I took this picture on my way home from yoga this evening. I couldn’t help taking the little detour as I was in awe of the reflection on the water. This is the sixth and last night of My Guy’s work trip, and what a night on which to end this surprisingly wonderful week.
I know. I said the “w” word. I also said surprising, because I really wasn’t expecting that. Sure, we had a meltdown or two (or maaaaybe three), but for the most part, solo parenting for the past six days has been relatively easy. And yes, even that “w” word.
But of course I use the term solo loosely, as my best friend, their favorite Auntie, was here the first day, when she helped wrangle my girls at soccer while I was finding my peace at my yoga class on Saturday. And My Guy’s best friend, their favorite Uncle, came by this evening so I could go to my Wednesday-night class while he read them stories and put them to bed.
The babysitter watched Thumper while I worked and ran a few hours this week, and my neighbors were able to help by taking Little Miss to school and watching both girls while I ran my last few miles in preparation for my first half-marathon race this weekend.
Speaking of the race, I realize from my training that solo parenting is very much like running a half marathon. No, seriously, hear me out.
Per training recommendations, we start at a slow, comfortable pace, then we pick it up a third of a way through and steadily build our speed, finally surging the last few miles from the energy we’ve been conserving throughout the run. This sounds a lot like my days at home.
I begin our morning by offering the girls cereal, toast, or bagel for breakfast because that’s pretty much all my bleary-eyed self is capable of after being reluctantly dragged out of bed. (That’s also why homemade pancakes and waffles only happen when daddy is around.)
Little Miss then dresses herself, which explains the clash of colors, stripes, and patterns in her outfit du jour, before she runs downstairs to walk with our neighbor and her son to preschool, while her sister gets busy being creative as I sit next to her with my coffee, waiting for the caffeine to kick in.
Throughout the day, when I’m home with Thumper, I attempt to juggle playtime and housework, naptime and freelance writing, maintaining a steady pace, until I pick my four-year-old up from preschool. That’s when we play a little before I start the sprint towards bedtime with dinner, bath (which tends to become optional when My Guy isn’t around), and stories.
This is also when I need my energy the most as the the girls are more likely to retaliate, negotiate, and throw a tantrum when things don’t go their way. But when I cross the finish line, which, in our case, means closing their bedroom door behind me at around 7:30 PM, the entire evening is mine. Thus begins the recovery process.
In running, I stretch, ice my legs, and drink chocolate milk to restore my energy and repair my muscles. In parenting, when I’m not trying to meet project deadlines, I’m cleaning the girls’ mess or I’m parked in front of the TV, entranced by hours and hours of “Veronica Mars” - my latest retro TV series of choice - with some ice cream in hand.
I feel a little guilty that I’m not writing or reading more (and about the copious amounts of ice cream), but honestly, I have no mental capacity for much else after constantly negotiating with two little tyrants at the end of the day. The bedtime sprint is actually My Guy’s specialty since he’s the one who plays with them, then does bath, stories, and bedtime.
With him away, I find that I’m completely drained by the time the sun and the kids go down, and what little brain power I have left, I use for work, and if I’m completely out, mindless TV is my only option.
MIX IT UP
In training for the race, we’re also advised to mix things up and include speed work, hills, and long runs to build speed, strength, and stamina. Again, I find this advice useful in solo parenting.
In the nearly full week that My Guy is away, the girls and I have brunched at our favorite spot with their Auntie, attended a birthday party, hosted two play dates, visited the playground, and shopped for running gear (for me) and groceries. I’ve also invited my mama friends over for an evening together. Tomorrow, we’ll have a breakfast date with a neighbor and her daughter, followed by a trip to the library for story hour.
Truthfully, just writing that exhausts me. As an introvert, I’m a fan of alone time, and I could go for days without immersing myself in social situations. In fact, I prefer it. But I realize that, in order for the six days to work, I’m going to have to get out of my comfort zone and do that which is necessary, not just easy.
That’s an aspect of the training I dread and love at the same time – pushing ourselves past our own limits. Because that’s when improvement happens. With that in mind, I keep our social calendar busy, and it keeps us all equally distracted from the countdown clock. Introversion be damned; I have my sanity to protect.
So there you have it. A half marathon training that prepares me for the finish line on race day and every day. Who knew? Until my race this Saturday (*gulp*), I can’t tell you just how well I will do, but I have to say, judging from the girls’ easy-going manner, willingness to cooperate, and ready smiles this week, it has certainly taught me to be a better solo parent.