20 Nov

Solo Parenting

Posted by Jenna, Under Parenting

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It is ironic that I use this picture for this post – as it was taken by my husband. We really enjoy the time we do get to spend with him. 

I’m not really sure what I should call this thing that I’m doing, existing with a husband who travels for work M-Th every week, and is often working away from home 6-7 days/week. I’ve read enough posts written by actual single mothers to understand why it is hurtful and inaccurate for me to co-opt the phrase single motherhood. My partner provides monetary resources that afford me the luxury to work from home as a photographer and blogger while deciding when and how much to outsource childcare. He might not be physically present, but at the end of a hard day I am able to talk through the highs and lows of my day with him. When our children present challenges I have someone to brainstorm solutions with. We debate together, vacation together, make goals together. It’s been hard for me, but nowhere near as difficult as it would be if I were an actual single mother.

Taking on so much of the parenting load has been really difficult for me though, especially since parenting isn’t really my forte. We have no family in the area, and that means no breaks from the kids unless we pay someone. On weeknights I’m trapped in my bedroom (literally, since my oldest thinks that if I am awake and moving about that gives him license to stay up and move about his room), while my girlfriends in the area meet-up for movie nights and book clubs as their spouses watch the kids. We’re slowly building up friendships in the area, but haven’t made it to that perfect point where you don’t even bother knocking as you walk in the front door.

In short, it’s been challenging for me, with lots and lots of tears.*

The point of this post is to say that I needed something to describe my situation. Adopting consistent verbiage would help me accept where I’m at and give me a way to talk about it with others. I didn’t know of anyone else who had blazed that trail already, so I went with solo parenting. Single is the word our culture uses to describe someone who is not in a relationship, but solo is a word we use to talk about people who are alone. My husband is frequently absent, and so I am alone, though I am not single. Most of the time, I am a solo parent.

It’s important for me to talk about this, because the more I do so the more I realize how common it is. It’s very helpful for me to hear the stories and coping strategies employed by women in similar situations. The idealized 9-to-5 working schedule just isn’t an option for everyone, and I don’t think it is productive to be reductive in our discussions about work-life balance and career strategies.

I am growing daily, getting better at it with time. And I love living here! There is no other location in the world where I would rather live than Silicon Valley. I love the opportunities I have, and the way I’m living my life right now. If I want to have all of those things, traveling husband and solo parenting are also part of the equation.

What do you think, is there a better phrase to describe what I’m doing?

ETA: Lots of comments already about how we should get more help – babysitters, a nanny, maybe even an au pair. I would love that, specifically for one or two evenings each week, but our spending in other areas means we can’t afford it. Maybe you can tell all of your friends to hire me to photograph their weddings or lifestyle sessions, and then I’ll be able to pay to have some girl’s nights? :)


*I’m in weekly therapy now. No more breakdowns!

61 Comments


  1. Katherine (aka Sparkles) says:

    I have a very close dear friend who is in the same situation as you!
    Her kids (our kids) are younger than yours. And her husband travels for work. Ahe is home with 2 lil ones. They got a part time nanny to give her respite and help with their 6 wk old & 2 yr old daughters. They recently put the 2 yr old in preschool to help too. We are developing a partnership to help get each other thru the days she is alone to help make her time pass. Although today she had it rough. Her car got towed and i was having a family day and couldn’t help her with her 2 kids and get her car from the impound! Ay.

    But it’s nice having friends be on your team and not judge. And to lean on during a hard day. We call each other when it’s been rough and we are like “let’s get the kids out before we all go nuts! Zoo day it is!” I am definitely going to miss these “good ole days” when we reminisce about having the time to be each other’s rock when our kids are older and we don’t see each other as often. Its invaluable having that kind of sisterhood.

    I have to say. I like your term solo parenting. :-) it describes that sense of doing a good chunk alone day in and day out.

    Jenna Reply:

    I’m so grateful to have had a nanny through the newborn stage with our second. I was able to not only survive that period of time, the help made it so I was able to enjoy it!

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  2. Wow, that sounds like such a hard situation. What do you foresee happening in the future? Is this going to be what your husband’s career looks like for the next ten+ years? Will he reach a point of seniority when he won’t have to travel as much? Is his ultimate goal to have a different kind of job? It seems like you might have different strategies/attitudes if this is a “get through the next two years” situation vs. needing to figure out a permanent strategy.

