My husband has uncanny timing when it comes to knocking me up. This is the third time I’ve been pregnant and the third time he’s oh-so conveniently had a long stint away from home due to work. I can’t blame him, though; he’s in the military, and has to go when they tell him to. The running joke among military spouses is that your partner will only be around for the conception or the birth. I’m thankful he’s been around for both, both times, but I know I’m one of the lucky ones.
I’ve learned a few things over the years when it comes to solo parenting, especially when you’re pregnant, but the biggest lesson I’ve discovered is that you have to put yourself in survival mode.
I need to note that I fully understand that solo parenting is not like being a single parent. I still have a spouse, who is still very much in our lives; he’s our family’s main income provider, and despite the fact that he’s not physically here, we still make decisions together (as best we can). Communication is spotty and not consistent, but if there’s something I really need to ask him when it comes to raising our girls (and can wait a few days to hear an answer), I can. I also still have his emotional support; we can talk about my long, exhausting day and he’ll understand. I also know that he’ll be back—there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
What my solo-parenting survival mode looks like:
When it comes to food, home-cooked, organic dishes for every meal would be fantastic (for yourself, your kids, and especially the vulnerable fetus you’re carrying), but let’s be honest: ain’t nobody got the time or energy for that.
You know what you do have time for? Frozen waffles for breakfast, drive-thru for lunch, and dino nuggets for dinner…maybe with a few green beans thrown on the plate for color (and a pat on the back for giving them some veggies). Of course that’s not the norm at our house all the time, but I give myself grace—a whole heck of a lot of grace—for the days when it is.
Being pregnant, especially in the first trimester, usually means that you have no idea what you want to eat until you need something (like five minutes ago). I stock up on a variety of frozen meals (Jimmy Dean Breakfast Bowls are basically a gift from heaven), frozen pizza, and before my husband left for work, we even got ambitious and made a few homemade frozen meals (for the days when I really, really need some “good,’ non-processed food in my system).
Do What You’ve Gotta Do
Survival mode when you’re solo-parenting and pregnant also means letting your kids have a little more screen time than you probably normally would. The exhaustion that hits you, just from 24/7 care of your little ones is understandably tripled when you’re also growing another little human inside you.
I felt incredibly guilty while I let Mickey Mouse Clubhouse play on repeat while I lay on the couch, but on the flip side, the alternative was me dry heaving or falling asleep while in the fetal position as they got into mischief somewhere else. My kids often play out in the back yard and enjoy the nice San Diego air, or we’ll take advantage of a park that’s close. Going on a walk is sometimes the last thing I want to do, but once we’re out the door and on our way, it really does a body (and mood) good.
Let Things Slide
Hormones are high and tempers are short when your pregnant and the only parent around, and I’ve learned to pray that my neighbors turn a deaf ear to the yelling and crying that come out of my house on a daily basis. I’ve also given up on actually doing laundry. I wash and dry clothes, of course, but instead of hauling everything upstairs, we’ve just started playing a scavenger hunt game with the pile in the laundry room to find whatever we want to wear.
As for cooking and cleaning dishes, here’s my biggest tip: invest in paper plates and bowls, and plastic silverware from Costco. You can easily delay actually “doing” the dishes for several days by being able to throw things away.
Ask for Help
Another way to survive this horribly awkward season of life? Ask for help. It’s scary, and honestly really, really hard (especially if you’re new in town or if you don’t have a close group of friends yet), but it’s a skill that may literally save your sanity. Shortly before I got pregnant I found a reliable babysitter who is now my lifeline. She actually came over one day just so I could take a nap, because I didn’t know how I was going to function and care for my little people if I didn’t get some shut-eye—it was the best $40 I’ve ever spent.
The other day I had a doctor’s appointment I couldn’t change, and my sitter wasn’t available, so I asked a reliable stranger from our church’s mom’s group to watch my kids. I felt so awkward and vulnerable asking, but it turns out that she has kids my girls’ ages, and they got along wonderfully, so now they have new friends to play with!
Have you “been there, and done that,” when it comes to being a pregnant solo parent? Any other tips to help get you survive those long days?