I had a really rough solo parenting weekend. I felt like I was . . . fighting a current the entire time. This current was a dissolution into mess + chaos + fighting, which caused a lot of angst on my part and no, I did not maintain a zen mindset.
Instead I screamed at everyone to just GET OUT OF MY AREA AND LET ME CLEAN UP THIS DISASTROUS KITCHEN IN PEACE AND ALSO STOP KILLING EACH OTHER. And then I sat on the floor of said disastrous kitchen and cried a little bit with three spectators who NEVER DO actually get out of my area.
There were so many messes, so much fighting, a surfeit of screen time (which of course I felt guilty about) and basically zero adult conversation for me. There was catastrophizing (SO THIS IS WHAT THE REST OF MY LIFE WIILL BE LIKE) and feelings of failure as a parent.
It was bad.
I spent some time venting in my bedside journal but did not have answers. I still don’t. But I know that I want to do better. I don’t want my kids’ memories of me (and their childhood) to be . . . that. I decided to purchase the Simple Families Foundations program yesterday because I’m hoping that may provide some ideas for change. But obviously that’s not going to magically solve everything.
Things that contributed to the weekend’s poor outcome:
I tried to do too much without any help. I desperately wanted to do some things that were for me (work on some blog stuff, actually cook dinner, do a yoga workout, etc) and I tried to do them without childcare. It was an exercise in futility and frustration. That said, I don’t want to hire childcare regularly for solo parenting weekends and I also bristle at the idea that I just can’t do anything. So no answer there.
Both days the kids were up before 6:30. I have to drag them out of bed most weekdays at 6:50. Josh thinks perhaps they are missing a sleep cycle on weekends.
A went to a sleepover on Saturday night, which seemed to really mess up our balance, and also she was a sunburned ornery disaster upon returning home. Probably just not a great match for solo parenting weekends.
We have too much #($*@ stuff in our house, particularly given that there is a 3 year old rifling through everyone’s things all of the time.
I don’t know. Part of me wants to pursue some kind of parenting therapy. My kids are challenging; honestly, I believe they are more challenging than average, though less challenging than some. I want them to look back on their childhood home and have a sense of calm and safety. I want them to remember parents who listened and did fun things with them and appeared to enjoy life. I do not want them to think back to their childhoods and remember a seemingly miserably mother who yelled a lot and struggled to get through the weekend days.
That’s all I have. Yesterday did go better (morning, dinner, bedtime). My next solo weekend is in 2.5 weeks (approx every 3rd weekend). I am determined to have a better one.
I just subscribed to the Simple Families podcast and signed up to receive the free basics training. I’m also in a solo parenting season. My husband is a teacher and is coaching track right now. Being the end of the school year he has several meets in the evenings and on Saturdays in May. For me, it’s a condensed season of about eight weeks but I feel you! I also think a lot about how my kids will look back and remember their childhood. I also ask my mom often how she did it. She was an actual single parent my entire childhood and I don’t remember her ever yelling or appearing stressed out.
For what it’s worth Sarah, I don’t think kids remember as much as we perhaps think they do! We went to the 2012 London Olympics for one weekend with our daughters aged 8 and a bit and 12 a bit. You would have thought something like that would have seared into both memories. We were in the Olympic athletics stadium for the whole of what has become known as Super Saturday when GB athletes won 3 gold medals inside an hour! But our younger daughter has almost zero memories of the whole thing, though she knows she was there of course. Her clearest memory is of being asleep in the car on the way home and having to be woken up to get out at the service station to use the toilets!! I’m sure if you asked the kids, in a few days’ time, what they remembered about last weekend, it wouldn’t be nearly as bad as you fear!
Hello Sarah – sending a virtual hug! I am a solo parent by choice. I adopted my daughter at birth. I hire help and my family is close…. and there is an entire scaffolding to our life that I have set up through trial and error that sets us up for success.
Two things that are imperative to MY mental health are my daughters bedtime and wake time:
Bedtime- consistent and early and the routine is short. That way I have the evening to take care of me. I do not lay with her for any amount of time.
Wake time – she stays in her room until a set time. If up early she plays by herself in her room. This gives my morning time consistency to do what I need and want. Similar to you I am up early and do a lot in the early hours.
I also want to support therapy. I have personally benefited over my lifetime and will absolutely seek input to help my relationship with my daughter. As well as for her individually as well.
Sending all support to you and the community here. We all navigate and find what works best for our families.
Solo parenting is though! I do think you will take some things away from Denaye’s class and I will tell you parent training is so helpful (even if I can’t always follow the advice). Denaye often talks about the principle of expansion and contraction–it sounds like your solo parenting weekends have too much contraction and not enough expansion. She has a whole episode about this concept. Might be worth a listen in the next couple of weeks. Sleepovers always make my kids SUPER grumpy and I try to plan them based on that knowledge (maybe no sleepovers on solo parenting weekends?).
That said when I was a resident working 3/4 weekends, and then a fellow, working 1/4 weekends, weekend childcare almost certainly saved my marriage. I would seriously reconsider a few hours of weekend childcare for solo weekends. That does NOT have to mean the sitter watches 3 kids while you do something else (although it definitely can). It can mean you take 1 kid to soccer without the other two in tow.
There are lots of reasons to do parent training–of course it is an investment (I am related to a parent training expert–my sister so I often get free advice). It may be beneficial on more than just solo weekends. But solo parenting 1/3 weekends for the foreseeable future is HARD! I know others solo parent all the time and my hat is off to them. I really think you are setting such high expectations for yourself.
I don’t think you wish to read that, but I laugh a lot reading this post, just because my husband and I have said all the same things, about the weekends, the memories, the more challenging than average, etc. And we are two adults with only one kid. This is why I laugh, probably at ourselves in a way.
