Surviving Single Parenthood Without Babysitters.

Sometimes in single parenthood, or any type of parenthood, the babysitting offers aren’t exactly flooding in and you have to figure out how to manage it all by yourself. It can be difficult, especially if your kids aren’t napping or sleeping at night or if you never get to go out without them. I am definitely not an expert on parenting advice: I feel like I’m improvising most of the time. (That was a fancy way of saying I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.) But I have had long periods of time without a minute away from my kids so I have figured out some tips that have helped me survive.

Sleep Routines

If you have more than one kid, trying to control their sleep patterns as much as possible is crucial, because without doing this you don’t have a minute alone, and if you don’t have a minute alone you get snappy and turn into mean mummy. When my second baby was born I put her down for a nap at the same time as her sister, even if she lay awake resting so that she got used to having a nap at that time of the day. They learned how to nap at the same time as each other. Have the same bedtime each night and a bedtime routine that is predictable. If they know it is approaching, they won’t fight it as much.

Have House Hobbies

It is really easy to feel like you are losing your sense of self when all you are doing is caring for kids, constantly. I think it’s important to have at least one thing of your own that you love doing that you can do at home (when you’re trapped in the house when they are asleep.) If you pick something soothing like painting or reading it isn’t too taxing and it gives you a sense of purpose outside of parenting.

Use Travel Cups

I hear so many mums talking about how they never get a cup of coffee or tea when their kids are awake because they just spill it everywhere. At least if you use a travel it reduces the chance of them kicking it all over you. Having something resembling a coffee break definitely preserves your sanity. (Even if you still need to reheat it fifteen times.)

Snack Time Is Your Saviour

When things are getting fraught in my house, I bring out the snacks. You can make it into a mini tea party so it keeps your kids occupied for a while and you get to sit down for a minute.

Have Pamper Evenings

I hate the term self-care, so I’m not going to use it. However, since the prospect of going to a spa any time soon is unrealistic, make your own at home. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. You can get face masks in the pound shop. Scented oils smell like spas. Use tea lights and turn the lights off; it is infinitely more relaxing.  Also if you’re sitting in a dark candlelit room you can almost imagine that you aren’t stuck in your house.

Go For Long Walks Or Drives

As long as no one is hungry or over tired, long walks and drives can be a life saver. If your kids are contained in a pram it gives you much needed head space. If they are walking, there is enough happening around them to do the entertainment so you don’t have to. Plus getting out in fresh air always improves my mood when I’m losing it. Similarly, as long as your kids aren’t cranky and throwing a fit in the backseat of the car, they are safely strapped in and it gives you space and time to think.

Have Treats To Look Forward To

It is easy to get disheartened as a single parent when you feel like there is nothing to look forward to. Sometimes the days can all blend together into absolute monotony. Have a cupboard full of treats for when your kids are in bed, or for when you’re hiding from a tantrum in the kitchen. Buy packs of projects to do at home. You can easily find cheap packs of card making supplies or adult colouring books. I always find that creating something lifts my mood and makes me feel like I still have a life of my own.

Have A Weekly Tradition Just For You

This could be something simple like a bottle of wine, a takeaway night or a box set you want to watch. If you only make it a weekly tradition it gives you the impression that there is something special to look forward to. Your time is mostly divided between entertaining and caring for your kids and sitting at home while they are in bed, so you have to make that time interesting.

Community Events With A Creche

Sometimes I find that these events aren’t well advertised, but if you ask around they do exist; make phone calls and ask around. I currently attend an art class for mums that has a creche. It gives you a break for a couple of hours and allows you to do something for yourself. One thing usually leads to another, so if you go to every mums and tots available, or find a community centre, women’s centre, Sure Start or even the library, you end up with more to attend than you have days to fit them into. It is really important to talk to other mums and meet people who understand what you are going through.

Don’t Have Unachievable Expectations For Yourself

I need to listen to this one. It is easy to be hard on yourself as a mum and to feel like you are failing in everything you do, but try and remember that you are juggling a lot. You are doing a job alone that was designed for two. This could also apply to mums with partners who work a lot or aren’t hugely involved. You can’t compare yourself to other mums because everyone’s circumstances are entirely different. Forgive yourself if you snap: you aren’t a one woman show, even though it might feel like it a lot of the time.

I hope this was at least a bit helpful and gives some ideas of ways to hold onto yourself through the draining experience that motherhood can sometimes be.

 

 

 

How To Stay At Home With Your Kids Without Going Completely Insane.

I’m actually the wrong person to be writing this post: I actively avoid staying at home with my kids. I usually go out twice a day with them just to make life easier. However, if for some reason we are confined to our four walls, I have come up with a few things that save my sanity (even though it was questionable to begin with.) I’m not an expert here so this is probably all really obvious shit.

