I am technically a grown up, but there are times when I still feel like a thirteen year old on the inside. One of those times is, hands down, whenever my husband travels for work. Is it just me? I have a college degree. I’m married. I own a home. I have a cat that I keep alive. I have children that I keep alive. Heck, my kids are even happy most days. So is the cat. All things that scream ADULT. But the minute my husband is gone, I turn into Kevin from Home Alone – barely able to figure out how to do normal life things like buying groceries – cowering under my covers at the sound of the furnace – setting up fake parties to make it appear like more people are home. Ok, maybe not the last one (not totally anyway, but below I share a fool-proof trick to keeping those outside lights on at night).
If you are like me, read on, warrior. Here are my five tips for staying sane, running the house and managing the kiddos while your husband is traveling.<
1. Plan Ahead
Plan, plan, plan. Make a strategy with your guy to get some things completed before he goes. Even small stuff. For example – for me, it’s the cat’s litter box. Even just having that simple task done before he leaves makes my week without him go more smoothly. I try to make a list of tasks that would be nice to have checked off (laundry is generally at the top!), and my husband will do his best to knock off as many as possible.
I also like to plan and shop for the week’s meals in advance. Because, let’s be honest, his preferences for dinner are much different than my kiddos, and why over achieve when you’ll already be spread thin? Another plan that’s been helpful for me is having a general idea of the week’s activities. I don’t always stick to exact times or even days. But just having a plan makes me feel more relaxed about tackling the week.<
2. Give Yourself a Break
Truly mama, don’t sweat the small stuff. Dinner not perfect every night? Kids not bathed like they normally would be? It’s ok. Give yourself some mental grace. And if you can, give yourself a physical break too. Maybe that means getting up early a morning or two to do what you like. Maybe that means hiring a sitter so you can treat yourself (or, frankly, get some necessary stuff done and ALSO treat yourself). Maybe that means pre-planning a date night for when your husband is back. But mama, take time for you. Your family is not happy unless you are happy. Your mental and physical health is top, top priority.
3. Set up FaceTime Dates With Dad
This has been a big one for us. My daughter looks forward to seeing Daddy every evening. Some days, she even starts asking when he will be home at, ohhh, 9am. The nights that he’s not coming home and it’s unexpected wreck her little schedule. It’s heartbreaking. But we’ve found a great workaround! We plan out FaceTime dates ahead of time so that she knows when she will get to talk to Daddy and so that he knows when he needs to be available (he’s usually working a ton when he’s gone). Dinner time or bed time are naturally good times to do this for our family.
4. Install Dusk-til-Dawn Outdoor Lights
I discovered these amazing light bulbs when we were selling our last home. We moved out of state before the house sold, and we needed a way to keep the house lit up at night for security (deterrent), but also to make the house look show-ready when folks were doing their drive-bys after work. We still use them now and they give me so much peace of mind. The bulbs have sensors on them that turn the light bulb on when it’s dark out, and turn it off when it’s daytime. Genius! All you have to do is make sure your light switch is flipped on, and you’re good to go.
One tricky thing about these light bulbs: they need to be able to sense the time of day. So, the light fixture needs to have fairly clear glass. We ended up replacing our outdoor light fixtures so the bulbs would work. (Disclaimer: if you do decide to replace your fixtures, please please please hire an electrician if you don’t know electrical! My dad happens to be very handy with electrical, so he was comfortable handling this himself).
The previous light fixtures had cloudy glass and it was difficult to access the bulb. Plus, we couldn’t get them to turn on (even with my dad’s super electrical skills) and they were prettttty ugly! We replaced our four front lights with four of this fixture. What I love about them is 1) they are super easy to access and 2) the glass is just opaque enough to hide the bulb style (which I’m not a huge fan of aesthetically), but still translucent enough for my smarty pants bulbs to detect the time of day. Plus, they are a decent price for the quality and look. Hooray!
In addition to the dusk-til-dawn lights, we installed a new motion sensor light facing our backyard. It gives me added comfort that our backyard is taken care of, too. I could not find a link to the exact light we bought at Home Depot, so here’s a similar one. Our model is also the same brand. It took a little adjusting before we got the sensors right, but it was well worth the effort. I walked around our property line twice before they were working well. And friends, you will want to use an electrician for this job if you do not have electrical skills. I’m fortunate enough to have a father who is well versed in electrical, so we tackled this together in about two hours. <em>(It would have been less time, but we had to run back to the store for a weatherproof electrical box. There was NO electrical box at all on the previous light! It was just hanging off the house by the cords. Yikes!)
5. Expect a Few Snafus
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in this journey of motherhood is that snafus happen. It goes against all of my pre-mom perfectionist instincts, but it’s so, so true. Things just don’t always go as planned or expected. And you know what? That’s fine! I’ve learned (and it hasn’t always been easy!) to expect the unexpected and roll with it. Sometimes it’s not always comfortable, and sometimes it takes some personal dialogue (aka pep talks to myself) and sometimes they’re even out loud. I’m not even sorry about that. Quite the opposite – I believe it can be helpful for my kiddos too, to hear me giving myself positive affirmations like “you’ve got this” and “oh, that was unexpected, but that’s ok”.
What about you? I’d love to hear your biggest frustrations when you are parenting solo! Share in the comments below!