    I wonder if you guys could afford to hire an au pair–maybe a young woman from Poland? You have to provide a room, but au pairs can often cost significantly less than other kinds of childcare, and if you get a Polish person it could have the added benefit of helping your kids learn the language. I know one mother who is in a similar situation (she’s relatively well off, divorced but ex-husband lives far away so she’s a solo parent most of the time) and having an au pair works really well for her. It seems like you need someone to take some of the burden off you. That would allow you time to devote to making your photography/pinterest fail profitable as well.

    Maybe it would help you to read up on women who had children early in life (and/or lots of children) and went on to have amazing second and third acts to their lives. The random people who spring to mind are Nancy Pelosi and Wendy Davis from our era and Harriet Beecher Stowe and Elizabeth Cady Stanton from the 19th century, but there are probably thousands of examples.

    Jenna Reply:

    Second/third acts have been on my mind because of Parenthood. Do you watch it?

    We’ve looked into the au pair. It’s still $18,000 that we don’t have unless Jenna Cole really starts to bring home some bacon :)

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, I do watch Parenthood! Good show. You’re still so young–you will only be in your 40s when your kids go to college, right? You might have four acts!

    Could Jenna Cole get close to $18,000 with some time invested in marketing (even just using that wife to market yourself)? I am no economist, but it seems like if you don’t buy any new equipment, and you book 10 or 12 weddings (one/month or a bit less) plus occasional baby or high school photography, you could get close enough to that mark to justify an au pair. Then once you have steady childcare it will be much easier to expand your business even more.

    Crystal Reply:

    Isn’t P in daycare during the week? I know here that full time daycare and an au pair are comparable cost wise.

    Jenna Reply:

    I would never give up his school for an au pair or nanny (who would just take him to the park). I love hearing all of the things he is learning each day!

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  3. I often feel like a solo parent as well. I don’t really have any suggestions because I too find it challenging. Just wanted to chime in to say you aren’t alone!

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  4. If parenting 24/7 is causing you so much stress, why not look into full or part time employment out of the home? It would give you an outlet and more “adult time.”

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  5. You should move to Singapore! (Kidding…kind of). This situation is really common here, because so many expats are charge of the “Asian division” or something similar and must spend a large percentage of time traveling. Actually I am one of the few people I know for whom this is NOT true. Several of my closest friends here are in the exact same situation, the difference being that their husbands are in Bangkok or Indonesia etc etc.

    Yet they all have plenty of free time and regularly meet me for GNOs or similar. How is this possible? Because they have full time, live in maids who do all the cooking, cleaning, marketing and as much childcare as desired. A typical maid (for an expat family, locals tend to expect more) works 8-8 or so, including Saturdays (Sundays and public holidays are off). In a lot of ways it’s better than a husband from a practical perspective, because YOU decide how/when the maid does things (no negotiating over whose turn it is to go out or who does more around the house, for example).

    I have a lot of issues with the current system here for a variety of reasons but there is no doubt that it’s incredibly freeing to mothers, stay-at-home or otherwise.

    Jenna Reply:

    Better than a husband – haha!

    I wonder how I would far in a similar situation in Singapore. I probably would have hired the maid/nanny like everyone else, but you keep bringing up your objections to the status quo and it’s hard not to agree with them. I guess if I moved there you and I would have to be next-door neighbors and give each other childcare breaks.

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  6. You should find some military moms in your area (I mentioned before that I’ve lived in a few wards that were half military, even though we are not). Those are some tough, self sufficient women and they gave me a lot of ideas about how they get through their days creatively and happily and help the time to feel like it passes quickly. Of course, it wasn’t easy and a walk in the park, and they had their moments where they could do nothing but call a friend to vent, but I was always in awe of how they got through the total management of the home, kids, everything, with no weekends off, no family, and a husband in harm’s way halfway around the world for 6 months straight..and still let their husband stay in the military!;). I enjoyed talking to them to find out how they scheduled their lives, what they made priorities when Dad was gone and what things they let go, how they stayed in contact with their spouse, and of course since a couple of them were my visiting teaching ladies, how I could really help.

    If there are no military moms in your area, I’m sure some of them blog? That would be another good avenue. They would definitely understand what it’s like like to solo parent.

