Being married to a military man all these ten long years (seriously, has it really been that long?) I have had my fair share of Hubby cutting out on me, leaving me alone with two monstrous children and a misfit dog. We have made it through four deployments on a ship, one deployment on land and countless numbers of work-ups and work trips that lasted anywhere from a few days to eight months. During all of these absences, I have picked up a couple of tips here and there that help me make it through on my own with some semblance of sanity and without strangling anyone. Or running away from home.
Although I came awfully close a couple of times!
I pass my Survival Tips onto the rest of you. Hopefully a few of them will help….
- Close and lock all the doors and windows and draw the curtains BEFORE you put the kids in bed (preferably before it’s dark outside). – Security is the #1 issue for anyone that is home alone, especially a woman with her young kids. Anyone who has watched a couple of ADT commercials or an episode of Law & Order: SVU knows that. But I get it. On a nice spring day, who wouldn’t want to have a few windows open? Who hasn’t had kids run inside from an afternoon of play and not think to lock the door behind them (let alone wipe their feet)? However, there’s nothing worse than coming downstairs all by yourself, in your dark, silent-as-a-horror-movie house, all creeped out that anyone outside could be watching your every move. It won’t just keep you safer to make sure everything is locked before tucking the kids away, it’ll also keep you sane while the Hubs is away.
- Keep your feet up! – I don’t hate all bugs. Most of them I either don’t mind cohabitating with or feel completely competent squishing into oblivion. But there’s one bug that is my Achilles heel. Cockroaches. (Ohmygosh, it makes my skin crawl just to type the word!) When we first moved into our house in Virginia, we didn’t realize there was a whole colony of roaches in the crawlspace underneath. Nor did we know that they were using an enormous hole below the bathroom sink as their portal into our home. But we found out – right AFTER Hubster left on a deployment. If you hate creepy crawlies as much as I do, make sure to stock up on the bug spray. And be BRAVE!!!!
- Do not fall asleep on the couch. – I really dislike going to bed at night. In my heart, I am a Night Owl. But in Real Life I am forced to be the mom who has to wake her kids up at 5:30 in the morning to get them dressed and off to school on time. Even in the years before they went to school, my eldest had the habit of waking up at 6 am. Every. Single. Day. Do not discount a good night’s sleep. Your rest is crucial! A bad night’s sleep may mean the difference between keeping your cool under pressure, or screaming at the kids like a maniac. I know it’s hard. I know it’s cold and lonely in there. Get your butt to bed anyway.
- Plan on making kid-friendly, short prep meals. – First off, you should probably understand that I am NOT the cook in this family. Hubby is the one who lives for the kitchen. I live for chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven, and that’s about it. But even if you are a chef du jour, I promise, by the end of the day you will be too wiped out to cook anything that takes longer than 15 minutes from start to finish. And if you do have the wherewithal to cook an actual meal, make sure you’ve made enough to have leftovers for at least one more dinner (hopefully two). And, when you’ve hit your wit’s end, I’ve got three little words that’ll not just save you, but make you a hero in your own home: Breakfast. For. Dinner.
- Go easy on yourself. – It’s tough to keep up the same routine you have when Hubby is around. The kids may not get their baths every night, you might use paper plates more than you’d like to, maybe you’ve hit McD’s often enough that your kids have duplicates of the same toy – it’s OK. When Hubs is gone for several weeks or less, I consider the house to be in a state of Guerrilla Warfare. You do whatever you gotta do to make it through the day, while also keeping your dictatorship from being overthrown by a coup. Trust me, as long as those mini-monsters are fed, dressed and loved, they will be just fine. (And they can always use their College Funds for therapy later – not that they’ll need to!)
- Set the bar low. – Now is not the time to begin working on that new novel, decide to go Paleo, completely reupholster the couch by yourself or start on that quilt for your cousin’s baby shower, which happens to be next weekend. Going from a two adult household to one is stressful. The time you think you have for extraneous projects will be quickly eaten up by unforeseen events, or just plain ol’ exhaustion. Not that it’s impossible to find time for extra activities when Hubster is away – it is! It’s just that it takes several weeks for the family routine to adjust to the absence of those extra pair of hands. Again, it’ll be OK. I promise!
- Don’t forget to feed the dog! – Same goes for taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, and whatever else it is the Hubs usually takes care of. During Hubster’s last deployment, I taught myself (well, more like the wonderful store clerks taught me) how to clean and maintain our pool completely on my own. For your Hubby’s household chores, you may need to hire some outside help. Take a look at the finances and decide on what to do beforehand. You really don’t want to figure this stuff out after the Homeowner’s Association has already left you a nasty notice because your weeds are waist-high.
- Remember your support system. – I can’t tell you how many times other wives will say to me, listlessly, that their hubby has to go on a work trip for the first time since they had kids, and then add, “But I shouldn’t complain to YOU. He’ll only be gone for a week, your husband leaves for months at a time!” Actually, you absolutely should complain to me, because I know better than anyone what you are going through. Yes, it could be worse, but just because it’s not at the level of “the worst” doesn’t mean that you should minimize your feelings. Whether it’s two days or two weeks or two months, any amount of time apart that means something to you is completely valid. And no, you never really get “used” to it. You can get used to living as a single-parent family. But I know I will never get used to feeling that half of my heart is missing. Nor would I want to. Things will get stressful and harried, and you will still fall asleep on the couch, even after I told you not to, and you will not always act like the A+ Parent you think you should be, but that’s how it is for everyone. Make sure to talk to your trusted friends and family, the ones who will listen and try to understand (and know better than to throw a“well, it could be worse!” at you) when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
- And please, please ask for help. – There are many people around you right now who would like nothing more than the opportunity to help you out with the kids or the groceries or the yard. In fact, they’ve probably offered already. Attempting to do this alone is not going to prove anything to anyone. You are already strong. Sometimes it’s a true show of strength to recognize when you need help. It's like Blanche Dubois said, "I always depended on the kindness of strangers!" Well, maybe not STRANGERS, necessarily (See Tip #1), but definitely the kindness of the good people you already know.
And that’s it! Nine items to (hopefully!) assist in saving your sanity for however long your spouse is absent for. Good luck!
Have a few "Home-Alone" tips of your own? Leave them in the comments, I'd love to hear them!