Oh Sarah, what a tough weekend. Solo parenting is its own breed of hard; while it’s not the same as single parenting, solo parents tend to not have the same infrastructure in place. I am curious why you’re hesitant to get weekend childcare, even if it’s just to free you up to complete activities more smoothly with a subset of the kids?
I had a horrible weekend; we’re under full lockdown again and we pitched a tent in the living room for the kids to sleep in, printed out a menu and let them “order” food for an in-home restaurant night…and yet my son ended up in tears at the fancy restaurant table I’d set. All the work…and I get tears? So of course I started crying and raising my voice. Sigh.
I really enjoyed the following book: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior. She discusses how parenting has changed so dramatically over the last generation, and not necessarily all for the better. It was a good perspective for me, and validating in my own struggle with trying to keep myself + my kids happy all the time. It’s impossible. I always love LV’s simple math calculation about the likelihood every child will be happy. The odds are pretty low…
I so feel this. My 3 are all within 6-8 months of your 3, so I completely relate. It is just HARD.
The main tbh g’s that I think.help us get through lonnnnng days are being consistent about bedtimes. My kids’ behavior is all VERY dependent on how well rested they are, esp for my middle son (who just gets SO worn out). I have really given up a lot of guilt about screentime. On a weekday, I let my kids watch when they first get up in the morning (and I drink my coffee!)…on the weekends they do get considerably more. During the weekends for my youngest’s nap, I let my older two veg out in front of a movie and NO ONE is supposed to bother me. That gives me a nice break mid day when I really need it.
I think you are probably being hard on yourself, more so than you should be. Having kids these ages is TOUGH, and it sounds like you get out and do plenty of fun things. Try to be a little easier on yourself and know that 99% of us out there struggle too.
Oh my gosh! I NEVER comment on blogs, but just have to say I relate to everything you said so deeply. I would absolutely love to hear if a program of some kind helps you. But mostly just wanted to say you are not alone. I love your blog. I am also a working mom with a demanding job and (and my husband travels for work even in the pandemic) I love a blog that represents my experiences and there aren’t that many of them. Hang in there and if you find things that work for you, please share!
My son had ADHD, and I now adamently refuse to do any parenting book/coaching not geared towards that as it just ends in frustration (bonus: the ADHD parenting strategies work really well for my non-ADHD presenting daughter). Solo parenting is hard. Deep breath. Your kids know they are loved, even when you yell.
I do think ADHD is a factor. To be honest, I was fantasizing about medicating a kid on Sunday just to see if it would help MY sanity. But that’s probably not a great reason . . .
I am currently going to therapy sessions with kid but a) it’s still so early and b) there has been incremental improvements in some things but doesn’t seem to help when in the thick of it with all 3. I have Mindful Parenting for ADHD on my shelf to read too . . .
So, flip your thinking on this…you aren’t medicating the kid for you, but because the kid doesn’t want to act badly they are impulsive and have a lot of trouble controlling their impulsivity. You medicate a kid so THEY can feel in control. The happy side effect is that you are interacting with a child better able to control their impulsivity and show you the kid they can/want to be under all that impulsivity. Kids with ADHD can really suffer from low self-esteem and lack of confidence. All they ever hear is what they are doing wrong. As a parent of a kid with ADHD I can tell you they can really flourish and thrive with appropriate medication.
Yes yes yes. My son has actually verbally expressed that when he does NOT take his meds, he doesn’t like the out of control feelings he has. Now that he is older, he realizes how much better he feels when his meds are doing their job. Like Gillian said, the kid he wants to be (but struggles to be, when unmedicated) can come out. I think we all wish he didn’t “need” meds, but just like a diabetic needs their insulin, he needs his meds to be healthy and thriving- his best self. When I think back on his pre-med days (when he was younger) it is now SO obvious that something was missing. I always thought either he was just a terrible handful/“problem child”, or I was a crappy mom. Neither was true!! (Not trying to push meds, either! Just offering our experience, for what it’s worth. Clearly- a personal decision.)
I have a child with ADHD as well, and although we started on medication primarily due to functional impairment in school, the benefits at home have been immense. My other children (I have 3, similar ages to yours) end up much calmer without the trigger of intensity/reactivity/volatility from the child who has ADHD. Obviously, every child/family has different needs, but this may be something to consider.
I’d love to hear what parenting books/strategies you’ve found helpful, Brooke.
I want to agree wholeheartedly with this. Our oldest son (age 8) was diagnosed with ADHD at age 6. He’s the oldest of four boys and our life became incredibly, profoundly easier once we started him on meds for the ADHD. All he’d heard for so long was everything that he was doing wrong. Meds helped him control the impulses and let his actual personality come through. Our home has become much more harmonious as a result 🙂
FWIW, I frequent a DC based special needs parenting forum and ADHD comes up routinely. One of the few things that seems close to unanimous is that medicating for ADHD has helped tremendously – not for their sake, but for their kids. Most people state that they regret not doing it sooner.
In case you’re interested, it’s the Kids with Special Needs subgroup on DC Urban Moms: https://www.dcurbanmom.com/jforum/forums/show/36.page
Some of the conversations are DC specific in terms of discussing local providers DMV area rules, but people from all over the country are there talking about the issues they face with their kids. It’s a great place to raise general questions about seek advice – especially with an issue as common as ADHD where there are lot of people with experience. I personally found it exceptionally helpful in the early days of my daughter’s diagnosis to talk with people who understood so much of what we were experiencing, even if their kid’s issues were different from my daughter’s.
We have an evaluation coming up and I think there’s a good chance that we may get an ADHD diagnosis. I am definitely willing to do whatever it takes to help this kiddo including medicine but I have heard from friends that that their kids had significant side effects (at least temporarily) including appetite issues. For what ever reason this is really stressing me out, probably because this child also has sensory and food issues already. Have your kids adapted to any appetite and/or food issues after medication?