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  7. That sounds incredibly difficult. I can’t even imagine. When my two oldest daughters were little, my husband worked two jobs so I could stay home. He’d often leave at 6 AM and not return home until 9:30. I was on my own all day (and at times, without a car), but I could see him at night.

    Things have improved dramatically for my family financially since that time. My husband is quickly moving up the corporate ladder and I work part time as a nurse. My husband, a few years ago, was offered an amazing job that would have had a travel schedule similar to your husbands. We decided it wasn’t worth it. The money and prestige that would come from it wasn’t worth being apart and having him miss basketball practice, swim meets, spelling bees at school, etc. Sometimes I miss the money we would have had, but then I see him carpooling the kids to school and making waffles before school, and think, ” I wouldn’t change a thing.” I’m not telling you that you and your family are doing it wrong by any means, but to think long and hard about the cost to your family and whether or not it’s worth it! We all decide different things, and ultimately only you and TH can make the decision that’s best for YOUR family!

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  8. I think this is a great way to describe it and is exactly where I am at right now. I’ve got 3 children, 4 1/2, 2 and 3 months. Unfortunately, even with the incredibly long hours my husband works, I cannot afford to have someone else watch my children and get the much needed break.

    I have to keep telling myself that they will get older and things will be a little easier. I don’t think it is working though and I lose it a little too often.

    I think what is hardest is my husband wants to touch and love me when he is around and I have no desire because I am so done with being touched. I just want my body to be mine for the short amount of time they are in bed and before I have to nurse my youngest once again.

    The little things that do help is to get out of the house. The change of scenery does me and the kids good. I also find that if I include them in the household chores it makes them happy that they are helping and I don’t get as frustrated that they are trying to get me to do other things when I am trying to do another.

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  9. hello there says:

    I am not writing this to be combative: I think what you’re describing is SAHM. The only difference is that your husband travels for work, but there’s a gazillion families like that (not to mention military wives, who don’t see their husbands hundreds of months at a time).

    I think you may need more help, and there’s no shame in that: I can’t imagine how difficult parenting is. Why don’t you hire a mother’s helper for the days when your husband is away?

    Jenna Reply:

    I am certainly not trying to claim my version of motherhood as the most difficult kind. Just describe it.

    CA living expenses and the way we spend our money means I can’t afford more childcare unless I make more money to pay for it. At least for now.

    hello there Reply:

    That’s a bummer!

    Btw, I give you great props for saying parenting is not a your forte. I do not ever plan to have children (because I really don’t think I’m selfless enough for that, frankly) and EVERYONE tells me how everything changes once you have kids. Very brave of you! I hope you figure out a way to make it better, soon.

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  10. Curious (And forgive me if this is too personal): If you had known before you decided to have kids that parenting wasn’t your forte, would it have changed the way you went about it? Would you have waited longer to have them? Stuck to having just one? Not had kids at all? Of course I am not saying you regret your precious babies AT ALL, just wondering with hindsight being 20/20.

    I was terrified of having children due to personal reasons and it turns out I love being a mom and it is very fulfilling to me. (I have a 16 month old and the second on the way) I wonder how things would be different if it hadn’t come easily/happily to me.

    Jenna Reply:

    Absent Mormonism I would have approached the decision to have children in a much more studied, personal fashion. I never even knew/thought being childless was an option for me.

    Kristen Reply:

    I guess I’m just curious as to how much of your change of heart was because of leaving the church and how much was just having children and realizing how hard it is? I say that because in your pre-child blogging days you expressed repeatedly how much you wanted to have kids. That couldn’t have all been the church “telling you you were supposed to have kids”. I mean, some of that must have been your desires to pro-create and be a mother. I’m not sure I’m articulating my question very well. It just seems like you didn’t think about being childless because you genuinely wanted to have kids, at least that was the impression you gave?

    Jean G. Reply:

    I’m curious about this as well. I seem to remember a couple of posts about how people around her didn’t think getting pregnant right away was a good idea.

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  11. I think you are brave for admitting that parenthood is not your forte and that you’re not cut out to be a mom 100% of the time. I’m sure a lot of people feel similar but the expectation is that you must love every minute of it or you’re a bad parent. To say otherwise is definitely taboo but I think it helps people who are struggling.

