How To Stay Sane When Solo Parenting – COVID-Edition

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How to stay sane when solo parenting – Covid-Edition. When I first compiled this list of sanity-savers, Covid wasn’t a threat.

It was March 23, 2020. Ten days earlier, we were told that all Ontario schools would be closed for two weeks after March Break as a precaution, but go ahead and take that booked overseas trip. Enjoy your vacation. Just two weeks of staying at home, and then we’ll all go back to normal.

We had no idea how quickly our world would change.

Quite honestly, I thought the list that I put together was golden. It took all of the life hacks that I learned after solo parenting for 6 years, and condensed it into nineteen easy-to-do ideas. However, as the months progressed, it became obvious that some of these hacks don’t translate well into our current world.

Go out for a haircut? My Covid hair is a mess because salons have been closed for half a year. Get your nails done? Go out to the spa?? Get a babysitter??? Get real.

North America has just passed it’s official 1 Year Covid Anniversary (woo hoo?) and it’s obvious that this “new” world is our reality for the foreseeable future. Our old way of life is as dead as my husband, with as much hope returning to it as likely as Myke resurrecting as a zombie.

It seemed fitting to finally put the proverbial nail in the coffin of my old sanity-savers list, and compile an updated one more fitting to our current situation.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why this list is important information to have, one of the many things that Covid highlighted in our society is that solo parents got hit hard. Working from home (if you’re lucky enough to still be working), helping your child with online learning, and no back-up?

I went 101 days straight last spring stuck in isolation with my kids, while trying to stay sane, before things opened up enough for my mother to take them for the afternoon. It wasn’t until then that I realized how close to a mental breakdown I was. And for those essential workers who have to risk their lives, and their families’ lives everyday in order to collect a paycheck? I have so much sympathy for them.

So, without much further preamble (because I could go on about the insanity of solo parenting during a pandemic) here’s the updated list of How To Stay Sane When Solo Parenting – Covid Edition.

Solo mother lifting her toddler son in joy

Stay Sane When Solo Parenting – Mindset

Accept that you are in survival mode

Be gentle on yourself. You’ve always been expected to do all the things as a solo parent without much complaint. That was hard enough to do pre-pandemic. Now that we’re in full-blown lockdown (for the third time), you can’t expend energy on stuff that isn’t worth it. Don’t worry about whether you should be taking the time to clean the closet, learning a new language, teaching the kids tightrope walking, or any other ridiculous skill. You’re busy enough without keeping busy to keep busy. I’m exhausted just reading that. You have one goal right now: keeping yourself and your kids alive. Hopefully happy, and preferably sane….but let’s just stick to the basics right now.

Set your invisible bar lower

Did you feed the kids today? Fantastic! Did you manage to get them dressed? Great! Did you get outside for a walk? Maybe? So what if the kids haven’t bathed, or you’re still in your pyjamas, or the littlest one is half-naked by noon. Do what you can with the energy that you have for the day. If you need to push a task off to tomorrow, don’t worry about it. You need to respect your own limits, and those of your kids too.

This also applies to school work, chores, outside time, get-along time, and limiting screen time. If it wasn’t for screens, I wouldn’t have gotten any work done. Or had a ten-minute break from them literally climbing all over me. And they were 4 and 8! I had an elementary school teacher friend with 4 kids who was expected to continue teaching from home with her kids in the background. She had to take a leave from absence before she lost her mind trying to keep up.

If you and your kids are safe, fed, and somewhat rested, you’re doing okay.

Stay Sane When Solo Parenting – Daily Personal Goals

Get up half an hour before the kids

Pretty self evident, right? Regardless of whether the kids are learning in school or online, mornings can still be really hectic. Splash water on your face, do a quick teeth brush. Running to the kitchen to get breakfast ready. Dashing back to gather their clothes for the day.  All while sipping at your coffee which has somehow gone cold.

By getting up half an hour earlier than the kids, it gives you breathing room to have a shower, put makeup on, get dressed while listening to the news and sipping miraculously hot coffee. By giving yourself a peaceful morning to prepare, you’re also in a better mindset to deal with all the craziness once the kids wake up.

It might even make the mornings a little less crazy. Until the oldest remembers he had homework to do five minutes before you have to leave.

Map out your daily responsibilities

Take time to take inventory: what are you hoping to get done today? Are there tasks that were brought over from yesterday? Reprioritize your list, what is essential and what is nice to have? Are there things that you can delegate to your older children to take care of?