My son has significant appetite suppression from his ADHD meds and he has growth hormone deficiency so I was really worried about this. However, he totally compensates during his non-medicated hours! His meds wear off around 4-5 p.m. (he is in middle school now so he needs more coverage than when he was small) and he shows up in the kitchen and doesn’t leave until about 10 p.m. My husband asked him once what he did after we go to bed. He said “I eat.” He is growing beautifully. Obviously different for everyone, but if appetite is the big concern, I would say their natural needs seem to get met.
This IS one of our biggest struggles with our 12 y/o on meds. He has definite appetite suppression while on his meds…and he is pretty tiny. He is only currently slightly below his growth curve though, and my husband was a “late bloomer” too/not very large, so the doctor seems to think this is ok. (and says to just continue pushing high cal/ high protein.) It is our only side effect from the meds, though- which otherwise work wonderfully for him! So we have been hesitant to switch meds for this reason alone. (Finding the right meds can be a process- trial and error…). He also eats more at night as they wear off, and we try to push a big breakfast prior to him taking them, because if left to his own devices, he will eat like a bird all day. A valid concern, but I think probably work-around-able. 🙂
I so relate to this! Once we learned that my son had ADHD (in Kindergarten) I figured out why NONE of the other parenting books and strategies I tried worked for him! Once I switched to strategies specific to his needs, life got better. And also have found that ADHD parenting strategies work with our younger son who is also non-ADHD presenting).
I can also vouch for medicating a child with ADHD for their sake. My son felt so much guilt for how difficult he was being, and had developed a really bad self-image (he was diagnosed in kindergarten). Moreover, he hated school because that was the place he got in trouble. We did a combination of therapy/behavior strategies, but once he turned 6 and was eligible for medication it made it all so much easier. It calmed his brain down enough that he could actually learn the strategies and benefit from the therapy. He loves school now and is thriving, and we are really honest with what ADHD does to and for him, so he knows that some things are beyond his control and he doesn’t have to feel guilty about it.
Hi, Sarah. I’m sorry it’s a rough season. This is why I never considered having kids less than five years apart!! (Of course, infertility is the reason they are actually eight years apart, which presents its own challenges.) This is a joke. Sort of.
From what I’ve gathered you have a few real challenges during this season, including a spirited three year old and a kid with legit behavioral issues (my assumption is these are not the same kid, but I might be wrong). That’s already a lot. And then there’s the fact of having three who are close enough in age that they can play….but far enough from oldest to youngest that they also have different desires/needs.
I wonder if there’s a lesson in thinking about your life through the lens of an *actual* single mother. How would you rethink the weekends w/out Josh if they were always going to be like this? Would you be willing to outsource childcare for a couple hours? Can one of the bigger kids (A?) go on a playdate of some kind while you deal with the younger two? When mine was younger I traded with another single mother of similarly aged kids on occasion so we could both have some solo time (which meant watching four kids at once, but worth it!). There were seasons when getting out of the house helped me and seasons in which having NO expectations on weekends helped.
Also…I would completely give up expectations about keeping messes at bay. Have a reset time, like before the kids have their evening screen time, when everything needs to go back to order. I say this as someone who is similarly overwhelmed by messy chaos but also tired of either cleaning up after my mess maker or hounding him to do so all day. If he misses my clean up window everything is put in bags/boxes and moved to the basement.
Just some thoughts to take or leave. It won’t be like this forever.
Working Mom of 2, solo parent a lot afternoons and weekends. I get a lot of anxiety with a messy house but I have learned how to overlook it until the end of the day. It is pointless to clean with kids around- like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. Yes it’s important to teach kids how to clean messes, and they do clean up small messes here and there but at the end of the day I put on some music and clean for 20 minutes which is miraculously enough to make it good enough. Someone told me once You will either have a clean house or time to play with your kids or time to yourself. Never 3 at the same time. I know it is so hard but I think very Low expectations when solo parenting is positive when you are an overachiever (like myself).
I’m parenting on easy mode (just 1 kid) so no real advice but agree with the poster above that you might explore using your community a bit more. Now that more people are vaccinated, could you send one kid off on a playdate, to even out the parent:kid ratio? Or even add one more kid, A+Friend could play together and that would just leave you with two to entertain? Or book your cleaning service for Monday AM so you felt less cleaning pressure, knowing it would be properly cleaned on Monday?
Hang in there Sarah. You have a great village here and great comments above. I would just chime in with my “Laura hat” on and say it is ok to hire a sitter for say 3 hours so you could feel calm that you have a window of help. The cost and benefit are worth it. I also like the idea of the house cleaning on Monday 🙂
big hugs! i feel a lot of what you have said even though i am not solo parenting, but i have kind of been solo-managing online school for a few weeks now and it hasn’t been going that well. yesterday a lot of things collided (including the weather, possibly my hormones, etc) into an awful day and today we are trying something different.
parenting little kids is HARD. we did a bit of therapy in the summer but it ended up being not that helpful for us because the main problem isn’t the 4 year old, it is my capacity to handle a 4 year old. (and also, virtual therapy with a little kid is less than optimal). YMMV esp if there are actual behavioural issues at play.
when i am spiraling and having unhelpful thoughts that often lead to explosions of emotion (instead of asking for what i need before it becomes an emergency), i am supposed to challenge the thoughts/beliefs.
you say “I don’t want to hire childcare regularly for solo parenting weekends” but why? maybe doing that for a couple hours will give you enough peace and quiet to carry you through the weekend without feeling burned out and resentful.
is it guilt? an idea that you shouldn’t need the help? that you want to be able to enjoy the solo weekends with your kids?
