So I’ve been thinking about what are my top tips for surviving when your other half goes away. And here they are:

1, Get organised – plan your week, plan your meals, plan your playdates, make sure your cupboards are filled with treats (for you) and invite friends over at least one evening to break the monotony. It might seem like a lot of effort to cook for other people but as long as they’re close friends and don’t expect fine dining, just getting some adult company will make it worth it.

2, Stay tidy – boring but necessary. You’re going to get bugger all time for keeping the house clean, so do it as you go. Most important of all, do the dishes before bed otherwise you are DOOMED.

3, Eat with the kids – OK, so fish-fingers at 5.15 might not be for everyone but frankly, if I’m on my own I am only clearing up one dinner sitting. Once I’ve got the kids to bed and washed up from their tea I am not starting all over again. Plus, I’m usually starving by about 5pm and end up eating half the children’s dinner anyway, so it suits me.

4, Don’t get stuck in a rut – over the years I’ve got into a habit when Olly goes away of putting the kids to bed, pouring a glass of wine and vegging in front of the telly. This will get you through but it can make you feel a bit bleak. Like you’re just surviving whilst your other half is away – almost like being in prison (albeit one where good Pinto Noir is available). So this time I ditched the glass of wine and have tried to do other things in the evening, like write this blog. I have to admit that I’ve also watched a lot of episodes of Nurse Jackie, so it’s possible that this is more of a personal goal than a well-worn ‘tip’.

5, Prepare for some fallout – so after a week of struggling with kids who all miss their mother/father terribly, said parent comes home to be embraced by their family and to muck in with childcare, creating a warm glow of re-unitedness about the household, right? Well, not necessarily. First up, shock-horror, you might find you’ve quite enjoyed being the sole-carer for the kids. The two or three or four of you will have got into a rhythm and having someone come in on that might feel like an imposition. Secondly, the travelling parent is probably exhausted from a crazy week of meetings and a long-haul flight. Not that you care because they’ve stayed in a hotel every night and have been woken up by an alarm clock instead of a child wanting something. Then throw into the mix your children’s emotions which rather than overflowing with joy that mummy or daddy is back, they may well feel quite angry that the bastard ever went away in the first place. Elsie is usually a total pain in the arse the first couple of days after Olly comes home, which is all anybody needs after a tough week. You might therefore want to consider making plans on your own the day after your other half gets back to be sure that you get the break you deserve and they have to deal with the stroppy kids regardless of how knackered they are.

7, Be specific about gifts – it’s not a good look to throw things at your partner when they fail reward your temporary lone-parenting efforts with a present. The frequent-flyer especially might not think it’s necessary to buy you something on every trip. If this is not the case, then make yourself clear in advance of their departure. Better still, make it easy for them and tell them what you want. I’ve done very well for posh duty-free make up over the years. I’m not sure I reciprocated when I did work trips before Belle was born. Maybe I bought Olly some gin once. But there you go, he obviously doesn’t feel he needs presents and I do. So if you’re reading this at the airport, Ol, just veer towards the Lancome counter. Thanks.