Recently my husband had to travel, leaving me and the kids alone for the weekend. Without another adult to chase my toddler as he bolted across the apartment half-naked with my wallet in his mouth, or to step in as my preschooler’s “real” (water) tea party turned the kitchen into the set of the Titanic, I quickly began losing steam. I realized that if I were to survive the weekend, I needed to develop some coping mechanisms. And, I’m afraid to admit, they weren’t always pretty. Here is a list of my darkest survival strategies. You’ve been warned.
Survival strategy #1: Covert Sustenance. My fancy terminology for shoving an entire half a bagel into my mouth before my toddler can discover that Mommy has food. Because if there’s one thing my son cannot abide, it’s Mommy eating. And really, Mommy should know better. The correct procedure regarding victuals is for Mommy to place any and all food items on toddler’s high-chair tray for inspection, at which point he will either (a) inhale them in a delirious frenzy, (b) furiously chuck them on the floor, or (c) both of the above. Silly Mommy, thinking she gets to eat breakfast…
Survival Strategy #2: Early Bedtime: A Study in Manipulation. When you’re alone with small children day in and day out, early bedtime becomes key. Unfortunately, my daughter has recently realized that “bedtime” is not some arbitrary concept, like “truth” or “pinktastic,” but rather is tied to a real number expressed on a clock. A clock that she now can read. As such, our conversations tend to go something like this:
Mommy: It’s bedtime.
Daughter (suspiciously turning to clock): What time does it say on that clock?
Mommy: Depends. Can you read it?
Daughter (still eying clock suspiciously): Seven fifteen. What time is bedtime?
Mommy: Seven thirty.
Daughter: Then I still have time for three more episodes of Scooby-Doo.
Mommy (growing desperate): Well, you have soccer in the morning.
Daughter: I thought you said it was supposed to rain in the morning.
Mommy: Umm, well, the tooth fairy stopped by and told me it’s going to be a beautiful day.
Daughter (slowly relenting): Oh. Well, then, okay.
No, I’m not proud of these maneuvers. But there comes a time when, as the sun is setting and Law and Order is beckoning, that you have to get creative. Even if that means reminding your child that Santa and the Easter Bunny are watching. In July.
3. Survival Strategy #3: Arming Yourself … With Love. As difficult as it can be caring for kids on your own, it’s important to hold on to those small moments that make it all worthwhile. Like when, while shopping at Sam’s Club, my son leaned forward in his shopping-cart seat and wrapped his little arms around me, enveloping me in an endless hug that melted my heart (and crushed a few discounted grapes). Or when, after finishing my daughter’s bedtime story, she drowsily kissed me and declared me “the best Mommy ever.” It’s moments like these that fortify me when my son is climbing into the garbage can, or my daughter is belting “Let It Go” outside my door at 7 o’clock in the morning.
Obviously, many women, as single moms, care for kids on their own all the time. And I admire their ability to fight through the exhaustion and keep their households going with style and grace. As for me, I’m taking it day by day. I may be outnumbered, but I still have some tricks up my sleeve. And, of course, infinite hugs and kisses…