Look What I Can Do · Mommyhood

The Good, The Bad, The Awkward: Life As A First-Time, Single Parent

I’m going to start off by saying kudos to all those single parents out there. I have a new admiration for you and now understand how difficult it is. I honestly do not know how you do it all. Same goes with all the stay-at-home moms and dads!

I need to preface this post and let those know that my situation is a little different as I am what I like to call a “limited-time single parent”. My husband is in the Iowa Air National Guard and has been in Texas since August 21st for training for a new position. He’ll be returning home mid-January and will then have some additional training TBD after that (but hopefully for not as long).

So, he had to leave 2 weeks after our first child was born, which makes me a single AND first time parent. So I thought I would post what it’s been like thus far and how I’ve managed to keep us all alive and (somewhat) sane.

The Good

I think the best part of all of this is all the time I get to spend with our daughter. It definitely took a little time for us to get adjusted to each other, but we’re a great team now and I LOVE spending all this time with her and being able to stay at home with her. She’s my little partner in crime and it’s so nice to have someone to spend time with while Jed is gone (he’s been on four deployments and lots of training trips).

In conjunction with the above, I love that I get to see her develop and learn new things everyday. I remember everyone telling me how difficult it was to drop their kids off to daycare for the first time and I now understand how hard that must be. I feel blessed that I don’t have to do that (yet) and can continue to spend time with Charlotte.

I’m glad I can work from home. I have started to slowly get back into working over the past month or so and I’m glad I can do that from home so that I don’t have to do daycare yet. We will eventually do part-time child care, but we need to figure out what Jed’s new schedule is going to be and what we want to do so we’re waiting until he’s back.

Jed being gone sucks, but I’m glad he is in the U.S. and in the same time zone so that we can FaceTime. I’m not sure I would have the same attitude if he was deployed overseas and having to deal with the 15 minute time limit for calls and only getting to talk every once in a while. I don’t know how military members do that for a year at a time! What a sacrifice.

It’s so nice to have a support system in place. I talk to my parents and Jed a LOT about everything, which really helps. It can get pretty lonely at home without some adult conversation, so it’s nice that I can call on them pretty much anytime and just talk.

The Bad

For some reason, whenever Jed leaves is when everything seems to happen. I don’t know if it’s me noticing it more or just my luck, but it never seems to fail that I have to deal with things I would rather not, such as the following:

– Iowa is known for its crazy weather. We can be 90 degrees one day and freezing the next. Right after Jed left we had a pretty bad heat wave for about three weeks. Awesome! Not only did I have a newborn and feel completely in a different world, I couldn’t even go out into the real world because the heat index was over 100! It was not fun staying inside all that time.

– We have mice. Yes, you read that correctly. Mice. We’ve lived in our house for six years and have NEVER had mice before. I literally woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of chewing!!! (Note: I have great hearing for those odd sounds now that I have a baby). So thankfully we have awesome friends who came over and set up traps. So far the score is 5-3 in our favor. At least they are staying in our crawl space and not coming into the actual part of the house that we live in! In addition to mice, we had a dead mole on our patio and a bird fly into our sliding glass door (that Tank unfortunately got a hold of for a little bit).

– We have to tape our dishwasher. Yep, with duct tape. To keep it latched. And that doesn’t always work. Granted, Jed ordered parts when he was back in town a couple of weeks ago (after taking it almost completely apart), so hopefully that does the trick, but it’s definitely annoying when it stops half way through and doesn’t clean the dishes. It’s not like I have a whole lot of time to start doing the dishes now, too (I realize that this sounds bad when years ago there weren’t dishwashers, but hey, it’s 2013 and we have the technology!).

Eating is hard. It’s getting a lot easier, but it’s still difficult to eat when I want to. It was SO nice to have Jed home to be able to cook and hold Charlotte while I ate before the food got cold. I’ve learned to eat simple things that don’t take long to prepare for breakfast and lunch and I wait until she’s down for the night to make and eat dinner. For breakfast I usually stick to things like english muffins, cereal, yogurt and fruit. Lunch is usually a sandwich or leftovers. For dinner, I try to make something that will last a couple of days. I’ll grill up a whole package of chicken breasts or make a whole box of pasta and just add sauce when I’m ready to eat. I also make sure to have easy to eat snacks on hand like fruit, crackers and popcorn.