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  12. Michelle M says:

    Does TH mind you calling yourself a solo parent? My husband works long long days and I’m all alone with the kids 4-5 days a week. He comes home, crawls into bed when we are asleep, and leaves before we wake up. I would never say I’m in this by myself and he would be sad if I did. Is there anything TH can do to make you feel that you aren’t alone? Do you feel lonely?

    Piper Reply:

    We refer to it as being the sole physical parent :p my husband lives several states away so he isn’t physically here most of the time (he is able to fly home for a week every 1-3 months) but he is still involved in parenting. We make decisions together, he provides emotional support, and he tries to make my life as easy as possible for the week he is here so I periodically get a break! This is his week home, first time he’s been here since mid-August, and it is so nice to get a break from cleaning and laundry and homework and stuff. I can recharge and next week go back to being the sole physical parent of three :)

    Jenna Reply:

    SPP – I like it!

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  13. I like that term of solo parenting. I’ve been a solo parent off and on for years since my husband has been in rigorous training as a medical student and then resident. We definitely don’t have money for sitters – even for dates – so we’ve tried to work out swaps from families in similar situations. Even after my husband is a practicing doctor, many doctors still have such bad schedules that I’m going to try not taking any evenings or weekends with him for granted when he’s done with his training in a few more years. It’s just life, and the way things are going economically for so many families in this country, time together is getting harder as we work more to make ends meet.

    Also as regards not feeling like a natural parent: I so get that. I’ve been working on it. As my children get older there are more things to enjoy doing together, which is great. Also more things to be frustrated with, which isn’t. I’ve heard some people say that everyone is naturally gifted at some stage of parenting whether that be with infants, toddlers, school age, or adolescent children. Maybe your phase is coming.

    Meanwhile, on my end, the more I parent the better I get at it. I’ve had to start babysitting for financial reasons, and it’s actually been one of the best things I could ever do for myself as a parent. Adding extra kids into the mix during the days makes the time I have with kids alone more precious and easier because there aren’t so many of them! Not saying that’s your solution; just that it’s working for me. Though I have to laugh having just typed that because my son was NOT in the playroom while I typed; he was splashing around with bath toys in the toilet! Laugh when you can. Cry when you have to.

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  14. My husband is military, and we’re moving a new place where he will be gone 50% of the time. I understand what it’s like!

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  15. Big hugs! Solo parenting is something military wives are familiar with, although we’re lucky to be part of a community that is all going through the same thing. It sounds like you’re alone in a sea of “typical” families so I’m sending lots of love and encouragement! Solo parenting is hard even if you are good at parenting (although I’m not sure there are many parents out there who think they’re doing that well at it. We all struggle) so don’t beat yourself up too much. I love this series a fellow military spouse blogger did: (you’ll have to scroll down to get to the exact posts I’m talking about, it’s called “When He’s Away”) http://chambanachik-live.blogspot.com/search/label/milspouses. The posts show snippets of what life is really like when dad is away, behind the facade that so many of us put up. And if you’d like more military spouse blogs to follow there are plenty of them out there I (and others) can share! It’s not the exact same position you’re in, but probably one of the closest ones. And what gets me through the day (or hour) is knowing that today is not my forever; my kids will grow (literally), I will grow (figuratively), if today is really really hard there will be a day in the future that will be great. Just breathe and know there are lots of people out there who are in similar circumstances and are sending you a giant fist pump!

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  16. I also call it “soloing” when my partner travels for business. My kids are 5 and 2, and I can say I think it will be a lot easier for you when your kids are that age. (For me, it is still incredibly hard, mostly because of logistics – I work full time, and my work start time is the same as the kids’ school start times, so it is literally impossible for me to do everything on time on my own). I agree that the daily grind of parenting two young kids can be very draining, and it is hard to feel like you get no downtime at all, but I really think it will be much better soon. Your kids will be more able to help you out, you may enjoy more of the same “downtime” activities. The one thing i do try to remember is that it is important to stay engaged. It sometimes feels easier to tune out every now and then, but parenting goes much better if you actively engage with the kids, and then carve out separate downtime when they are asleep or you have childcare.

