Parenting is a hard gig. Parenting solo, whether it be due to a death of a partner, separation, or for work, takes things to a whole new level.
We know little people are very needy, and it’s draining on mom or dad when they have to do a stint – or the whole parenting thing – by themselves, especially if they don’t have respite in the form of a domestic helper, child care arrangements, or family members on standby.
Here are some tips from parents who know, to keep you sane while you fly solo:
Take care of yourself
You can’t pour from an empty cup – as cliche as that is, it’s true. No parent can be expected to have boundless patience and whimsy, and sit sweating under a bed sheet tent for hours playing make-believe when they’re feeling tired, overwhelmed and sleep-deprived.
It sounds hard – nay, impossible – to even contemplate taking time out for yourself when you’re so time-poor and depleted, but self-care is important. Arrange for someone to watch your child for a few hours once a week while you practice some yoga, have a nap, or even just do the groceries in peace.
Indulge in little treats
If you rarely go to the movies, or take your kids to a water park, why not give it a try? This exercise may be harder with more than one child, but it takes you out of your home setting where everyone might be feeling a little cabin fever, and gives you something to look forward to.
Alternatively, pack a picnic for the park, or treat yourselves to a nice dinner (kids eat free in some restaurants!). Still sounding a bit daunting? Take your little one(s) out for some ice cream, just you, and talk to each other. It’ll be as much a treat for you as it is for them. You are enough, and having mom or dad’s undivided attention means the world to them.
Reach out for – and accept – help
If it’s all feeling too much, ask for help. And be gracious about accepting. It’s surprising how many people find it difficult to ask for help, when others are sometimes only too happy to lend a hand. Ask friends, cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents for help – talk to them, or talk to a professional if you’re feeling depressed.
A loss, marital split or having a partner who works away for extended periods can take a toll on you, and you don’t have to go through it alone (you’re not going to get a medal for it, sorry). Talk to a counsellor, psychologist or look up online parenting support groups. Sometimes all misery wants is a little company.
Kids have an uncanny ability to push their limits when they sense the primary parent’s guard is down. In some ways, they can be pretty ruthless – they’ll whine, pester and throw tantrums just when mom or dad is at breaking point to get their way. While saying ‘yes’ is easier, in the long run, you’ll find you might have trapped yourself in a vicious cycle. Enforce discipline when needed. Establish a routine. Delegate – at three years, your child is old enough to be able to put their toys away. Remember, you’re the parent.
And in addition to saying ‘no’ to your child, you need to also say ‘no’ for yourself. If running around trying to make swimming classes between business appointments is too much, think about rescheduling, or continuing classes a few months later, when you can make other arrangements. You can’t be in two places at once!
By Faye Song
Faye Song is a former journalist now working in marketing and communications. She lives in Darwin, where she enjoys the best of Southeast Asia (the food and night markets) and Australia (the workday that ends punctually at 4.21pm), with her husband, toddler and small dog.