Solo Parenting: When Dad Travels


solo parentingSolo parenting is not for the faint of heart. The first time I was home alone with our three children – then aged two months, two, and five – for three days this winter, I panicked.

I was consumed by an irrational fear that we were about to be devastated with every illness listed on the CDC website. Even though we live in middle America with access to 24-hour medical care and health insurance, we would be overcome.

Like I said, irrational.

Many single parents do it on their own every single day. You are my heroes, and I don’t say that lightly.

There are also those parents who barely bat an eye at temporary single parenting, and continue business as usual with no hiccups. I salute you and hope to emulate you when I grow up.

Then there’s me and my brethren. The irrational ones.

The second time I was home alone with the three kids, we’d made it to the healthy side of influenza and the spectre of illness wasn’t quite so scary. And now we face our third experience with Daddy’s weeklong absence and it’s very nearly ho-hum. Not. But we’re getting closer.

No matter where you are on the ease-of-parenting-alone scale, you can always use some encouragement to better face the challenge.

Tips for Solo Parenting

Here are my tips for any parent temporarily on his or her own

Make plans

Get out of the house. Don’t let that -30 degree wind chill or 110 degrees in the shade stop you. Try out the library’s bedtime story hour, the downtown skywalks, the bookstore’s train table, the local high school’s basketball game, whatever. You face more danger from the surrounding four walls than anything Mother Nature can throw at you.

Stock up

Visit the library, hit up the dollar store, plan a toy swap with a fellow parent. You’re going to need distractions, rewards, things that are new and different. And for some reason, new junk is way better than the junk your kids already have.

Make new friends

Cashiers, librarians, baristas, nurses, etc. When your old friends are unavailable, you’ll have to turn to any grown-up you have access to. Never underestimate adult interaction, no matter how superficial it may be. For a real treat, use polysyllabic words to keep your brain fresh.

Reward yourself

Whether it’s ignoring laundry or dishes, or choosing takeout over preparing a meal. Let go of one irritant or give yourself a treat. Mine is popcorn with obscene amounts of melted butter and M&M’s after bedtime. It tastes like freedom.

Lean in

Stop fighting the flow. It’s going to be messy, unplanned, and imperfect. Any illusion of control is just that: an illusion. Kinda like the rest of parenting.

The solo parenting experience will inevitably fly by and when it’s over, you can better appreciate being part of a duo. Chances are, your partner doesn’t like missing out any more than you like being on your own. And at the end of it, you’re likely to have a few extra days of bonding with the kids that are memorable, if not beloved.

But it’s still ok if you need to scream into a pillow before it’s all over.


  1. Great tips! I like to have another family over for a meal when I’m on my own. Order pizza, forget about cleaning, and enjoy having some adult conversation while there’s 1-2 other adults to help with milk refills and dinner cleanup. For alone time after kids are in bed, check out a book from the library or watch movies and shows that your partner won’t watch. And definitely pick up a thing or two to treat yourself–wine, snacks, facial masks, new nail polish, etc.


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