    When your oldest is in kindergarten and your youngest is in some kind of preschool, you will have a much nicer balance of time without kids during school hours, time alone with each kid, and those hectic-but-wonderful evenings with both. And you won’t be paying nearly as much in childcare so you can maybe afford a weeknight babysitter every few weeks. That’s only a few years off. And it might take only a few hours a week of weeknight babysitting to make you feel sane. Maybe you can think of it as dipping into savings a little to pay for mental health, knowing you will be making up for it later.

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  17. Not sure if you’ve done this already but maybe check out the MOPS or Mothers of Toddlers and Infants groups in the SFO area. Maybe check out Meet Up or yahoo groups? Some of my mom friends in WA and CA have done this and it has helped- gives you a community of people with kids the same age and you can trade off babysitting duties or do nannyshares etc + gives you a social outlet. Maybe worth a shot?

    Jenna Reply:

    I have joined pretty much every group I can have. Part of the struggle is that I only need to fill my weekends with play dates and meet ups. I’m working on the weekdays. Most people want to spend time with their spouses on the weekends though!

    Melanie Reply:

    I thought TH was home on the weekends? Or at least most of them.

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  18. This was interesting for me to read and see your point of view. This is actually how I grew up for several years of my life! We moved to Utah and my dad flew to CA every week to work in his dental practice. This commuting went on for about 10 years I believe! We were at home with my mom during the week and my dad would come home on Fridays and then fly out again on Sunday to go back to work! Definitely different than all of my other friends who had their dad around in the evenings etc. But it was our life! Now that we are expecting our second child I realize how strong my mother was for raising us this way…..6 kids at home and a husband out of state! Just crazy to think of how she did it now!

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  19. I just want to chime in and second what so many others have said – it is so refreshing to hear someone admit that parenting doesn’t come easily to them! Having had the pleasure of meeting you and your little ones in person I have to say you totally seem like a natural and I don’t think anyone would ever suspect you find it hard. I think it is so important, as parents, to be open about our struggles; I’ve met far too many women who just want to tell me about how their baby has been sleeping through the night since they were three days old, or how breastfeeding came so naturally, they produce a ton of milk and *love* having a baby attached to them 24/7. Of course it’s wonderful to share the highlights and the successes of parenting, but I think far too many people are too ashamed to admit to the struggles even though that is the best way to support one another. So good for you for sharing your struggles and being honest about your journey! If it helps, you make it all look really easy :-)

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  20. I don’t have a good sense of how you structure your week–do you want to share that? Do you have childcare for the baby still? When you say you work on weekdays, what does that look like? Are you home with the baby and working while she naps and your son is at school?

    Also, where I live there are lots of working moms who take their kids to classes on weekends–maybe not so much casual playdates, but mommy-and-me type classes. That could be something to explore.

    Jenna Reply:

    I’ve changed the way I structure my day (getting up at 6am is a key part) and it has been revolutionary! A post is forthcoming.

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  21. I was never in your situation with a husband who traveled for work, mine was home after work every day, in fact we came home from work each day at close to the same time. I would have given nearly anything to have been able to stay home with my children when they were little. Countless were the times I cried on my way to work after leaving them in childcare. My advice is to enjoy these years with your children. They go very fast. In looking back I think that working outside the home taught my daughters valuable lessons and not the white picket fence, SAHM life I grew up envisioning for myself. They are parents and are helpmates in their own marriages. Eventually you will have life, part two, and you will have to teach yourself how to indulge yourself.

    stacey Reply:

    Phyllis, this is good to hear – I never wanted to be a working mom either, but I am and probably always will be because we need the money. I’ve cried many times too, because I feel like I’m ruining her life – but maybe not. Maybe I’m actually teaching her good things, that will benefit her later… I like that perspective. :)

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  22. Thanks for sharing Jenna. Even though our baby isn’t here yet, we’ve been thinking a lot about working & the family balance. I work from home, which most people think is a play-job. My partner only works 40 hours a week, but I still can see it being a bit isolating to be home all week with our baby. Considering all of the nanny options now, and I’m sure it’ll only evolve more when the baby is here.

    Jenna Reply:

    The work from home thing is flexible, but hard. Establishing a schedule and setting boundaries is key.

    My therapist put “your work” in air quotes at our last session. I like her, but that right there describes perfectly what the outside perception is of what I do.

    I hope the transition is a relatively easy one for you.

    schmei Reply:

    Uh… is this therapist otherwise cool? Because I would consider breaking up with her over that.

