posted in: Parenting 85 comments

Here’s the thing: solo parenting sucks. It sucks 10 times more when you’re 26 weeks pregnant with twins and you’re feeling (and looking) 8 years pregnant. 

I have always been in awe of single parents, and parents whose spouses are deployed, or work away from home for extended periods of time. When I have to solo parent for 10 days though, I want to give them medals (after I scrape myself off the floor at the end of the day). 

In no particular order, here is how our days play out when it’s just the boys and I (and the twins in utero who keep me up at night already).

1. We eat breakfast for dinner more often than I’ll tell my husband.

2. The boys tear up paper into itty bitty pieces and I don’t even care anymore (despite my cleanliness OCD-ness). It keeps them occupied for more than 1o minutes, why fight it?

Solo parenting

3. They get daily baths only because water play occupies them for even longer than paper tearing.

4. The iPad gets pulled out a lot.

5. I’ve become very good at building castles with blocks.

6. I spend inordinate amounts of time putting them to bed because unlike their father, I can’t just sing songs for 5 minutes, turn the lights off and walk out. I have to sing for 10 minutes, give them water, lie down with each of them for equal amounts of time, negotiate with the toddler to take away whatever toy he’s brought to bed that’s keeping him (and his brother) awake even though his eyes are half shut, and if I walk out when either of them are still awake, someone cries, screams and comes out of the room a million times. Which delays them falling asleep for an additional 37 minutes. It’s just easier to lie down with them and take a nap.

7. I sleep less because a) I wake up in the middle of the night at least three times, thinking one of the kids are up (they’re not), b) the babies kick the heck out of me, and c) I’ve already taken a nap putting the boys to bed, so I go to bed really late, and still have to wake up at 6.00 am because I’ve apparently birthed morning people (except it appears the twins are night owls, so I can look forward to a few years of NO SLEEP).

8. I find myself trying to persuade the 4.5 year old to take a nap in the afternoon just so I can get a break. It doesn’t work. 

9. I binge watch House of Cards after the boys (finally) go to sleep, because I have no adults to talk to.

10. I eat ice cream while I binge watch House of Cards, because Lord knows I need it.

11. I take pictures of the boys throughout the day and send them to my husband, telling him how much he is missing, to induce guilt even though I know he has to travel for work, and not because he just wants to stay in a hotel room by himself ,and sleep through the night. I am such a wonderful wife, I know. 

12. Every morning when I wake up, I tell myself, “Only <insert number> days until he gets home!”, take a deep breath and drink a big cup of coffee. 

Parents who solo it, I want to give you a big fat hug, and feed you hot meals, because this shit is hard. 

How do you manage solo parenting?

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, Alison traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison's writing has been featured on Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, and She is one of 35 essayists in the anthology, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. In 2012, she founded Little Love Media, a social media consultancy specializing in blog book tours, and because she doesn’t sleep, is an editor at BonBon Break, an online magazine. Alison lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).

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  • July 21, 2014 Janine Huldie

    I solo parent all day long when my husband is at work and try to work from home (the key word there is try) and got to admit I too find myself counting down the hours until he is home for the day, too. Trust me, I would never make it as a full time solar parent either and would so give out medals and awards to anyone who is right about now myself!
    Janine Huldie recently wrote…Today It’s My SITS Girls Day!My Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      I almost always leap up with excitement when my husband gets home from work every day! πŸ™‚

  • July 21, 2014 The Bride

    I am incapable of solo parenting, and the fact that I have low immunity of the kind that has landed me with flu twice in one month doesn’t help.

    Hats off to you for solo parenting while pregnant.

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Boo, that sucks πŸ™

  • July 21, 2014 Tamara

    It’s hard, I admit, but it’s kind of interesting that when I know he’s not coming home, I don’t eye the clock as much. Usually that magical 5:00pm and on time is important to me! And I hate that, but it’s true. When he’s not coming home, I make an adventure out of it and I own the TV and eat ice cream. True story. (go do that!)
    I can’t keep up with all of their toys and I generally order chicken nuggets and french fries for dinner from the gourmet snack shack down the street.
    Tamara recently wrote…Food, Folks & Summer Fun.My Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      I watch the clock – for bedtime! (regardless of whether I’m solo parenting or not) Hah.

