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How to Survive Solo Parenting Without Losing Your Mind

Solo parenting sucks. There’s no denying that, because what you were handling with two parents is now thrown to you…just. you. But here’s the best part: You can, actually, survive solo parenting.

Solo parenting? This military spouse, and mom of three, shares solid advice on how to survive the days and nights alone with kids.

As a military wife for more than a decade, I can’t even tell you the amount of days, weeks, and months I’ve solo-parented over the past seven years; let’s just say it’s A LOT.

How to Survive Solo Parenting:

In case you’re new to this lifestyle, or just need a refresher or some new ideas, here are my go-to tips when you’re thrown into solo-parenting survival mode. There are lots of things listed below; sometimes I rock all of them and sometimes manage to make half of one work out.

Pick one and see if it works for you, then move on to something else. I didn’t develop all of these overnight; they’ve literally taken years of solo parenting to hash out. And you know what, some of these won’t work the next time we go through this. You do you.

Get into a Routine.

This is, and forever will be the first thing I always recommend: get into your own new routine as soon as possible. Figure out how to do bedtime and how to get out the door in the morning.

It’s trial and error until you figure out what works, but keep on keeping on; the sooner you stop wallowing in how you have to do it all alone, and how you used to do things, the sooner you’ll get your own rhythm going.

Also in this category is staying busy. I’m an extrovert by nature, and I get cabin fever if we don’t have enough going on, so I like to stay busy and have activities for us often.

Find Help ASAP

First things, first: find yourself some help with the kids. Finding a sitter (or two or three), is necessary to survive when you’re solo parenting.

If you’ve never left your child with someone and you’re anxious about it, stay at your house with the sitter the first couple times and just hang out in another room…or take a shower…or take a nap…or do anything alone.

I know the next thing you’re going to say: “But I don’t know anyone.” Well, I get it, and I’ve been there. You’re going to have to be brave (like I tell my kids all the time), and ask around. Ask friends, ask other moms at church, ask neighbors, post in FB groups, join something like care.com.

Sitters are out there, and it will make a world of a difference to have a number or two in your back pocket for when you need someone.

Early Bedtimes

“I don’t know how you do it,” is a phrase I hear all too often. And I get it; I’ve been solo-parenting three kids under the age of 6…that’s crazy, and if I wasn’t “doing it” I’d have the same question.

Lean in close, because here’s one of my biggest secrets to survive solo parenting: early bedtimes.

I used to be embarrassed when I’d say how early we put them in their rooms, but now I’m owning up to it, because it’s fantastic.

Here’s our nightly routine:
(keep in mind this is what I’ve done for a 2-3, 4-5, 6-7 year old; and the two oldest kids share a room)

6:30pm: we brush teeth and snuggle/sing bedtime songs in my bed
6:45pm: get my son in jammies and get him into bed; the girls get their jammies on while I’m in the room with him.
6:45pm: read to the girls in their room.
7:00pm: tuck the girls in, and I go downstairs. The girls play (i.e. do art, read, play, talk, etc.).
7:30pm: over the monitor I tell them it’s lights out
8:00pm: the girls are asleep.

Even though we start our bedtime stuff around 6:30, they don’t go to sleep until 8. But that gives us time alone at night, which has been so nice.

Skip the Dishes

The dirty dishes situation is the bane of my solo-parenting existence.

Make life easier on yourself, and buy some bulk plates, bowls, and plastic utensils. There’s nothing more annoying than putting the kids down to bed and then having to clean up a sink full of dishes.

But if you DO have dishes in the sink (because, let’s face it: coffee mugs can pile up quickly), wash them before you sit down for the evening. Let me say it again a little louder this time: WASH DISHES BEFORE YOU SIT DOWN FOR THE NIGHT. If you don’t, they’ll be around in the morning; there’s no magic dishwasher fairy.

Get THREE MORE of my all-time favorite sanity-saving mom hacks here!

Keep Meals SIMPLE

Speaking of dishes…which makes me think of food…don’t be afraid to give kids what they want for dinner.

I know we’re taught to give kids what we eat for dinner, but that just doesn’t work for our family when it’s just me and them.

My kids routinely have “snacks” for dinner, and I don’t feel bad about it anymore. Hey, they’re eating (I make sure it’s at least the cheddar gold fish or an apple rice cake). If we aren’t having “snack” night then they get easy things like: chicken nuggets, quesadillas (with some type of protein inside), grilled cheese, or homemade pizza, along with broccoli (the one veggie they almost always eat).

And guess what, they don’t complain, and I don’t have to beg them to eat. We’ll get back on our regularly scheduled actual dinners when my husband returns.

*Here’s the tray we use when we’re out and about; it keeps food cold for up to 6 hours!

Also, you know all those meal delivery ads you see everywhere (Home Chef, Hello Fresh, etc.)? They’re legit, perfect, and I wish I started them when my husband first deployed. It’s been amazing in trying to survive solo parenting last few months.

BUT here’s a trick: pick the ones that are “oven ready” or have a very short prep time. I also only get a meal for two, as opposed to a family meal that way I can have it for dinner two nights in a row or for dinner and lunch the next day.

Work it Out

Not only is working out great for your endorphins (i.e. they’ll help make you happier), but most gyms offer child care. Win freaking win.

Find a Hobby

Find something for you so you don’t get lost in the chaos of kids and solo-parenting life. For me, it’s this blog. Writing and getting my thoughts “on to paper.”

It’s also selling Pampered Chef and doing virtual parties here and there. They keep me busy and remind me that there’s more to me than just my kids.

Give Yourself Grace

You’re only one person, so hear me loud and clear: GIVE YOURSELF GRACE. You will fight, you will yell, you will be at your wits end, and think you’re a failure (YOU’RE NOT). Give yourself grace and remind yourself that not everyone does this all day every day. Remind yourself that bedtime is just around the corner, and that tomorrow is a new day. Remind yourself that your kids are resilient and full of sweet forgiveness.

Give yourself grace, mama; you’re only one person doing the job of two. You’ve got this! And even on your worst days, you’re still rocking it.

How do YOU survive solo parenting?

Do you have any tips or tricks on how to get through those messy, long, never-ending solo parenting days? Tell me about them below.

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    1. This is great advice!! Early bedtime, simple meals, community and working out are huge for me when solo parenting! I have also learned to accept help from others. I don’t know why I tried to do it all by myself for so long!

  1. You are a rock star! I’m not a parent, but I did a lot of solo days as a live-in au pair. (I was the first and last au pair in their family who experienced BOTH parents traveling for work at the same time on a regular basis).

    Having a routine was key! My kids were all older (10, 12, 5), but we still had a routine. I also let the kitchen/dining area remain cluttered until the day the parents got home. It was stuff the kids used every single day, so it seemed silly to put it all back every night. The parents wanted all the clutter kept away, so I had to tidy when they were there.

    Meals weren’t super-easy, but that’s because I had to cook with what the parents bought over the weekend. I always served at least 2 veggies, usually 3, so the kids could eat what they liked. I did eat REALLY well that year since the parents bought things like FILET MIGNON for me to cook for myself and the kids on a regular basis.

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