    Jean G. Reply:

    Was she referring to the blogs? Maybe she was trying to make a point that right now they’re hobbies that Jenna hopes will become a job, but aren’t quite there yet? I’m really curious about the context in which this was said.

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  23. Aithnea Micheals says:

    With my husband’s old job I was in a very similar situation as you. Except in our car he worked from about 6 am to 9pm almost every day. Even weekends. It is hard on the one who’s home most, especially when the children make strange with the other parent. To say that I felt like a prisoner in my own home would be an understatement. What we ended up doing was joining a baby sitting co-op with some other parents in our area.

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  24. Right now T1 is in school full day M-F, right? Have you thought about switching to MWF, then using the money you save on tuition for regular scheduled sitters T/Th late afternoon/evenings? I know you love his school, but he would still get so much enrichment from the three days he is there and you’d have a lot more evening flexibility. Just a thought to keep a similar style of what you have going on now but just changing the hours around a bit?

    How does TH feel about his work/life schedule? I know that you usually only share your side publicly so I understand if you’d prefer not to comment, but is this a schedule that you think he’ll continue long term?

    Sorry things have been hard, though. Hang in there.

    Jenna Reply:

    Somedays I think about switching to the MWF schedule for him. It’s nice to not have to feel like I have to get him out of the house sometimes. I hadn’t thought about how we could take the funds from school and put them toward more childcare. AND I could afford to have time away from baby girl as well, something that I’ve been trying to figure out how to swing (just got a quote of $260 for 2x/week for her).

    I think sometimes he is jealous he didn’t follow you guys to Utah like the others did :) (I think you were the first ones to move out there with the company you’re at, right?) The job is challenging, but there are so many reasons to stay. Great potential, paying for business school (no debt!), autonomy that Bain didn’t even attempt to provide.

    Lisa Reply:

    Yeah, I think having the full break from both kids is really rejuvenating, and the fun activities with them both on the days off school (at least for me) are exhausting but also rejuvenating in a different way.

    So far it’s just Dave & Ryan from Bain at the company, but Jarem did move out here to a different company at the same time. It’s definitely been rewarding. I’m sure that we’re not reaping the financial benefits that TH probably is, but they definitely get that autonomy that they didn’t get before. That’s probably been the best part–seeing him get to come up with stuff, actually implement it right away, and see what it does. We’re always continually working to find the right work/life balance, because in a start-up company the work is never done and there is always a ton more to do, but because he is essentially his own boss he does have more flexibility to try to figure out a schedule that balances both sides as much as he can. Like you already pointed out, every job will have sacrifices (one for me, maybe living in Utah, haha…although I admit that it has grown on me much more than I thought it would in many ways, still not so much in others). Just have to find the ones you can live with.

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  25. I wonder if you might be doing yourself a disservice having your son in daycare full-time. When my children were very small, my husband was an associate at a law firm. He didn’t travel much, but he worked all the time including weekends. There were some tough moments. One of the best things I did was to put my kiddos in daycare/preschool part time 3 days a week. I made great friends with other moms and dads and we had lots of fun play dates. We would also take turns picking up our kids and taking them home for playdates to give another parent a bit of a longer break. It was a win all around. The kids had a good mix of daycare/socializing and parent time and the moms and dads got to spend time with each other, i.e. adults!

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  26. Love the term solo-parenting, my husband travels for work and when he’s not traveling, he’s entertaining people from out of state. I find myself totally reliant on my parents and inlaws if I want to do anything. My gym doesn’t have childcare so last week the kids and I were t my parents house 3 nights so I could work out on thier treadmill while they watched the kids. I wish we were t a place financially where I wasn’t as reliant on family.

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  27. I’m considering a job/location change that would have me working like 10 minutes away from home, in part because my husband (who, overall, loves being a SAHD) is really exhausted at the end of a week of 8-6, M-F parenting. Not quite as much of a grind as yours (99% of the time I’m home for dinner and bedtime) but it’s a lot of work. One big difference in our situation is that DH really does have a personality that’s cut out for his current gig, and the work I do meshes well with my personality, too. It’s something we discussed a lot before our first child was born. If the roles were reversed, we’d both be miserable.