I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this and I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. I often feel this way and am fortunate to rarely solo parent. Solidarity and I’d love to hear what, if anything, helps.
I’d like to echo that your kids will have far fewer memories of the specific weekends than you think. What they will remember is that you love them and organized so many things for them. So take that pressure off yourself! My kids remember one specific (and spectacular) meltdown I had one year about Christmas. Every year they bring it up like a big joke (“remember that one year….”) What they seem to have forgotten was that I kind of had a meltdown every year. So be kind to yourself. You are doing your very best. It’s hard. One day you can reassure them about their kids!
1) yes – def medicate the adhd kid on the weekends too if it will help
2) order in
3) whatever you do, do NOT try to clean until it’s all over
4) screens are your best friend
My husband is coming back today and part of me is kind of sad. There’s actually been so much LESS yelling with him gone. I’m trying to figure out how I can preserve some of the zen when I have this perpetually pissed off man stomping around the house.
well there is no medicating being done at any time yet. But it’s an option for the future.
And YES, your #2 is so true. I am done with any form of Sunday cooking when Josh is not home. No point. We can eat frozen pizza + carrots sticks, or get more takeout.
#3 I struggle with because sitting in the mess stresses me out SO MUCH. I wish it didn’t. Maybe I can learn not to care.
I am also trying to learn to let the mess not stress me out, but it’s a losing battle. I think anxiety related to clutter is built into my personality, just as much as my extroverted nature is – and no one is asking me to change that! So I’m not a huge proponent of “just stop caring about it!” because…it’s just not that easy.
One thing I have found helpful is to actually explain this to my older son (age 5). Sometimes I’ll explain that when things look out of control, that can make people feel out of control and we all just need a reset…and that when things are back in their place and reset, we all feel calmer AND he can better see what toys are available to play with. Add in a ‘who can clean up more toys before the timer beeps?!?!’ and he’s actually quite willing to help and get things put away. (he is also just a pretty easygoing, compliant kid – so this is probably not as much of a battle for us than for others – but maybe something to try?)
Another thing that has helped is to designate areas of messiness. For us, the basement is a place that I can tolerate a mess much longer because it is out of sight out of mind. Is there a place in your house that you can designate as mess-tolerant? (not forever, but maybe for longer than other places, like the kitchen)
Hugs. Solo parenting is hard. I usually do it one day per weekend with two kids (5 and 2) and honestly, my general plan is to spend as much time out of the house as possible and to not count on getting anything done for myself.
Thank you so much for this perspective! I never thought about cleaning in that way before. I can’t relate to feeling that way about cleaning, but I do find it hard to “turn off” my own irritation / anxiety about other things, even though some people seem to have no issue with those other things. So helpful to keep in mind that when, say my husband can’t let go of the mess, it’s not because he’s a control freak anymore than my inability to exercise at 5am is laziness. Thanks for helping me reframe this!
I just LOVE your comment as you are quite correct in that we don’t just change personality; I also can’t switch off my J brain that loves outer order.
I feel this so much-I have a kid with ADHD and solo parenting when my kids were young was SO HARD. No words of wisdom, but I can tell you that my kids are now late elementary/high school and things are sooooo much better. I look forward to weekends now! And I do not miss any of those endless and frustrating days when I felt like a mess of a parent and human being.
that is SO great to hear.
Also agree on this. It gets so much better with time. I did solo parenting every single weekend (that I was off) for years while they were little and never had childcare, and my husband did the same on opposite weekends. (Not saying you shouldn’t get childcare- we just didn’t). You get through it and eventually it is fine. I wouldn’t expect to have a ton of personal leisure time on those 1/3 weekends…just not super realistic. Now in 5th and 6th grade and weekends are easy peasy, with adhd kiddo and all. (On meds though, even on weekends.) Maybe just focus on your 2 hours alone time each morning, your lunch time walks, your Thursday nights free, the other weekends when Josh is home… and just kind of chalk solo weekends up to being all in with the kids? Partly might be an expectations issue… you can’t really have what you want, which makes it more frustrating. If you don’t even expect it, maybe it won’t feel so bad! Haha. Hope that makes sense.
Chiming in for a vote for giving yourself a few hours of childcare. I hesitate to do it too, but even a 3-hour stretch in which you could go to a yoga class and then do a solid hour+ on the blog project I think can make such a difference. For me, if I can do the couple things for me, my state of mind and parenting for the other 10ish hours that day I am with them will be SO much better. Don’t worry about it being a regular thing – take it one solo weekend at a time, and before you know it kids may be in different stages and seasons and your needs may be different then.
So hear you on bad weekends some weeks. Also think the ages your kids are now can ge tough! Do really like the parenting podcast “Ask Lisa” and find no matter what they are talking about, I find it helps be take a deep breath and have a calmer approach.
I have 4 kids 6 and under-on my solo parenting weekends I always hire help for at least an hour and half to let me run/exercise and shower in peace. Worth the $30-40 it costs me for my sanity. No shame in needing some help! I think it helps me be a better parent for the other 11 or so hours.
But I completely understand how you are feeling-sometimes I look forwards to Mondays and going to work 🙂
I also recommend a few hours of childcare for these solo parenting weekends, especially since they are so frequent for you. We have an au pair who usually just works during the weekdays but can also help out on those weekends when my husband is working 14 hour days. It helps to have an extra pair of hands if I want to cook something or go to church with the kids. I find myself yelling if I have to spend 14 hours straight with both the kids, so having a few hours of help definitely makes me calmer. I feel like this is so specific to having more than 1 kid at once and the conflict that comes from that, since I could happily spend the whole week solo parenting either of my kids on their own.