  • Oh, yes this shit is hard! You’ve brought back many memories with this post, Alison. You must be exhausted!! My ex also traveled a great deal when my kids were small. It was soooo much work. Plus, I think the kids know they can get away with more with mom…what’s with that? Take care of you and take a nice break when he gets back. πŸ™‚
    lisa thomson-The Great Escape… recently wrote…The Wine Diaries-Pieces of MeMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Oh yes, the kids definitely know that they can get away with more, little buggers πŸ™‚ I did have a nice 2-day break when he got back, a solo hotel stay!

  • July 21, 2014 Nicole

    This cracked me up, because I know the scene all too well…right down to the bedtime routine ridiculousness. The twins will add so much to that dynamic, lol. You are smart to embrace it with humor, and accept that this time in life will just be what it’s going to be. You are remarkable and strong. Totally deserved that ice cream and show binging!
    Nicole recently wrote…Embracing the Simple in Summer {$125 Giveaway!}My Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      My husband will actually be travelling more next year, so with four children by then, oh yes, I think it’d be interesting to say the least! πŸ™‚

  • July 21, 2014 Bev

    I’m amazed at men & women who solo parent! The most I have had to do it so far is two measly nights, with one child, and I so needed a break by the time my husband returned home. Enjoy your well-deserved ice cream while your husband is out of town.
    Bev recently wrote…Obviously I missed my calling as a poetMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      I absolutely did!

  • July 21, 2014 Tove Stakkestad

    I am SO glad you mentioned “breakfast for dinner” – that is my “go to” when my husband travels – that, and Happy Meals! ha ha I also end up having all the kids in my bed – this way I don’t have to keep tucking them in and playing musical beds – a game mothers of toddlers everywhere know and love! Hang in there, mama!!!
    Tove Stakkestad recently wrote…Comment on Mama’s Quotes by AlisonMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Musical beds – SO FAMILIAR! πŸ™‚

  • July 21, 2014 Kimberly

    Feeling 8 years pregnant…I die…I can’t even imagine.
    Also being solo?
    I’d lose my mind more since it already is lost!
    You’re tough stuff lady.
    Kimberly recently wrote…And Then She Stole My DonutMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      YOU are tough stuff, honey, with your pain issues. How are you, hon?

  • July 21, 2014 Jessica Smock

    My husband has taken a few trips since I began my pregnancy. I did not cope well. I ate a lot of candy and ice cream. 10 days is a long, long time, my friend! Pregnant with twins. You’re amazing!
    Jessica Smock recently wrote…Emily Gould’s New Novel FRIENDSHIP: A Review and GiveawayMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Thank god for candy and ice cream!

  • July 21, 2014 Laura

    I get all complainey when my husband can’t make it home for soccer (because seriously, how can one parent feed kids, get them ready for soccer, and manage a toddler while soccer needs parental involvement?)

    I have to say, I probably leave Dan home more often than he leaves me home alone these days, though how come bedtime is ALWAYS easier for Dad, huh?
    Laura recently wrote…Loving CanadaMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      It is, and it drives me crazy!

  • July 22, 2014 Rorybore

    Thankfully my hubby doesn’t have to actually go away that much, but the Shift Work? Man it’s killer too. He’s not deployed anywhere like in the military, but his shifts are 12 hours and then he has to come home and sleep — so he can go back again the next day. So he’s not exactly available for parenting either. and it is long hours alone for the one that remains behind. Even nights he does happen to be home, he can only last less than half way through a movie before he’s snoring and off to bed.
    I was raised by a single mom, so I know I don’t have it quite as hard….. but more than any child care, non sleep and household care duties: it’s just not the same when he’s gone. πŸ™
    Rorybore recently wrote…Monday Music Moves Me: Love Me, Love ALL of MeMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Ugh, shift work sucks!

  • July 22, 2014 janice

    I can’t imagine solo-parenting while pregnant with twins! Applause for you, you definitely deserved that ice cream! My aunt solo-parented her boys and all I have to say is, thank goodness for grandparents!
    janice recently wrote…Grandma + Naked JaniceMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Yes, I am so grateful for my in laws being just round the corner!

