To start with: solo parenting refers to a family where there are two parents, and one is temporarily away. It is different from single parenting, where parents are either divorced, widowed or no longer in a relationship with the other parent.
We sometimes – or more often than that – can find ourselves in a situation where parenting the kids is a one-person task. Mostly, this could be the case when the other half is away from home. More specifically in our case: my better half was working and living abroad for more than two years in a country far, far away… welcome to solo parenting.
“Mam, how do I solve y = 1/4x – 4?” “Eh ask your dad? Let’s call him now.” It’s morning here in KL, but I forget that the Math-parent is still asleep in the part of the world that he has been calling ‘home’ for now. On top of that it’s his day off and he’s probably sleeping in. Feeling brave, I grab my laptop instead and start searching for ‘equations’. That’s what I think my daughter is talking about?
Only if I could split myself in half, that would make my life much easier. I realise this once again after my son texts me for a ride back home, when his soccer match finishes early. Since I am taking his younger sister to the other end of KL, I tell him that I can’t and will order him a Grab. He should be old enough for that…? I feel bad, but there is only so much I can do.
Solo parenting can be challenging, for the parent at home, for the children and for the partner who is away. Not just physically, but also emotionally, maybe even more so. It can be tough, no matter what age the children are. It is not impossible though!
Here are a few thoughts and ideas that can help with solo parenting.
1. Simplify your life
It can be exhausting, to try and do all tasks at home by yourself, when you’re used to dividing them. When it comes to managing the family, just make it easy on yourself. Start by making housework and dinnertime more simple. Grab food is only a few clicks away!
2. Stay in touch with the other parent
This is especially challenging when there is a time difference between two countries. Even if there is nothing in particular to talk about, just get in touch daily to say “hi”. If the kids get bored with it, ask them to make a drawing instead. Keep sending those pics, texts, and videos. Thank God for modern day technology…
3. There is only one captain on the ship
Of course, that choice between buying a Lamborghini or a Mercedes, you probably should discuss with your better half to avoid painful situations. Other than that, for day-to-day decisions, just make up your own mind and choose whatever you think is right.
4. Pick your battles with the kids
Saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ at appropriate times is important, however playing both ‘good cop’ and ‘bad cop’ at the same time is an impossible task. Give yourself (and the kids) a break and be ok with saying the dreaded ‘yes’ a few times more often than you’d do normally, when the other parent is present.
5. Be kind to yourself
Please practice self-care. To keep being a patient and gentle mama or dad, do take up that invite for a posh lunch, and do treat yourself to a nice massage. A few ideas here! You need to stay in good shape, both physically as well as mentally. Aim to thrive, not to float.
What did we learn?
Being a solo parent, I learnt how to manage time more efficient, how to balance emotions and work, kids, and social life, and how to maintain our relationship. Also, I found a few more places that offer great massages… Our kids learnt that being with one parent only can be fun too. The great thing about solo parenting: it’s not forever!