Can you get into a carpool for weekend kid activities (soccer and whatever else the big kids are doing)? It’s nice to go to their games, but making it to the majority should be enough. Missing one or two a month while you’re on solo parent duty is okay. We have a cultural expectation that every parent has to be at every game, but if the kitty are playing for the right reasons – that they enjoy it and it makes them feel good, they will still get that if they are carpooled sometimes.
Sarah, sending you lots of care. I have also had those thoughts about what I want my kids to remember about their childhood, etc. Just wanted to recommend a new book by Michaeleen Doucleff called Hunt, Gather, Parent – It is evidence-based and focused on global parenting approaches that have been used for tens of thousands of years. I appreciate that the book is based in research and also acknowledges that much of the parenting research that has been done in the last century has focused on white upper class parents with one working spouse and one stay-at-home spouse, and this impacts the findings. I’ve been finding this book helpful for me in terms of reframing how to spend time with my kiddo – really takes some pressure off.
I just have to say that I relate to this 100% and you are not alone. We don’t usually have weekend childcare either (we did pre-COVID and then got out of the habit) because the few times we have done it, the kids have been so riled up afterwards that it wasn’t even worthwhile. That said, once we go back to more solo parenting weekends (my husband is in medicine and travels a lot for conferences…which are always on the weekend – WHY???) I think I will get into the habit of having a “mother’s helper” type come and be willing to take one or more kids at a time or do some household stuff. In my personal experience, having 1-2 kids in my care is much easier than all 3 and though it doesn’t give me solo time, I am a better parent and feel more satisfied at the end of the day. I also find that leaving the mess until post-bedtime is okay as long as I reward myself with a podcast while I clean and save time for reading or a TV show afterwards. Early bedtime is key!
I have four, similar ages to yours, and we homeschool so messes are being made constantly. I also cannot just ignore it and function happily! I’ll just say, sometimes it takes me getting to almost my breaking point before I take a firm line on the kids helping with the clean up, but when I do I’m always amazed by how truly helpful they are capable of being and how working as a team can reset attitudes. I have to give specific jobs to each kid and sometimes have them working in different areas depending on how they’ve been getting along with each other. Even three-year-olds can empty silverware from the dishwasher, pick up toys, etc- and sometimes sending my highly energetic 9 yo son outside to sweep off the porch or do some other outside job works wonders for him. Saying “we are cleaning for 15 minutes before lunch/screen time/whatever” can be very helpful, so can putting on fun music. (I know these aren’t earth shattering ideas…just some encouragement to make them help out, even if it initially feels like it’s more effort than it’s worth.)
I often solo-parent over weekends as my spouse is a CPA with a long busy season. I have two kids, age 8 and age 2. The weekends that run the smoothest and are the most fun have a few hallmarks.
1: Plan one big adventure and one small adventure ( a la L Vanderkam). Big adventure could be a hike (this is often what it is), visiting a museum, going to a child-friendly event, visiting the farmer’s market, setting up a long playground playdate, etc. The key here is leaving the house for at least a few hours, ideally doing a physical activity. For small adventures, this is usually a shorter activity, like doing an art project, going for a walk around the neighborhood, going to the nearby playground, making a backyard picnic, or baking cookies. The idea here is to do some sort of “enriching” activity for a relatively short period of time without need to pack up and travel anywhere. With one big adventure and one small adventure we create some “fun” and use up hours of the day.
2: I never plan on doing any work on solo-parenting weekends. Anything that will divert more than 30 minutes of my attention away from the kids is a recipe for disaster. That being said, there are plenty of times where the kids are playing nicely or watching TV or whatever that I only need to passively supervise them. These times I use for reading, practicing piano, or any other activity that can be picked up or dropped relatively easily.
3. If I really do need some concentrated time, I request help from my family to watch the kids or I have had a “mother’s helper” come over to help entertain the kids. By mother’s helper, I mean an older kid who comes over to watch the kids while I am still home, so if there is an issue (like changing a gross diaper or fixing lunch/snack) I am there to assist. Of course, this was pre-COVID so I have not used this option in a while. However, I can usually get about 30-60 minutes if I hire my 8 year old to entertain the 2 year old. This has a mixed success rate, though.
About cleaning, we usually take 2 hours on Saturday or Sunday morning to do a house clean where my 8 year old’s primary chore is to clean and tidy his room. (He does other things, but that is the biggie.) My 2 year old typically just follows me around during this time. Any other messes that happen- like from mealtime or from a project- usually get cleaned up after the project is done or in a short period of time after dinner. Doing a big adventure and small adventure really helps keep the house less messy because we are out of the house.
Oh man, I typed the longest comment and I think it was lost. Basically I can relate and am in the midst of a horrible stretch. My husband hurt his back, I got the stomach flu and the toddler did, too. And he puked in the car twice. I’m so tired and crabby and so close to losing my mind. And the baby is teething so up more than usual.
I really don’t think your kids will remember this. You are a great mom. Having a bad day occasionally will not change the way they view you. I promise. I would consider getting some child care when you solo parent. You can afford it and it would be good for everyone for you to get a break!
I now occasionally have 3 hours babysitting help on a Sunday. It makes such a difference. For me and for the children as I feel recharged after these 3 hours and I feel much more present when I am with them.
Thank you so much for sharing with honesty. Sending you big hugs. You are a great mom and your kids are having a wonderful childhood.
My husband works in the service industry which leaves me solo parenting many weekend, school breaks and holidays. I find that often my attitude to the whole thing and frustration is actually resentment at him. When I’m in a place that I can get rid of my resentment, things go much, much better.
This blog and this comments section have been such a resource for me! I’m always impressed at how kind and thoughtful commenters are. Thanks for your honesty in posting that helps cultivate such a wonderful corner of the internet.