One of the HARDEST things is that I don’t have someone to bounce things off of. Granted, Jed said to call him anytime and I call my mom a lot, but it’s not the same as having someone in the house with you when you’re wondering if something’s normal or not. Being a first-time parent is stressful enough, but being a first-time single parent is like stress on steroids! I’m constantly questioning myself and wondering if what I’m doing is “right” or “ok” or “bad” or any and all combinations of possibilities. I’m good at getting myself worked up and I miss having Jed around to keep a level head.

I thought my back hurt a lot during pregnancy, but it’s nothing compared to being the sole carrier/holder/rocker of a well-fed baby girl. Motrin and my chiropractor are my best friends. Carrying her around in the car seat carrier doesn’t help either, but at least she’s getting to the point where she prefers to sit on my lap facing outwards versus being rocked.

Time to myself has disappeared. Time to workout, time to eat, time to sleep, time to just sit and watch a movie has all disappeared for the most part. I do have time at night now, but since I’ve started working, I use my time at night to get work done and get my shower in and try to get to bed at a reasonable hour. It will be nice when Jed’s back so that I can work out a little bit and run some errands without having to take Charlotte. It was rough having him gone early on though with the sleep. There were a lot of days where I had no idea how I was functioning. It’s amazing what your body can do with limited sleep and a cup of coffee!

The Awkward

This is something I am sure applies to both SATMs and single parents – having to take your child with you EVERYWHERE! Unfortunately for Charlotte, I have to take her with me everywhere (for the most part). There are those times when my awesome sister-in-laws have been able to come over and watch her while I run to the grocery store or to a meeting, but for the most part, she gets to come along.

One awkward example was when I had to take her to the dentist. I had my 6-month cleaning and I thought she would maybe sleep in the carrier for the 20 minutes it takes. Of course she didn’t and started crying when she couldn’t see me. So what do we do? I held her in my lap while I got my teeth cleaned. Hey, it worked. The assistant thought it was fun and all the ladies at the office were great with her (taking her towards the end when she started getting fussy).

She has pretty much been everywhere. I think overall it’s been good for her to get out with me, but there are times where I wish I didn’t have to take her because it can sometimes disrupt her naps and get overwhelming for her and for my sake, some things would just take less time if I didn’t have to take her with.

So How Have We Been Surviving?

By taking it all one day at a time and being FLEXIBLE – not in the Charlotte kind of way where she can stick her toes in her mouth. For someone who likes to be in control, I have learned how to let go and just let her figure out the schedule. Yes, there are times when we have to go somewhere, but otherwise, we wait until it’s the best timing for BOTH of us.

I have also learned to not wait to get something done. I do not like having a mess, so I try my hardest to always pick up after myself and even if I’m tired, to just quickly get whatever I need done because I know if I put it off, I’m only going to get less motivated to get it done. One of the best things we’ve done is hired out some of those things that I just can’t do, such as yard work and cleaning (because of my allergies and time). It’s so nice to have those things taken care of instead of hanging over my head.

I also try to prepare at night for the next day. So that usually means getting the coffee maker ready (that’s usually first on the list), making sure dishes are put in the somewhat-working dishwasher, everything in the kitchen is clean, filling the dog’s water and food dishes for the next morning, finishing laundry, taking out the trash/recycling and so forth.

I also shower at night so that I can ensure an uninterrupted shower. This means I actually have time to blow dry my hair too!

We have definitely had our bad days though. I have had days where I have cried because nothing seems to be going right and other days that I wish wouldn’t end because they are going so well, but like I said, we just take it one day at a time. For those rough days, I always call my mom and Jed. They always know how to calm me down and look at things a little more realistically.