    When I was a kid, both my parents worked outside the home. I’m completely convinced my mom was a better mom because she had a career that challenged and intellectually stimulated her. And she’s said many times that she is better at her job because she’s a mom. If she had tried being a SAHM she would have been miserable and, I think, so would we. As it was, she was a truly engaged parent for all three of her kids.

    I guess I’m saying all that to say that I know you’re mulling through all of this, but you working outside the home, maybe even part-time when they’re so small, might be better for your whole family.

    Jenna Reply:

    I am working. And it is stimulating and I love it. Unfortunately right now I’m trying to do it while caring for 1 or 2 kids (right now it is 2 and the oldest is squeaking sophie the giraffe right in the youngest’s face making her cry, which is why it’s hard for me to get much work done).

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  28. It seems like getting childcare for both kids two or three days a week would give you greater flexibility and more time to work than your current arrangement, where you’re still responsible for your youngest one full time.  Then you could have two or three days of solid work, mixed with two or three days of fun kid activities.  I’ve got to imagine it’s so much harder for you to get work done with your current situation.

    Also, I would echo other commenters suggesting you find activities to do on weekdays.  You mentioned that you’re working from home on weekdays, but what about all of the times when your daughter is awake?  I can’t imagine you could get any work done then, so why not have playtime with friends?  It makes it so much easier.  I have also worked from home with two kids, but know that it’s not really possible for me to work unless it is naptime or they are both watching tv (I try not to rely on the last one often, but sometimes it’s a necessity!).

    Last, I highly recommend getting both kids more disciplined about sleep.  It takes an investment of time at the beginning, but it is SO GOOD once you get it down – and the kids are usually happier for it.  We now have our three year old and four month old going to bed at 7:30 p.m., and though there are occasionally calls for water/potty/reassuring, everyone is out like a light by 8.  Having a couple of kids free hours before bedtime is absolutely essential to my sanity (plus I have another couple of hours to work/have a glass of wine :)).

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  29. I agree with the other poster that said that the children need more bedtime discipline. You need to have some me time every day. A time for you to do something for yourself. The best time will most likely be after the children are in bed.

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  30. Hi Jenna,
    The biggest (and ongoing) struggle for me as a parent was understanding my children’s limitations, and learning how to manage my expectations.
    You have eluded to this a few times yourself – believe me, I KNOW what you mean.
    As adults, we have our own set of expectations, activities we would like to enjoy, errands we need to run, responsibilities we need to fulfill. As a parent, we really need to try our absolute hardest to put our brains on the same level as our children, and try our hardest to understand what their own limitations are. Their attention span is not as long as that of an adult, and their tolerance levels are more shallow. While it would be ideal for our children to compliantly and co-operatively accompany us on all of our errands and to-do lists, it is unfortunately not realistic. Children get frustrated, tired, “hangry”, uninterested and bored like adults, but at these ages, they lack the abilities to refrain from acting on these feelings (unlike adults, who have the learned ability to “grin and bear it”) At this stage, as tough as it may be, you need to take their cues and judge your day based around them. This is NOT your children “making the rules” or a case of giving them an inch, and them taking a mile. This is just developing an understanding of what your children are capable of doing prior to making an agenda for the day. I promise it will lead to less meltdowns and less frustration. It may take some time to understand, but once you begin, it will get A LOT easier, and eventually you can start stretching out the to-do lists and accomplish more in one day. As a parent right now, you just need to alter your expectations a bit. I do not mean any offense by this – just hoping that you will consider my points. :) GOOD LUCK.

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  31. No advice, just wanted to offer some sympathy. My husband has to travel once in a while for work (not nearly as much as TH), and I already dislike that greatly. I can’t imagine what it would be like if we had kids! All you solo parents are amazing. I’m not sure if you’ve addressed this in the comments yet, but I hope there is an end in sight for TH’s schedule!

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  32. Jenna,

    As a long time reader, I am going to try to say this in a kind way, but I think you have to do some serious thinking about motherhood. It’s not a bad thing. Bravo for you for admitting its not your forte, but what do you have against it?

    I saw this article and it made me think of you – http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/10/09/youre-a-stay-at-home-mom-what-do-you-do-all-day/

    On another point, from what I see in your posts, it seems like you’re grappling with a lack of structure. This is just an outsider’s observation, but structure is a good thing and not having a religion anymore is a structure that’s not in your life anymore. Just like your kids need structure, so do you. It wouldn’t hurt to consult with a behavior specialist to see if you can figure out a routine that will make things easier. ABA therapy is used for kids with Autism and it really works to help shape them and give a sense of order.