I also feel you so much! Parenting little kiddos is so hard. And yet for some reason I find myself contemplating adding a 3rd into the chaos…
As far as I’m concerned you’re basically a superhero. And everyone agrees kids are hard. None of the people commenting here has said “oh, I don’t know what you’re talking about, parenting is super easy, I can take care of all my kids and my house and myself and also my makeup is perfect all the time”. It’s hard, and maybe sinking into that will help you feel less frustrated about how hard it is.
I can understand not wanting to hire childcare for weekends; being with our children is miserable but also a great joy. Still, maybe you can outsource some things that are not great joys. Like food prep, and cleaning. I’m sure there is a cleaning service near you that will come on weekends; wouldn’t it be nice to take the kids out to the zoo or whatever and come back to a clean house?
Sarah, i can hear you! I too often sit on the floor and cry on Sunday nights when i am exhausted of “doing it all: cleaning and organizing, cooking healthy meals, have time for crafts and activities, and outdoor play, etc. Is there any way you can move your parents close to you guys to get some extra support? We have no grandparents or any other family within a driving distance, and it is soo hard, because on the weekends i used to be all alone.
Here are a few things that i started doing recently to ease out my load:
1. Put a few events on facebook to get to know other moms: coffee & donuts on the driveway, mom’s coffee at the park, pizza & movie night in our basement, etc. I am just trying to set up events for the stuff that we will be doing anyway, and then order some food/coffee/pizza to get attendance (I do it for postdocs/students, and it works for other moms too).
2. got a membership in YMCA, so that i can use their kid club for 2 hours on Saturday. I exercise during the week there, but on Saturdays i bring my laptop and coffee, and let the kids play there for up to 2 hours, and then we stop for lunch on the way home.
3. decided to host a book club once a month in my house for adults only (no kids allowed). If the husband is around – he watches the kids, if not – our daycare teacher gladly comes for 2 hours (and gets paid for 3 hours + gas). I joined a facebook group something like ladies and books, and for the first event at my house invited 227 members. You will be surprised, but only 3 ladies showed up, so I took it from there.
The YMCA is idea is such a good one!
I can’t tell you how helpful it has been to read this comments. I would love a future post on your experience with ADHD (evaluation, school coordination, decisions about meds, etc.) if you are comfortable sharing it. We are going down the path and I am finding surprisingly few resources.
I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately with my kid and highly recommend therapy. My therapist said something that really helped me. I would be so upset and spiral because something with my kid (bedtime, for example) was taking longer than expected and i had something I needed/wanted to get done but wouldn’t have time to do now. She suggested that as kids get older they require you to just be with them when you are with them, and any expectations that you will get anything else done ultimately lead to disappointment and frustration. This has really helped me. Now I need to plan extra kid free time to do my items and set expectations low for when I am being a parent. Getting rid of those expectations have helped a lot. Hopefully it helps you too.
Agree w trying to tolerate mess/outsourcing and throwing money at what problems you can. But also remind yourself that we’re 12+ months into a pandemic where everyone has been with their family members without much to do for way too long, and neither you or your kids have had a real vacation this whole time. Despite life going really well right now, I’ve been kind of cranky and I think it’s the vacation thing. I can’t imagine that there is a mom out there who hasn’t yelled way more than they would like throughout all of this. Not ideal, but you can only do your best. My bet is that your kids will look back and be amazed at how much you do (often on your own) for them.
Like everyone else, I really appreciate your honesty. Parenting is hard. Really hard. I do sessions with my daughters therapist separately to work on my parenting approach and it is very helpful but if I’m being honest sometimes I get down on myself after investing so much time and money into my quest to be a better parent and still sometimes not really being able to put all these great ideas into action. Our therapist is very adamant that kids don’t need perfect parents and it’s actually very helpful for kids to see how parents react when they screw up. I can’t stop myself from ever yelling again but I CAN commit to apologizing afterwards and reaffirming that it’s not right when mommy yells either (like I expect them to not yell) and reinforcing that I love them very much even when I mess up.
My favorite parenting book (and I have read a lot of them!!) is a recent one called the scaffold effect https://childmind.org/thescaffoldeffect/
This one really resonated with me and felt more actionable than other more philosophical books I have also read.
Finally, I have caught myself feeling really bad for myself on some occasions because it’s been a really rough year with the pandemic in particular. I feel like I am just EMPTY after a year of taking care of everyone else and I find myself thinking “gosh I’ve done X Y and Z for you guys why can’t you just stop screaming or fighting or whatever!” and I am trying to be really intentional about recognizing that feeling and trying to separate it from my feelings about my kids behavior because they are still kids and have been through a lot too. Not saying you feel that way at all, just trying to explain something I have noticed struggling with my kids behavior recently.
Best of luck, you are a great mom because you are trying SO hard!
No advice, just solidarity! Our situations are different in that I only have a toddler and you have three kids, but similar in that we have absolutely zero childcare possible or available on the weekends right now. We are firmly locked down under a stay at home order and my husband works evenings and Saturdays. My kiddo is a joy but trying to do any sort of housework or cooking or me time is a challenge. It would be sooo nice to have someone look after him for even a few hours! So yeah…parenting in a pandemic is hard. Anyway…I think it’s great that you are so willing to share your challenges and love to see your community of readers coming together! 🙂
Thank you as always for sharing and the transparency! We all need it as evidenced by these comments! Only add: my husband and I listened to this program (webinar-type sessions) for our challenging/spirited child and while there is no quick solution for parenting, I liked her philosophy to focus on yourself and your reactions and emotions so your child can learn to work through his/her reactions and emotions too: https://samanthamoe.com/parents/
Sarah, thank you as always for being so honest about parenting! My husband is in the National Guard and I am often home alone with my two kids (ages 9 and 2) on the weekends. It is so hard, even when no one is sick and there isn’t a pandemic going on. I have basically zero family help and it is tricky trying to find backup childcare during COVID. As much as I can, I do takeout, order groceries online, and yes, revert to screen time for everyone’s sanity. I’m right there with you in solidarity!