  • July 22, 2014 Elaine A.

    Counting down the days… oh I know.

    Also, I would say I handle the solo parenting with wine but I don’t really do that anymore so I’ll say ice cream too. πŸ˜‰ And lots of time in the bathtub. My kids can waste 45 minutes in there! Plus, then they are super clean!
    Elaine A. recently wrote…To Alberta, With LoveMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Water play IS AWESOME.

  • July 22, 2014 Rudri Bhatt Patel

    Solo parenting is hard. This month I’ve had to do it more often than not (10 days in a row) and it seems my patience tends to fray.

    I smiled when you said you binge watched House of Cards – I just started the series yesterday and love it. Tonight, I am definitely going to have some ice cream with my next episode.

    Hang in there!
    Rudri Bhatt Patel recently wrote…Right NowMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      I also did 10 days in a row, and was I glad when it ended!
      I finished House of Cards, all 3 seasons, can’t wait for the new one. Did you finish it?

  • July 22, 2014 Adrienne

    Ha! “8 years pregnant” I laughed out loud. Hang in there, mama! Your house looks like a fun place to be. Those boys are having a great time with you! That’s all that matters. πŸ˜‰
    Adrienne recently wrote…5 Things I Didn’t Know When I Started HomeschoolingMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      It’s fun to an extent I guess. Until I can’t stand the mess πŸ™‚

  • July 22, 2014 Julia

    This sounds a lot like what I do when my husband travels for work especially the TV and ice cream binges and the waking up cause I think Jack is awake. It’s rough. On another note I was away all weekend and I wonder if he does any of these things or if he sleeps just fine.
    Julia recently wrote…Friday FunMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      How did Jack do when you were away? My husband tells me when he solo parents (the rare occasion that he has), that it was “easy”, hah!

  • July 22, 2014 Herchel Scruggs

    I solo parent most of the year due to my husband’s job overseas. You get used to it and you start to learn what things you can let go. The judgement of others doesn’t affect you as much and you sleep when you can πŸ™‚ I stay up really late to write at night. You can do it, Mama!
    Herchel Scruggs recently wrote…Peaches and Riesling Popsicle for MommyMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Hats off to you, Herchel!

  • July 22, 2014 Lisa

    I solo parent pretty frequently because my hubby travels a lot for work. It is hard, but the more you do it the more you get used to it, I suppose. We have our routines and we figure it out. I will admit, though, it is much easier now that my kids are in school during the day ( except during the summer!).
    Lisa recently wrote…Today . . .I DecideMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      I have many opportunities to get used to it, because he’s going to be doing a lot more travelling next year! By then, we’ll have four kids, so that should be interesting.

  • July 22, 2014 Christine

    It’s so hard. My husband is so much better at solo parenting than I am. I get myself all worried and worked up about it because it is hard! Pretty much everything goes out the window when I’m dealing with them by myself. We order out more than I would like to admit and there is A LOT more TV/iPad too!
    Christine recently wrote…Overcoming Negative Thoughts and Learning to FlyMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Hey, whatever works to help us through the day! #NoJudging

  • July 22, 2014 Jessica Dimas

    Omg, I want to give YOU a big fat hug and feed you hot meals for being pregnant with TWINS, taking care of TWO boys AND being alone for 10 days. I could not survive. I can barely survive 8-5 with two boys and not being pregnant. You have my utmost respect! And do what you have to to survive!
    Jessica Dimas recently wrote…Dulce de Leche BrowniesMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      I’m waiting for that hot meal πŸ™‚ Heh. Good news – we all lived!

  • July 22, 2014 Stacey

    I don’t envy you, though it sounds like you are surviving! My rule is that when you are growing humans, nothing else really matters. So the paper on the floor and too much time on the Ipad make sense to me! Heck, I’m not pregnant with twins and my husband is not gone and my house STILL looks like that sometimes!! I had to laugh at your comment about looking 8 years pregnant! Hang in there, Mama!

