Tips for the Temporary Single Parent

You’re going to have to bear with me. The husband is out of town and I’m writing this during naptime (even though no one is napping). I can hear them above my head throwing large objects at the door and the walls. I’m in the throws of it. Literally. My daughter just threw up on all over herself and her car seat on the way to the zoo…and then again three times on the way home. I smell like hot dog and animal cracker puke juice. How’s that for a word picture?

I’ve known this weekend was coming for a while. It’s been on my radar and in the hollow base of my throat for weeks—my husband’s return to dude status for two days only for a bachelor party trip. They’re touring all the breweries and watching the sunrise. He’s going to have all the feels come Sunday morning church time when reality gently slaps him upside the head. I actually wanted him to go. He needs to live it up a little. He needs to run a few laps with the other dogs. He might be the best man in the world to share the load and so I agreed to haul it all for a few days. Deep breaths.

With that in mind, and still smelling the hot dog smells despite the sanitizing and washing and shaking off the icky, I’m going to share my tips for what to do when you find yourself single-parenting it. It’s hard. Like a bungee jumping free-for-all that jerks your heart out of your body. I tip my hat and bow my head to the single moms and dads who take this on full time. I’m an amateur. My self-reliant muscles are flimsy, like Captain America before he became Captain. But I do have a few ideas to pass along, so here we go:

Tips for the Temporary Single Parent:


The kids know their routine. They know what jobs mom always does and what jobs dad is supposed to do. When one parent is gone, it throws their little world topsy turvy, not a good thing when bedtime rolls around and dad is not there to read the Llama Llama book. So, we throw the whole thing out the window. We have a movie night and eat popcorn for dinner and watch Moana clips on YouTube. We visit the zoo (I stand by this decision despite the vomit). We have a picnic outside for lunch and don’t wear shoes for 48 hours unless required by the establishment. We try to make the time special so it’s a “good” different. And different is also distracting, so they don’t dwell on the one who’s M.I.A.


Even if your kids don’t nap anymore, quiet time is a MUST. It’s the time when everybody goes to their respective corners and chills. It’s the reset button in the middle of the day to read or color or curl up in a blanket and let the clock tick by. It’s our siesta. And it’s the superglue that re-attaches my fraying patience when I can’t walk away for even a second because there’s no one else to step up to the plate. That’s why I’m writing this now…in my blissful siesta. In a world as busy and brightly flashing as this one, quiet time is the indispensable dimmer switch. It soothes the fluttery soul.


This one’s magic. Sometimes less really is more. I like to stretch the morning out when I’m the only grown up that needs to put the ball in motion. I make a real breakfast that’s hot and requires an oven or a stove. We eat on real plates, the non-perishable kind. We watch cartoons and stay in our pajamas as long as possible. The bath at night extends into a marathon swim. They play until everything is pruny. Until there is no more hot water for another refill. Until limbs are loose and already halfway to bed by the time the water drains. You don’t have to go full tilt to make it special. Indulgence means more of something. So why not indulge in time? Be decadent with your day. Even the word indulgence feel sweet and soothing like honey on a scratchy throat. So, let the day move in slow-mo and indulge in the easier pace.


All the quiet time in the world is not going to make you immune to the fighting and the constant needs (diaper, food, entertainment, education, rinse and repeat). You’re not going to be Maria von Trapp or Mary Poppins 24/7. I bet even Julie Andrews had her moments. Vomit and poop explosions and fights and stealing of toys and sass and time outs will happen. You’re going to snap, a least a little. This does not make you the World’s Worst Parent. So be nice to yourself. Be gentle. And cut back where you can. French fries for dinner is okay every now and then. Bed time can happen five minutes earlier when your filter won’t last any longer. It’s okay. Tomorrow is another day.


Just because your significant other is out of town doesn’t mean you can’t call in reinforcements. My mother lives half a mile down the road. You better believe she came with me to the zoo. If it’s not family, get a friend to come over. Even if they’re not there to help, they can provide moral support and a little grown up eye contact when things get crazy. Or hire a babysitter for an hour and go take a walk or a nap or whatever it is that will give you the energy to get to the next stepping stone. If the saying is true, “it takes a village,” then figure out who lives in yours and haul them in.


So, there you go. I’m not saying it’s foolproof. If it were a rain jacket it would only be water resistant. But it will get you through until you return to your regularly scheduled program and become one-half again (arguably the better half).


Any other tips for how to handle it when you’re handed double-duty?