Today marks the first day of high school football practice....but for me, it marks the first day of being a "football widow". Until November-ish. Being married to a teacher/high school football coach has it's perks, for sure. Hello, summers off! But when the end of August rolls around, I have to take a deep breath, find heart center and get my head on straight. Being a single parent for 3 months is not an easy task.
Some of you reading this are in much more difficult situations,--military spouses, single parents, widowed spouses, etc. And you have my deepest, upmost respect. Doing it alone, with kids at home, is really, really challenging. Heck, I think it'd be challenging even without kids at home. Honestly, I don't know how you do it! Actually, I do. Because moms rock and somehow when the going gets tough, we get going.
At the beginning of every season I wonder how I'm going to get through it. Last season was literally by the skin of my teeth. I had an 8 year old, 5 year old, 1 year old and 3 month old. Crazy doesn't even begin to describe it. I'm feeling a little more confident, going into this season, that I've got my act together. Sort of.
I just counted out the amount of nights that we will be able to have dinner together, as a family, in the next 3 months and it's only 8. I really can't believe it. Eating dinner together is SO important to me. I have to create a sense of togetherness with my kids, so that they don't feel the effects of their dad not being around much. Whether your husband coaches football, travels for work, has a busy season in their job or you are one of the amazing mamas that handles the three situations above, somehow we make it work for us and our kids.
Here are ways that we cope during busy times of the year (namely, football season):
LET IT GO, LET IT GO......sound familiar?! Ha! Not gonna lie, I do know every lyric to that song. But really, let things go around the house. If I try to keep my house in the same shape it is in the rest of the year, I'd literally drive myself crazy. I lower my standards, and do the bare minimums so I can stand to be in my own home. Sometimes, this means hiring someone else to clean for you. We've done that plenty of times. If that doesn't work, financially, find an awesome neighbor who is willing to do a kid swap every month (maybe 4 hours for each of you) so that you can do the deep cleaning yourself. You know, so mold isn't growing in your shower, on your toilets and at the bottom of your fridge. Because, really, who can clean with kids around.
Soccer practice is killer for us! It's twice a week in the evenings. RIGHT DURING DINNER TIME. Ahhhhh. I'm changing things up this year. Instead of feeding my kids at a ridiculously early time, like I've done in the past. We are doing picnic dinners at the field. This would work for any nightly activity that you do alone. We will be adding swim lessons for 2 kids into that mix (somehow) at the end of September and we very well may be eating picnic dinners until November. but you know what....its okay! The kids actually think it's the coolest thing ever. PBJ's, oranges, string cheese and applesauce squeeze-y pouches. Why, again, do I spend so much time cooking at home?? Anyway, the point is, when you alone, as a parent, you have to find creative ways to do dinner when you are on the run.
Get out of the house! I don't know about your house, but between about 3pm-dinner time is the witching hour. The girls are up from their naps, the boys have finally reached a state of "boredom" from overtiredness from being outside all day and I'm about to lose my mind from the lack of adult interaction. If we don't get out, this time of day feels like an eternity....and also turns into a snack bar. Literally, there aren't more than 10 minutes that go by where a child isn't yelling, "I'm STARVING!". So, I try to pack up snacks (or feed them right before we go) and get out of the house. Parks are good. But, honestly, I've been "parking" the whole summer and have almost reached my summerly quota of park hopping. The library is another good option. Often, I'll save my quick trip to the grocery store or Target for this time, simply because we need to GET OUT!
Phone a friend. For real. There have to be other people out there who are in the same situation as you, dying to get out of the house. Maybe you just have them over to play in your backyard or meet up at a park (see, this is what I've exceeded my park quota), but being around another adult makes time pass faster and the kids have more fun when they have friends to play with. Win, win.
Go on a scenic drive. Seriously, I've done this. Especially if it's really hot outside. I'll pack my kids up in the car, blast the a/c and either turn on a movie or fun music and go for a drive. If I'm feeling especially generous, we'll get $1 ice cream cones while driving. Sometimes, we'll drive to a destination like the waterfront and I'll let them get out and throw rocks for a bit. Other times, we don't ever get out and I drive through some of my favorite areas to look at cool houses. My kids hardly ever complain when we do this because it's something new and fun for them, too.
I didn't talk about dinner time when we are at home. A tip? Use paper plates a couple days a week. I know, it's not great on the environment, but my sanity is sometimes more important. For example, tonight, we had tortellini for dinner. I used paper plates and my clean up was a breeze. The kids could pretty much help with it all. And yes, I have my kids help with everything! I am a firm believer in teaching them responsibility at a young age. See this post for specifics, but having their help, lightens my load and allows me more time to play with them, instead of taking care of all the tasks around the house. Don't judge my meal choice. Walked in the door from Target and my kids were all, "I'm sooooo hungry, I'm starrrrvvving, moooommmmm!". Fastest thing I could whip up, besides a sandwich!
Probably one of the most important things that I can do for my kids is to reinforce that what daddy is doing is not only something he loves, but is something that supports our family. Involving them in football (or their job, or whatever the reason they aren't around) is so important. My boys are ball boys for the team and love to be around the players. I'll take my double jogger stroller up to the track and run or walk around with the girls while my boys watch. They get to see their dad and see what he's up to. They really love this! Keeping them involved in our "football family" is really important to me. I don't want them to feel resentful of the time that he's away, but see it as an opportunity for them to get to experience some really cool things!
So there you have it. Nothing earth shattering. but real ways that we get by.
There are lots of other ways to get through the day to day of being a single parent and I'd love to hear your ideas. I'm one day down and 3437926439 billion to go. Not that I'm counting, or anything.