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      I like your rule. In fact, I’m going to apply it to the first year of having babies in the house πŸ™‚

  • July 22, 2014 Allie

    I agree 100% with the single parenting medals. They should erect statues in their honor and then immediately give them 17 nannies. My kids are nightmares for me to put to bed. My husband? 10 minutes. Me? All.night.long. I usually end up screaming something like “If you get out of your beds one more time, I’m separating you and taking all your toys now GO TO SLEEP!” It’s magical.
    Allie recently wrote…BIG NEWS! I’m A Fly GirlMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Hah! What is it with kids and bedtime and mothers doing bedtime?

  • July 22, 2014 Kim

    I have so much respect for parents that manage on their own for long periods of time. Coffee and morning countdowns get me through my husband’s trips as well. (Thankfully that are infrequent.) Hope this solo parenting stint flies by for you, my friend!
    Kim recently wrote…Boys on the BusMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      It felt long, but it did go by quickly, thanks to my many friends supporting me online!

  • July 22, 2014 Allie

    Hang in there! I remember being pregnant with my fourth – and my husband traveled at the time. The older two were in kindergarten, but my 2 1/2 year old would not nap! During the last trimester, during my nap time – I’d plopped her in front of the TV in my room. She knew not to leave the room and after two PBS shows, she’d have a new mommy.

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Clever girl! And clever mommy. πŸ™‚

  • July 23, 2014 Robbie

    I’ve done lots of solo parenting thru the years and I did whatever I had to in order to survive! Because of our work schedules, we did lots of “shift parenting” where one of us was alone with the kiddos while the other was working. We have had extensive experience with the commuter marriage/parenting lifestyle…more than 18 months! I was 1231+ miles away trying to sell our house and manage 3 kids and pack for 10 months. I kept the kids busy…which meant having their friend over A LOT…but it was the closest thing I could get to a break. I would visit my parents for the weekend so it wasn’t as lonely. I binge watched whatever NetFlix show I was currently addicted to, ordered pizza every Friday night.
    Robbie recently wrote…LitteredMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      OMG that sounds so stressful and tough! Kudos to you, Robbie.

  • July 23, 2014 Amanda Jillian

    It’s hard work, especially while pregnant HUGS!
    Amanda Jillian recently wrote…Drawing #MermaidMondayMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Thank you!

  • July 23, 2014 Janice Trinh

    I feel ya, sister. It’s just like that around here because I homeschool. I count down the minutes the hubs comes home from work! And to be honest, I don’t always tell the husband what the kids and I ate for lunch. It’s usually dinner that I worry about because he’s home! Haha!
    Janice Trinh recently wrote…#TimeTravelTuesday: Girl Scouts of the PhilippinesMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      I see that your kids are now at regular school – more time for Mama!

  • You rock. You really do!
    Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes recently wrote…Birthday party shenanigansMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Aw, thanks, Tinne. I just did what I had to, like it or not πŸ™‚

  • I have an idea …. every time he travels btw now and The BIG Day, you receive an overnight at a nearby hotel … alone. Because it could be a millennium before you get a chance to get away, and you can totally work the guilt factor here.
    sisters from another mister recently wrote…Sticks and StonesMy Profile

    • July 23, 2014 Alison

      The hotel room for August 2 has already been booked! #GreatMinds

  • July 23, 2014 Kerstin

    I wish I could tell you something more encouraging – but it does not get any better. I still dread solo parenting and my kids are teenagers. So please consider yourself decorated with the highest possible parenting medal πŸ™‚
    Kudos for creatively making your husband feel guilty πŸ˜‰
    Hang in there, my friend!!! xoxox
    Kerstin recently wrote…WildfireMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      I can feel the weight of that medal you bestowed me! πŸ™‚

  • July 23, 2014 Tricia

    Ever last one of these resonates with me! I have no idea how people do it for long periods of time, it drives me batty! I usually let us all off the hook quite a bit – more TV, my girl sleeps in my bed, lots of baths, whatever will get us through.
    Tricia recently wrote…Do you know how your clothes were made?My Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      We do what we have to!

  • July 24, 2014 Nina

    Breakfast for dinner is the best time saver. And I always forget it’s an option, then when I think of it I’m so happy I could cry. Guess what we’re having tomorrow I think?? πŸ™‚
    Nina recently wrote…Why I Love Walking for Exercise AgainMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      i just love breakfast for dinner SO MUCH!