It also helps that I feel like we won the baby lottery with Charlotte as she truly is a very happy, content little baby and is usually always consolable (knock on wood). This would be a much different post if she wasn’t.

Me and my little angel

13 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad, The Awkward: Life As A First-Time, Single Parent

  1. Hang in there mama, I know what its like to miss your hubby. I cant imagine doing this alone though (my husband is out of the military now). Sounds like you are doing an amazing job! Cute pic!

  2. Cheers to you. Both my parents were military when I was growing up, so I know how it goes from the perspective of the child, and that is hard enough…I can’t imagine being in the role of the parent! You are doing great!

    1. Thank you. We’re both doing our parts and I’m glad we’re getting this out of the way when she’s young and doesn’t remember 🙂 I’m sure that was difficult growing up with both parents in the military. I know a few couples that are both in and it can be very challenging.

  3. You are amazing! I really, really mean that! I’m sure Jed and Charlotte are so proud of you! I don’t know how single parents do it… I’m probably the 90% caretaker at our house, but that 10% Jesse does is a life saver! So, YOU ARE AWESOME!
    I hear ya on the awkward. I had to bring Jackson to my post-partum check up, and of course the moment I’m pants-less on th exam table he wanted to eat … so I nursed him, with th paper sheet over my lap, while I waited for the doctor. Lovely.

    1. Thank you. They have great timing, don’t they?! I admire you for doing this while going through school. My brain is probably suffering the most and I have become SO forgetful. You have a lot on your plate but I know it will all be worth it when you’re done!

  4. I absolutely admire you for doing this all on your own! I can only imagine how tough it has been for you at times. While I was at home on maternity leave I remember counting down the minutes until my husband got home so I could have an extra hand. There were days I really didn’t think I could make it until 5:00 when he would walk through that door!
    And all the silly little house things… like your dishwasher or the mice. Those kind of things frustrated me the most (that and the dog)! I’d call my husband at work and explain what he needed to fix as soon as he was home (I bet he loved me for that – lol).
    You’re so right about taking each day at a time and trying your best to be flexible. I wish I would have done a better job at that while I was on leave. One other thing that I think is great that you’re doing is getting ready for the next day the night before. I’m doing the same now that I’m back to work… it makes things so much easier in the mornings! I feel more organized, plus now I’m showered and clean everyday. 🙂 Gosh, if I only knew how much that would have help earlier on.

    1. Thank you. It definitely took us time to find a rhythm and figuring out when to do things! I totally had a list for Jed when he came home for Veteran’s Day! Which was hard because we had limited time and I wanted everything to get done. Yeah, right!

      How has your dog been doing with Coyer? Ours are more interested in what I’m doing, not what she’s doing, but she’s started watching them now. I’m still not ready for them to be too close as they LOVE to lick and I don’t need the spreading of germs yet.

      1. My dog has been really great around Coyer… mostly uninterested, but likes to smell him every now and then. My dog just has a problem controlling his excitement, so he’s jumping all over the place and right under my feet at two particular times: when I’m getting ready to leave & when I come home. We are slowly transitioning him to spend more time outdoors, especially during his crazy times!

        I understand your feelings about not wanting your dogs to get too close yet, I kinda still feel the same. But I wouldn’t worry too much about the germs from the dogs, I’ve actually been told that babies with dogs get sick less often than babies without. Here’s an article someone sent to me shortly after Coyer was born: http://children.webmd.com/news/20120709/many-babies-healthier-in-homes-with-dogs

  5. You may think I am exaggerating when I say this, but you are truly a hero in my eyes. Charlotte and Jed are so incredibly blessed to have you. Even with Cal at work all day I feel alone, and overwhelmed. Overnight, I don’t think I could do.

    You are an amazing mama and wife and are sacrificing so much for your family’s future.
    So much love to you from Arizona. xoxo

    1. That is so sweet of you to say, thank you. It definitely gets lonely, especially at night, but I try not to think about it too much. We’re all making our sacrifices to get through this time, but are doing it because we know it’s going to be for the better.

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