There are a lot of comments here that I haven’t read yet, so I apologize if I’m repeating someone else here but I highly recommend the book Hunt, Gather, Parent. I like it because it doesn’t offer a set of strategies, but instead offers a different mindset entirely. (Well it’s a different mindset and it includes some strategies that can help you embrace that mindset.)
I wrote about it on my blog here: http://notawastedword.com/game-changer/
Here is more on th ebook: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Hunt-Gather-Parent/Michaeleen-Doucleff/9781982149673
Thank you for this raw and honest post. It takes courage to admit that this journey is not easy.
SEN mum here several years post-diagnosis and I just wanted to make a couple of suggestions:
1. I find that so often, my expectations create disappointment. What I mean by that is that when I am parenting solo, I can’t really set goals or plans for myself beyond collapsing into bed with a book when my daughter goes to bed. That’s frustrating, but it’s just the season I’m in right now. Fighting against it makes me – and my daughter – less happy.
2. You say you don’t want to rely on weekend childcare – but why? It sounds like even just an hour or two would make a big difference to you. Is it really that you don’t want any weekend childcare help, or that you feel like you should get by without it?
3. Are there other types of help you can call on for these weekends, as well as child-care or instead of childcare? Can you decide that these weekends will be days of heavy screen usage, reduced cleaning standards and take out? Can you hire someone to come and clean the house while you do a Sunday afternoon trip to Flamingo Gardens?
I don’t know if any of these will help, but I really hope things get easier for you. The start of the assessment and diagnosis process can be such an emotional rollercoaster as well, please be kind to yourself.
I’m my kids’ only living parent, so I fully understand that weekends can be long and difficult. Here are a few things that help me: 1. I utilize childcare on the weekends with zero guilt (lately that means grandparents because of covid). 2. I try to keep at least one area of the house picked up and uncluttered so I can at least go sit in a calming place. 3. I do have to sacrifice housework to do fun things sometimes. There is only one of me and a finite amount of time to do all the things. 4. When I feel like I’m going to lose it and yell, I try to verbalize what I’m feeling (“It makes me feel really frustrated when you keep speaking when I’m trying to talk to you. I’m trying to tell you something important and I need you to listen.”) Also, I think you mentioned somewhere that you are going to therapy with one of your children, but therapy for myself is 100% the best thing I’ve ever done for my parenting. That’s not why I went to therapy, but still I have found it enormously helpful in that regard.
Apologies if I’m leaving this twice – I don’t see my other comment but maybe it’s in moderation?
I just wanted to recommend the book Hunt, Gather, Parent, which instead of offering a set of new parenting strategies instead offers a whole new mindset about parenting and kids’ behavior. I have really enjoyed it. I wrote about it on my blog here: http://notawastedword.com/game-changer/. And there is more information on the book here: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Hunt-Gather-Parent/Michaeleen-Doucleff/9781982149673
Thank you so much! Yes sometimes comments with links get auto sent to moderation and I only see them when I check!!!
I haven’t heard of simple families. I did just read Hunt Gather Paret and found the ideas in it intriguing and many, though not all, working well with my 3 year old so far.
So, obviously teaching and parenting are two different things, but we often preach routines and procedures when our students are acting out. This goes for the entire class and also individual students. I would say that anything you can make into a routine or procedure i.e mealtime, bedtime, or quiet time would be super helpful. Also, make sure that your consequences are consistent. Once you have the procedures and consequences in place, make sure that you utilize and don’t waiver. Personally, I think a good chunk of “quiet time” and structured bedtime routines would be super helpful because it could still give you that time to yourself.
Also, my sister recently limited my nephew’s screen time because he was acting out and appeared distracted in class. Now, he helps her clean, will exercise with her, and she has also gotten him into cooking with her. We have all noticed a big change in his behavior since screen time was taken away.
I have 5 kids, and my oldest 4 are all older than your kids. Looking back at that time in our lives, I think you are right– it is a challenging season and really impossible to solo-parent AND do things for yourself especially after a full work week. I like to get out of the house as much as humanly possible when I am parenting alone because I am always a better mom in public. I also like to plan a treat for myself for bedtime– it helps me get through that last rough slog.
I am an adult and I’m “medicated” and I can do without, sure. But unless I focus on whole day on SO MUCH EXERCISE and/or ADRENALINE, I am so much happier with the meds. My kid is on them too and he’s a teen and the same way. Even with no school, he has better days with it. It’s not a bad thing we are just different AND VERY MUCH AND ALSO- introvert or extrovert, whatever personality, we were made to be put into a situation that needs to be addressed, to have structure. Not to just, hang out at the house. But if meds are an option it is not as critical to structure every hour of the day and/or get out of the house to do your brain right. (I am not social and I am an introvert but staying at home all day with the freedom to decide what my schedule should be is like the worst for me and nothing like freedom. So Saturday should be the easiest but it’s the hardest. Meds are awesome. If you don’t want to, wear that kid out or get the kid on a schedule that you don’t have to manage. And ditto on sleep. Also yeah, I only had two but apart from the ADHD thing- ugh. It’s rough. And also Covid. All I want for Mother’s Day is a personal space bubble? And at that age I’d take them to do stuff I didn’t want to do, NOT AT ALL on my weekend. But the experience was better than trying to and thinking I could just do what I wanted/needed while parenting. Blah. And also, old school ADHD meds awesome and amazing, not for all but for many and for me and my kid. And it’s not like an SSRI or something like where it’s this giant commitment. Just try it. And the kid may be not as hungry or tired at first but that wears off. I take them and eat plenty. But melatonin too? YES. Or just do your thing, and sometimes that is just “next month should be better” that has been my 2021
Thanks for this post. For us, weekends have been a struggle since COVID. Spending more time at home during the week means that the kids aren’t as entertained by being at home as they used to be. And having less activities available for all of us means that weekends aren’t as fun and exciting. Hoping that being able to bring some new people and novelty into our lives will help shake up the routine. Also just trying to enjoy the small moments- even something small like taking a few pictures of the kids throughout the day and looking at them at the end of the day can help me reframe what seems like a terrible weekend.