  • July 24, 2014 Lauren Apfel

    Hi Allison – I just wanted to get in touch because I was in a very similar situation to you! I had two boys and found out, after about eight weeks, that the third pregnancy was twins, who were then revealed (at birth) to be a girl and a boy. My older kids were 5.5 and 3.25 when the doublets joined us and that was over 3 years ago now. Please feel free to get in touch (I write a lot about my experience with twins in the context of a family of four), if you want to chat about anything. Wishing you all the best!
    Lauren Apfel recently wrote…a numbers gameMy Profile

    • July 24, 2014 Lauren Apfel

      Alison with one L, excuse me!
      Lauren Apfel recently wrote…a numbers gameMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Thank you for reading, and thank you for the chat last week, Lauren! It really helps to know I can have someone to talk to πŸ™‚

  • July 24, 2014 Greta

    Well, I believe I could’ve written this list myself. Hugs, friend! You’re stronger and more capable than you realize.
    Greta recently wrote…Through The Lens Thursday: StairsMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      You’re my hero, Greta, seriously!

  • July 25, 2014 Natalie

    You are like the train that could…you think you can, you think you can! There is light at the end of the tunnel! πŸ™‚
    Natalie recently wrote…Taking Time for UsMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      I was so glad when the solo stint ended πŸ™‚

  • July 25, 2014 Roshni

    It’s really hard and you are amazing to be able to do it!!
    Roshni recently wrote…The older generation of India – and my kick-ass Indian grandmother!My Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Thank you, Roshni! It’s really a matter of doing it because I have no choice. πŸ™‚

  • July 26, 2014 Charlotte

    Oh, my goodness, girl. I can’t even imagine what you’re going through and how much work you have on your plate right now with two little ones outside and two little ones inside. I hope you are able to get some zzz’s every now and then–momma needs a break! Hope hubby comes home soon. Also, I wish I lived closer. I would totally come over to binge eat ice cream and watch House of Cards. XOXO
    Charlotte recently wrote…UninvitedMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Move here! πŸ™‚
      (and thank god this particular stint of soloing is over, though there are many more to come, gulp(

  • July 28, 2014 Veralynne

    LOLOLOL…I remember those days…my husband was in the navy and gone MONTHS at a time….I feel for you sister….keep up the good work…one day you will look back and wonder where the time went!

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Months! I can’t imagine at all.

  • July 28, 2014 Keely

    Solo parenting hurts the eyeballs. There is no downtime. None. I feel for you oh-so-so-so much.
    Keely recently wrote…Seven Months Old. My Apologies, Kid.My Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      But you and your 5 weeks! This was nothing. xo

  • July 29, 2014 Rebecca

    I completely agree, I have no idea how so many parents are able to pull it off without having another person to help out. They deserve to be pampered! I appreciate my husband so much more after being with Dylan for blocks of time. Breakfast for dinner? Ipad distraction? Ice cream for your grand reward? Yes yes and yes.
    Rebecca recently wrote…What a Long, Strange Trip It’s BeenMy Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      I’m seriously in awe of single parents, and those who do solo stints for extended periods of time. I would go MAD.

  • July 31, 2014 Chris Carter

    Oh do I get this Alison!! when my kids were little, Derek traveled all the time and I was left home with the gritty grueling life with littles. He went to eat delicious meals out, see fantastic sites I’ve never seen and sleep soundly in his gorgeous hotels…

    Tough to take.

    I did pretty much the same thing as you, when I wasn’t off to the hospital or doctor with my chronically ill kids… that kept me up ALL night in fear and desperation.

    Good times.
    Chris Carter recently wrote…What Would A Good Mother Do?My Profile

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      Oh that sounds tough. I am just glad that no one fell ill when he was away. For the most part, the kids behaved pretty well too. Thank God.

  • July 31, 2014 Kimberly

    I did the solo parenting thing for over 8 years. It was hell. It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done (even now as a mother to about 353849 kids…or so it seems). But don’t feel bad, my kids rip paper into itty bitty pieces, take several baths a day, and use the iPad more than I should admit and my husband isn’t traveling. So, yeah. Yay me!

    • August 18, 2014 Alison

      I can’t wrap my head around single parenting, medals all round!

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