In real time: a week of solo parenting, a new attitude, and how everything changed

The past week has gone so much better than expected. Yeah, there have been some tough days and/or nights, but considering my husband is out of town, my home’s main floor is under  construction putting my fridge in the garage (great diet plan, BTW) and my kids haven’t managed many veggies outside of a green smoothie 2 nights ago, we are doing alright! Dare I say, well? OK; we’re doing well.

29892723944_c879cd9932_oI was remarking to myself that this is not the usual scenario of feelings or circumstance when my husband travels for work…especially not after 8 days–the length he will have been gone when he returns. Why the change of attitude? Well I thought about it and now we’ve got this post.

Same circumstances, different attitude.

Sam was originally supposed to be gone Monday morning to Friday night, but an email request came to our church congregation for volunteers to help out with the flood damage in Goldsboro, NC between Friday to Sunday. I know how much Sam loves to help with this kind of thing (he really does!) and thought he should go. With my own house in renovation mode, I made this decision in a humbling moment of consideration over the fact that the people he’d be helping have homes resembling soggy gingerbread. It is awful. I could totally spare him a few extra days! And thus told him this within 5 minutes of seeing the volunteer request. I didn’t overanalyze it or think of myself (generally speaking, unfortunately, I do this quite a bit!)–I just told him to go. I rose to the occasion, you might say.

For reference: my historical attitude when he travels is a preemptive “Oh nooooo, why do I have to parent alone for this 2-3 day period? Everything is going to be harder without him and I won’t be able to have any reprieve from the kids or my work load. I HATE THIS! Don’t leave me here, alone!” And that’s before he leaves! Just imagine how well things go once it’s just me and the kids… Or don’t. It’s a bit frightening.

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Attitude is EVERYTHING.

We all have different challenges, but of course the internet makes it seem like some folks are exempt. Ain’t nobody exempt, people! These challenges (and their solutions) are yet another reason for this blog. Side note: I promise you we are not planning on turning this into some phony sponsored blog where we only talk about products we’re sent, blah blah. You’ll always get the truth from us, and the truth is that we too have challenges. But the point today is to look at how my attitude determines whether or not I survive or thrive amidst these struggles.

During Sam’s past work trips, my attitude has been about mere survival. If the kids are alive and I am too, I’ve checked the box. I know that seems pretty lame to the parents who do it solo 100% of the time, or the parents who have spouses in the armed services or who work for months in other states, only coming home when they catch a break and a good flight. I own that I am a wuss when it comes to solo parenting a toddler and a preschooler, and I salute your boss-ness. But please bear with me, remembering that no challenge affects two people in the exact same way.

This survival attitude completely set me up for failure (failure here being defined as being grumpy, angry, frustrated, stressed, generally anxious and unhappy, and therefore spreading such sentiments to my kids and those I came in contact with), and not even the warm fuzzy quote kind of failure that might make me think, “tomorrow is a new day! #rainbow”. It was an attitude of self-perpetuating negativity that made my life so much harder each day than it had to be. Example: when thinking “this is going to be awful” before the day even begins, I would get up and begin to notice every little thing that my kids were doing that makes me nuts and it put me on edge. I’m then on “naughty alert: level RED” and before long, I’m  walking in zig zags, bouncing from one to the other as they pave their path of chaos. Next, I’m unable to get anything done, because my attitude has turned our house into a circus. Finally, I alternate between spending the rest of the day yelling at my kids and telling myself that I’m horrible and my undeserving-of-this-treatment kids will grow up to be sociopaths because I’m their monster mother. Sad picture, right????

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Now, when I changed my attitude to thriving, I woke up the first morning thinking about my day almost as if Sam was here; which is most of the time with an upbeat I-can-do-this outlook. Although he wasn’t around to help get kids fed or keep them at bay so I can pee privately, I didn’t focus on Sam not being here. My whole day was more like it normally is. We still had melt-downs, I still got frustrated with different things and people, etcetera, but I focused on what I needed to do and not on what I couldn’t do. Honestly, it might have been a better week than I have had in a long time. All because of my attitude change.

Sam returns tomorrow night and I am totally going to give him a lot of quality time with the kids this weekend 😉 But I’m anxious to see what happens when I wake up on Monday morning. What will my attitude be? I wonder because I know that any muscle not worked will shrink. I want to know what my inclination will be when the help will be removed around 8 am. What then? I might need to summon up an attitude change without any preemptive stressing.

I’ll keep you posted.

XO-

signaturelee

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PS: Here’s what I did while Sam was gone that helped logistically

  1. Pre-dawn power hours at least every other day (haven’t been at 100% with the extra work load, but that’s ok because not every morning requires the same thing for me since my oldest isn’t in school full time), as well as a few late nights to pick up the slack of being solo. Bonus: I realized just how much Sam helps me when he’s here 😀
  2. Sticking to my guns about taking time daily to nourish myself and my needs through reading or something else fun or fulfilling. I even got a sitter last night to go to a friend’s house. This reset me each day and made me feel like an adult…which was more important than ever being the only one around.
  3. Asking for and accepting help. No [wo]man is an island! Let others be part of your solutions. My neighbor helped me out last minute on Saturday by running over for 20 minutes while Graham slept later than anticipated and I had to go grab Remy from a birthday party. What a gem! I would have had to wake Graham (he does not do that easily) and drag him out of bed for a quick round trip, without her help. It would not have been as pretty! On Monday, my parents swung by my house to check on the renovation process and I asked them if they could stay for a while so I could do some grocery shopping, stop by a doc appointment and the cabinet shop–all things I could do with kids, but are so much easier without kids. They obliged and made life so much easier for me. I did repay them by making them dinner, lest you think I’m only taking and not giving. Ha! But seriously, let people help you!
  4. Giving help. I do not toot my own horn by relaying this last tidbit with you. I share only to show that giving is always better than receiving, especially when you need to feel like you’re doing OK. No, like you’re doing well. On Tuesday, I had a standing appointment with a friend and since she hadn’t reached out, I considered briefly rescheduling it another day without bringing it up due to being a little more tired than usual. I changed my mind after a split second and asked her if she was still planning on me coming, only to learn that she was struggling big time with a 3 day migraine, being pregnant and having 1 and 5 year olds. Her husband was going to be working late and she was throwing up because of the pain. I asked what I could do, and she asked me (WHICH I AM SO GLAD SHE DID) to bring her dinner. And so I did. I brought her left over pizza (veggies hidden under the sauce and cheese) and a jar of applesauce. Nothing fancy, but I knew the kids would eat it and not add to her trial during dinner time. I felt unity with this friend knowing I could ease her burdens a little as others had eased mine. It also made me grateful that I didn’t have a migraine! Sometimes the easiest way to be positive about your trials is to look at others’ trials. Bottom line: giving help is a great way to improve your attitude.

XO-

signaturelee