    I pray for you, I hope you find peace in your heart that seems to be missing. Life doesn’t have to be so hard, Jenna. It’s how we approach the situation that makes things great or bad. Parenting kids is a hard task, for sure, but from my perspective you have the life, Jenna.

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  33. This is kind of an older post but i feel the need to reply.

    My husband is a firefighter and I stay home with the kids (now ages 7 and 9). They are 18 months apart. My husband regularily works 24 hour shifts with several 48′s thrown in throughout the month. It’s not a four day stint, but it is a LOT of time alone with the kids. It is a lot of plans cancelled at the last minute because he had to work and I don’t have anyone to watch the kids. We do not have money for babysitters, although both kids did attend part day preschool and are now in school full time (hallelujah!).

    Here’s what I’ve learned: 1. you just have to get through it. They won’t always be this little (in fact the ages your kids are were the ones that were the hardest) and in the end you will be stronger.

    2. (mostly for slightly older kids) They have to help. My older daughter has to help her younger brother with stuff, they have to help me with housework and cleanup. It’s all age appropriate of course but they need to know that there are 2 of them and 1 of me and I can’t do everything. We are a team.

    3. A strict bedtime routine. I need them in bed by 8 so I can stay sane. This is the one thing I was a parenting tyrant on and it ended up being better for all of us. Also, seperate bath nights. Each kid bathes every other night on a seperate schedule. This means I ended up doing one bath a night but it was so much more enjoyable because it was only one kid. I found that if the day had been stressful my patience was gone by bedtime.

    good luck and yes, there are single mothers out there and that must be hard. However, what you are doing is hard too and doesnt’ need to be discounted just because others might have it more difficult.

    Jenna Reply:

    Right now I bathe them together, but I’m intrigued by the idea of a rotating bath schedule so that one is in the tub at a time. The moment when they are both crying and want to get out at the same time can be so stressful!

    And I need to get better about bedtime routine and getting them down at the same time.

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  34. Hi Jenna – Another solo mom here! My husband doesn’t travel out of town but he works nights (not a typical ‘night shift’ but early afternoon – midnight or early morning. We have one child, a daughter who is 15 months. What has been hardest for me is coming to terms with my life not looking like I thought it would, in terms of evenings spent with my partner. Somehow it wasn’t so explicit back when I was spending these hours by myself and had the ability to go do whatever I wanted. Our financial situation is also demanding that I work, and I have gone from working part time to full time, which has been really rough. I am literally counting down the months until x amount of dollars are saved and my car is paid off so I can reduce my schedule. Our goal is that by the time we have another child (hopefully in 2015) we will be in a good place for me to take a long maternity leave then only return to work part time.

    I am scared of what it will be like with another child!

    Jenna Reply:

    One of the things I struggle with is feeling trapped in the evenings, or maybe a better definition would be left out. My girlfriends are doing bunco, and dinners, and all sorts of fun things in the evenings, but I can’t afford to pay someone to watch the kids while I go out.

    With only one child I was able to get him in bed, and feel like I had my evenings to work and blog and such. Now, by the time I get my kids in bed I am so tired and I just want to lay around and do nothing. That’s been one of the things I’ve struggled to accept, the amount of time it takes to get them up and in bed in the morning and evenings.

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  35. I only have one and by the time she’s in bed I usually just collapse! Or zone out online and waste 2 hours and get to bed too late myself.

    Going out on Saturday afternoon with my daughter is one of the hardest times for me. I se families all together and my husband has just headed out for work. Yes, we spent the day together, but sometimes it’s easier to see what you don’t have than what you do.

    So I’m trying to focus on the good, on what we do have not what we don’t. And to remember that no matter what it might look like, many, many families have situations like ours.

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  36. I totally related to this post, and it was nice to see im not alone in my feelings. Single parenting would be worse but solo parenting is hard. Im responsible for everything when it comes to the kids, everything has to be on my schedule. Its hard not having a lot of adult time. I remember when my kids were as small as yours and thankfully as they get older its easier to carve out some time for yourself.

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      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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