This resonates with me for so many reasons! I lost my $#!+ on the kids several times this past weekend and I wasn’t even solo parenting – but for many of the same triggers. A 3 year old who won’t stop touching things is high on the list, as well as a child with ADHD (medicated – I’d be happy to talk about that because it really was the right choice for all of us) who just doesn’t hear me when I ask for attention.
My husband is just about to retire from the army reserves and my oldest turned 15 today, so I have been solo parenting at least one weekend a month (and often more because his real job requires weekends occasionally) for 15 years. (I also solo parented during his 3 deployments, but that is a different kind of hard). We have 4 kids and I guess I will give the bad news that I still think it is hard even though my kids are older. So, having said that, I think maybe you should plan that it will be hard and figure out a way to make it easier. I am a vote for hiring child care.
Things that made it easier for me- kids in their rooms from 9pm-7am and a rest time or alone time in the afternoon. I was a much better parent when I knew I was only “on” from 7-1 and 3-9. And the hours I was “on” I didn’t expect to get any non-kid related things done. But, with that schedule, I got about 4 hours of time for myself.
One of my 4 boys has ADHD. He is in 6th grade and absolutely wants his medication. He feels so much better on it. We didn’t start it until he was 10, so I understand waiting. Just wanted to let you know he loves being medicated and it helps him with his impulsivity so much.
And, last thing, some kids are absolutely harder than others and it is ok to admit that.
Sorry you had a weekend that sucked.
I would absolutely have at least 3 hours of childcare – 3 kids is a LOT – and do upholder-type activities during that time, not tidying up or making food. Blog/ exercise/ own fun.
Just want to say how much I love, appreciate, and find so much value in this post (working mom of two high-energy kiddos, 3 and 2). You are such a helpful joy to follow on the internet and on your pods! Thank you for sharing your life! I think it helps a lot more people than you even realize 🙂
When my husband was gone for work and my kids were smaller I just didn’t bother trying to do anything except what had to be done. If I could get the dishwasher running at the end of the night, it was good. We also would order Hawaiian pizza because DH doesn’t like it. It actually got a lot better when the oldest could help out. They know when DH is gone I need them to step up because I’ve told them so very seriously (and have had a minor melt-down or two before they realized they need to step up). Now that they are older it’s a lot better.
The other thing– my kids aren’t ADHD, but they are very very smart. I’m sure yours are as well. Part of being a gifted preschooler/elementary schooler is having a lot of excess energy if that energy isn’t harnessed (think Matilda). They not only need at least an hour of physical exercise to keep them from bouncing off the walls, they also need mental exercise. That by itself is a big reason they’ve been pushed with early academics (which I know a lot of internet mommies think is terrible– for us it is self-preservation). If DC1 didn’t get mental stimulation in as an elementary schooler, he would, for example, literally get himself stuck in a chair (happened at two separate weddings and once at a church service). DC2 will *literally* bounce off walls. I don’t know what’s popular these days, but for us Starfall was a life-saver at the preschool stage. I’ve also spent time teaching them math with manipulables when they were in preschool and with Singapore math when they got old enough to write.
I see you, I hear you, and I’m sorry it was a rough weekend. However, from a L Vanderkam 168 hour perspective I highly doubt that this will be the lingering perception your kids have of you. There are good days and bad days. We aren’t perfect but we can love our kids perfectly and apologize when we mess up. Two nights ago my 3 year old was crying from the bedroom (I hate bedtime) and I was just fed up, so I went in and basically lost it at my 5 year old (assuming he was the cause of the others tears). He then said in a small voice that he was trying to help and the little one was crying due to chapped lips. I just crouched down and said “I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have yelled at you, it wasn’t your fault, do you forgive me?” I think sometimes part of the lesson to our kids is that we mess up in life- they do and we do- and we need to learn to recognize it and ask for forgiveness.
Side note- I am doing foundations and have felt it really helpful. It makes me feel like I am gaining small bits of control over my physical space which does wonders for my mental health. I think you will love it.
I just wanted to add I went back and read all the comments and you are really blessed to have such wonderful readers.
And I ended up sending like 80% of our toys “on vacation” as Denaye suggests in Foundations and guess what… they are not coming back! They haven’t been missed or asked for once, and the mess is SO MUCH more manageable with less ##$^%^ around the house! I downsized a ton of my stuff too, so it’s not just like I am targeting the kids. My husband has been spared (for now) but I am eyeing some of his stuff too… LOL
Hi! I never comment but have followed for a while. I work in the field of early childhood mental health which entails a lot of parent-child relationship work and the kinds of concerns you mention are really common. We really encourage parents to work on being with/being present with their kids and that the bar should be set at “good enough” parenting, not perfect. Dan Siegel’s new book, the power of showing up, is an accessible way to explore this in more depth and I would be happy to suggest some other evidence based resources if it is helpful.
And thank you for sharing so honestly and openly—I really appreciate you!
how was your family of origin dynamic- do you remember intensity like that? how did your mom. handle mess and conflict? also how is Josh supporting you with these feelings?
Very behind on my blog reading, but thank you for posting these. I have 1 and parenting is hard, especially solo parenting. I see you.
Thank you ♥️