  1. Have a routine. Even a crappy routine, like 7am: cornflakes, 7.30am: get everyone ready, 8.30am read stories. Without a routine, it feels like the possibilities of what can happen are endless, which sounds nice, but if kids are involved that isn’t a good thing.
  2. If things are getting tense, yell “snack time” and put them into highchairs, even if they’re five. At least then you have five minutes to drink coffee without it being kicked round you. Always have a huge collection of snacks in the cupboard that require minimal preparation. There is nothing worse than trying to assemble fancy hors d’oeuvres when two toddlers are wailing at you and shouting demands. I’m speaking from experience here. Anything that is in a packet and just needs opened is ideal, as is fruit that doesn’t need peeled.
  3. Do something weird. Kids go quiet if they’re surprised by something. So whether that is you suddenly galloping around the room or transforming the playpen into a cool tent, it’ll buy you some time to soothe your shredded nerves.
  4. If you’re in a giving sort of mood where the prospect of an hour’s cleaning doesn’t sound horrific, you could do crafts. I have messy crafts like painting for when I’m feeling calm and if I’m feeling stressed I give them stickers. You can’t make that much mess with stickers, unless they get near a wall. I also do highchair crafts to cut down on mess. If your kids are at least partially contained, the messy eruption doesn’t stretch as far.
  5. The TV is your friend. A friend that produces the shrill voices of kids’ TV presenters, but a friend none the less.
  6. If they are crying for no reason other than to wind you up, turn on music and sing in stupid voices. It stops tantrums, even if it’s just because they are momentarily freaked out.
  7. Come up with obscure tasks that they must do immediately. For example, “I really need you to wash the door of that cupboard right away.” It keeps them busy and surprisingly they think it’s amazing.
  8. Go out. Staying indoors with kids is a terrible idea.

I might follow this with a serious version of this post with ideas of simple, free things to do with your kids.

 

No Crying Before Coffee.

I used the to hate alarm clocks until I had kids. At least alarm clocks can be silenced; kids don’t have a button that allows you an extra five minutes to gather yourself before they rush you from bed. I’m not a morning person: I like to ease myself into the day. It takes about half an hour and a heavy duty crane to extract me from my bed. I don’t like when people are cheery in the morning. I don’t like when people ask me questions before coffee. It will always be a mystery to me how people are able to be affable without caffeine in their system.

So I really don’t understand why kids don’t have a coming round period when they open their eyes. Their eyes flip open like the the lid of my lighter on a bad day. They don’t have a state of semi-conscious. They are immediately animated and expect the same level of involvement from you.

I am usually awoken by a finger in my eye and the words “Mummy’s eye.”

“Yes, Mummy has eyes, I think. Can’t open them though,”  I respond.

“Oh, Mummy,” they laugh, as if I’m a doddery old fool.

I feel like saying “Don’t speak to me until I’ve had coffee.” Instead I try to force a smile and give the shortest possible answer to questions.

I ‘m ushered into the kitchen, followed by a barrage of questions.

“Mummy, I have Weetabix? Mummy, I get dressed? Mummy, I go nanny’s house?”

I feel like shouting “For the love of Christ, let me wake up first.” I work hard to suppress it.

Being on the receiving end of a stream of questions isn’t the best way to greet your day, but unexplained crying fits are worse. (From them, not me.)

I don’t understand when the day commences with a tantrum when nothing has even happened yet. Not just nothing bad, but nothing good has happened either,because we have literally just woken up. If anyone listened to me I’d definitely enforce a no crying before coffee rule. At least after coffee I’ve reached a level of consciousness at which I can almost handle it.

The Cot Vaulter – Breaking Bedtime.

I love when half seven is approaching; pm that is. After an arduous day there’s nothing better than bedtime being in sight. You’re sitting reading your kids’ favourite books while they use you as a trampoline, shouting you down and kicking you in the face. However, you no longer even feel the need to shout when they knee you in the eye. All annoyance that was building inside you has melted away because you can see the minute hand edging its way towards half past. You fantasise about sitting down, drinking tea that’s above room temperature and eating chocolate in plain view.

The hands of the clock reach half seven and you slam the book closed. “Bedtime!” you shout out with finality, trying to not be too be too vociferous about your delight. “See you in the morning,” you say cheerily, placing emphasis on the morning part, like a pleasantly worded threat. You skip out of the room.

Then it starts: the cot vault.

You’re sitting on your laptop, watching a make-up tutorial when suddenly your child is at your side.

“What the hell?” you’re thinking. “You’re only one, how did you sprout legs long enough to get out?”

You lead her back to the room, thinking you somehow must have forgotten to place her in the cot in your haste to get away.

No, you realise, she’s mastered the high jump. You’re screwed. You put her back, hopeful it was a one-off and that she’ll forget how to do it again, roll over and drift into a peaceful slumber.

Speaking of which, why is it called sleeping like a baby when babies don’t sleep?

You spend the next two hours dashing back and forth between the living room and her bedroom, determined to carve out alone time. That isn’t happening. She doesn’t appreciate the sanctity of adult time. She doesn’t know you’ve been eyeing up a bar of chocolate since 3pm, waiting for a minute alone to eat it without hearing “Mummy, I some, I some, I some.”

Not only does she not stay in the cot, she doesn’t stay in it for longer than two minutes at a time. You thought your exhausting day had finally reached its close and now you’re having to do a full work-out too, and you make a concerted effort to avoid the gym. This is like weight-lifting and the treadmill simultaneously.

You plead with her, “Just stay in bed. Now say night night.”

“Night, night,” she chirps.

“Good,” you think, “That’s that nipped in the bud.”

You sit down. She appears in the doorway again. She lured you into a false sense of security with that night, night of hers. She now thinks it’s a game and that you think it’s funny too. She’s sorely mistaken. You chase each other back and forth between rooms for what feels like weeks. How can a one year old out-run you, you wonder? Oh yeah, you remember, it’s because three years of sleep deprivation and children climbing on you has left you weary, weak and crippled.

After hours of this devilry, she finally stops smirking as you lay her down to sleep. “Thank God,” you think, “five minutes peace until my bedtime.” You sit down with a sense of achievement; similar, I’d imagine to how a person feels when they have finally wrestled a relentless crocodile into submission. Only this isn’t over. See you in my doorway at 6am tomorrow, little crocodile.