Kari's guide to keeping your sanity while "single parenting"
Every year, Kyle goes on at least two looooooong trips - 10 to 15 days apiece. He also does quite a few shorter ones - weekends, 4-5 dayers, etc. In the olden days, without kids, I just used to get a little lonely when he was gone. With two kids, it is much harder, but I've also gotten so much better at coping, its often nearly painless. and fun. No more tear filled phone calls or moping on the couch eating bon bons until 2am.
Lucky you, I am going to share all the secrets and strategies I've learned for coping over the last couple years. Your main objective is keeping sanity and not burning out. If you a mom, this is your number one priority, your kids are depending on you and having a weepy mommy doesn't help anyone. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, your mood will be so much better.
Planning ahead is key. Make some calls, do your grocery shopping & have a schedule in place before he leaves. It is so easy to get apathetic & depressed (at least for me. Please say its not just me) if you don't have things already planned, things you can look forward to.
It's also tempting to "make life easier" while he is gone by doing nothing, slacking on housework, taking it easy. This doesn't work (for me anyways), it just leads to the aforementioned apathy & depression, screaming kids, miserable mommy.
Without further ado, here it is:
Kari's plan for fun times without the man.
1. Plan ahead - make some phone calls and make sure you spend time with other adults at least every other day while he is gone. Every day is even better. Full schedules help the time go quickly.
2. Plan some fun, extra special activities to do with the kids. Rent a movie & eat popcorn together, go ride the ferry. Make it a special time for all of you - a family tradition that the kids get sort of spoiled whenever Daddy is gone.
3. Try bumping your schedule. I always feed the kids at 5 or 5:30 and have them in bed by 7 or 7:30 when Kyle is gone. That's just a 30 minute difference, but leaves room for....
4. Eat a big lunch, then wait till the kids are in bed to cook and eat your dinner. So much easier than trying to do it all while they are awake, think of it as your special treat for doing such a great job that day.
5. Make an effort to cook & eat your favorite foods. Usually your husband is having all his meals paid for on trips, so spend the extra money on yourself. A $15 bottle of wine will last you 2-3 nights (if you have those special corks & air remover tool) so that's only $5 a night! Way cheaper than having you BOTH drink nice wine and finishing it in just one night.
6. Instead of ordering take out, which is a pain to pick up by yourself with two kids, invest in some quality ingredients that are quick to prepare and will cost you the same as takeout.
Sure, $15 for fresh picked dungeoness crab meat is expensive. But mix it with some cream, fresh tomatoes, pasta.... That's a $20 meal for just one person, but you could easily spend that on a boring ol pizza if it was for both of you. And it'll come together in less than 20 minutes, I promise.
My go to dish for quick, delicious & relatively healthy - sautee sea scallops or filet mignon in a hot pan with oil. Lay them on a bed of salad greens. Saute shallots in the same pan till soft, add some white (fish) or red (beef) wine, reduce for 2 minutes, then toss in fresh herbs (parsely for the scallops, tarragon for the beef) and whisk in a tablespoon of butter. Drizzle over your meat and greens - voila - delicious salad.
And it is so much cheaper to cook for just one person. If it was both of you, that'd cost $20! For just you, its only $10! Awesome! Just look how thrifty you are!
5. Plan ahead to have movies your husband hates (foreign, musicals, anything with sarah jessica parker or richard grereer in it) around to watch while he is gone. Better yet, choose a tv series. Whenever Kyle is gone, I watch The Office every night. It's almost like they are my special friends who visit me whenever he is away. Wait...what was that about retaining your sanity?
6. Clean up the whole house every night. Do the dishes, pick up toys. I know it is oh so tempting to leave it since no one will know except you, but falling behind is a nightmare and it will keep you so much more energized to have everything clean in the morning. Trust me, I've tried both. Discipline makes you feel lots better than loafing.
7. Get yourself a babysitter for one night. Everyone feels bad for you when your husband is away, so make sure you take full advantage and have a friend watch the kids one night so you can go do something fun. Trust me, if your husband was the one home alone, he'd DEFINITELY do this (even if you were only gone for 6 hours), so you should too.
8. Obviously cooking & good food are my "thing". If yours is something different, just substitute "buy yarn and start a new project" for "buy filet mignon". Or whatever floats your boat. Just be sure to rationalize your purchase as explained above - you are actually SAVING money by not paying for your husband's food this week.
9. Play some really silly games with your kids, the kinds that usually only Daddy plays with them while you watch and laugh. They miss him & this will help.
Hope this helps, or at least made you laugh. I'm off to get the kids their 5pm dinner so I can enjoy my crab fettucine in peace....
By the way, for those moms who eat alone every night and watch the kids long hours while their husband is in school/working two jobs/in the military/etc - you are my heroes.