If you found this post through desperately Googling the title phrase, then I am sorry, you are in for a rough six weeks.
Our situation was that my husband got laid off, hunted locally for months, and though he had several promising interviews, decided to widen the search out of state. When he did find a job, they needed him to start immediately.
Suddenly, he was gone, and it was just me, four kids (including a baby and toddler), and a big house in need of packing.
Did I do those six weeks perfectly? Not at all. But here are some tips that I would give anyone facing a similar situation:
- Don’t advertise that you are alone. Our friends and family (and whoever our family told…goodness…) knew, but I did not post this info on public social media or tell people if I could help it. This is just common sense safety– I felt awfully vulnerable home alone with four little girls. I even called the police to come patrol past my house a few times, and I would do that again.
- Accept help. If people ask you how they can help, tell them! For me, the biggest help was dinners–not only dinners brought to the house, but when people would have me and the whole crew over. It gave the girls a welcome change of scenery and myself some adult conversation and time out of the kitchen. I’m forever grateful to the families that blessed us in this way.
- Keep busy. When I found out we’d be on our own for weeks, I scheduled as many playdates and activities as I could. The hardest time of day is when my husband would typically get off work–that evening time, before and after dinner, felt so empty.
- Remember you are in survival mode. I told myself I was going to use these six weeks to lose my last 10 lbs of baby weight but….looking after four kids by myself while working meant that I pretty much just had time to survive. No big projects, exercise, or even writing (which I love). I had to put some things down temporarily.
- Keep it simple. Going along with the last point, don’t try anything too fancy. What is the point in fixing a big fancy dinner when kids are pretty happy with penne and marinara? I refused to let meals devolve into hotdogs everyday, but I also didn’t pull out any of my complicated recipes. We kept things light and simple–sandwiches, fruit, veggies, salads.
- Co-sleep. We don’t typically co-sleep (little bed, lots of kids), but with my husband out of town, the girls needed the extra attachment and closeness, so I had a rotation (minus the baby, who would crawl off the bed) of who would sleep with me each night. It did have its drawbacks–sometimes a girl would want to skip turns or cry because she missed her sister or roll and kick all night and keep me up. But overall I felt like this really helped them and me.
- Be honest with your kids. When I was tired or stressed or having a hard time, I went ahead and apologized to my kids. That of course doesn’t give license to just act and do whatever you’d like, but I think it helped them to see that I’m a person too, and that sometimes I do get tired or stressed or scared. When our closing date (and move) got postponed a week, I told them right away, and what to expect in the meantime. I think this made them feel more secure even with all the tumult.
- Maintain a schedule. I love schedules, so I kept us on our homeschool schedule (because who can take 6 weeks off really??). This gave them something to work on and felt like our days were still “normal”ish. I read and read and read to them. We finished our read-alouds in half the time it normally takes us. Now this time will always have some literature tied to it–Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Daniel Boone, and Indian in the Cupboard.
- Do what you can do. What I mean by this is…if it is too hard for you on that day, don’t do it. Some days I was up to taking the kids on a hike in our big rambling outdoorsy park–somedays I was tired and could only handle our backyard. If I was up to it, we all went grocery shopping; if not, we have grocery pick up. It disappointed the kids sometimes, but I would rather be honest with them about not having enough energy to handle a huge excursion than to try it and have the day fall apart.
- Take care of yourself. This was THE HARDEST PART. I was so busy meeting needs, packing, and working (I work online) during this time, I sometimes wouldn’t have time for a shower or breakfast or daily prayer. Days that I skipped out on taking care of my needs, I felt it. It was so much harder to remain patient, self-controlled and kind when stress of our situation plus regular stress of the day compiled with no relief in sight. I tried my best to take time in the morning for prayer and bible reading–either before the kids got up or, more often, while they ate breakfast, and time in the evening for personal care–a phone call to my husband, an hour with a good book, etc. I also had to hold this loosely–when you are the only adult home, you can’t get too upset when your quiet set-aside time is interrupted.
I learned a lot taking on parenting single-handed these past six weeks. I have a greater respect for women who always parent alone–who bravely raise their children without the steady support of a husband to lean on. I appreciate my husband more–mowing our lawn with a pushmower for the first time left me basically ready to write sonnets in his praise!–and learned to long for and love the rhythms of our complete, unified family.