By checking in with yourself first thing in the morning, it creates a mind-map that will stay in the background as you go about your day. You will be subconsciously checking in with your priorities, and removing and reorganizing as needed. Then at the end of the day, check in with yourself again. Acknowledge all that you were able to accomplish, which tasks you successfully delegated to your kids, which you were able to let go of, and which need to be pushed onto tomorrow. Then, give yourself a pat on the back. You pulled off another tough day, momma!

Drink water first thing in the morning, and throughout the day

As tempting as it could be to attach a wine box to the faucet in these unprecedented times, let’s be real. Your health is so very important right now, and you need the energy to keep up. Replenishing your body with a tall glass of water first thing in the morning kick-starts your immune system, and revs up your energy for the day. Turns out there’s some science behind this.

Try to remember to keep sipping throughout the day. I know this is difficult with all that’s going on right now, which is why I’d recommend downloading a water drink reminder app that can help you track how much water you’ve drank throughout the day, and will ping you reminders to drink up. Keep a Swell thermos at your side – it keeps your water ice cold all day, which encourages you to drink more.

Be gentle on yourself

Life can be hard. Raising kids is harder. Doing it on your own is ridiculously crazy! But you’re doing it!! There’s going to be times when you have no idea how you’re going to get done all the things that need to be done. When the dishes are piling up, the laundry piles are mountains, the fridge is empty, you haven’t had a shower in days and the kids are climbing the walls because it’s been too rainy to kick them outside. There are going to be moments when you make a parenting mistake (lose your mind yelling at them to STOP!) – but that’s okay. You’re human.

Be gentle on yourself when those days happen. The kids will forgive you for yelling (don’t forget to apologize), the dishes will get done – eventually, and instead of going grocery shopping because you’re too overwhelmed it can be a pizza night.  You’ve got this.

Practice yoga. Aim to do it daily.

There are so many benefits to practicing yoga. Most of all, it helps you center your mind. Mindfulness is a skill that can be essential when dealing with kids alone.

When we were all in lockdown, I couldn’t get the kids out for a daily walk and my body needed that exercise. Yoga became my sanctuary. Once the work day was done, and the kids entertained by their respective screens, laying my mat out was the physical indicator that I’d gotten through another day. Stretching into my body, truly listening to it’s aches and releasing them was marvelous for my mind, body and soul.

Plus, it can also be a great family bonding time, if you can accept that you’re going to be a jungle gym.

Get your yoga equipment here.

Stay Sane When Solo Parenting – Daily Personal Goals

Get up half an hour before the kids

Pretty self evident, right? Regardless of whether the kids are learning in school or online, mornings can still be really hectic. Splash water on your face, do a quick teeth brush. Running to the kitchen to get breakfast ready. Dashing back to gather their clothes for the day.  All while sipping at your coffee which has somehow gone cold.

By getting up half an hour earlier than the kids, it gives you breathing room to have a shower, put makeup on, get dressed while listening to the news and sipping miraculously hot coffee. By giving yourself a peaceful morning to prepare, you’re also in a better mindset to deal with all the craziness once the kids wake up.

It might even make the mornings a little less crazy. Until the oldest remembers he had homework to do five minutes before you have to leave.

Map out your daily responsibilities

Take time to take inventory: what are you hoping to get done today? Are there tasks that were brought over from yesterday? Reprioritize your list, what is essential and what is nice to have? Are there things that you can delegate to your older children to take care of?

By checking in with yourself first thing in the morning, it creates a mind-map that will stay in the background as you go about your day. You will be subconsciously checking in with your priorities, and removing and reorganizing as needed. Then at the end of the day, check in with yourself again. Acknowledge all that you were able to accomplish, which tasks you successfully delegated to your kids, which you were able to let go of, and which need to be pushed onto tomorrow. Then, give yourself a pat on the back. You pulled off another tough day, momma!

Drink water first thing in the morning, and throughout the day

As tempting as it could be to attach a wine box to the faucet in these unprecedented times, let’s be real. Your health is so very important right now, and you need the energy to keep up. Replenishing your body with a tall glass of water first thing in the morning kick-starts your immune system, and revs up your energy for the day. Turns out there’s some science behind this.

Try to remember to keep sipping throughout the day. I know this is difficult with all that’s going on right now, which is why I’d recommend downloading a water drink reminder app that can help you track how much water you’ve drank throughout the day, and will ping you reminders to drink up. Keep a Swell thermos at your side – it keeps your water ice cold all day, which encourages you to drink more.

Be gentle on yourself

Life can be hard. Raising kids is harder. Doing it on your own is ridiculously crazy! But you’re doing it!! There’s going to be times when you have no idea how you’re going to get done all the things that need to be done. When the dishes are piling up, the laundry piles are mountains, the fridge is empty, you haven’t had a shower in days and the kids are climbing the walls because it’s been too rainy to kick them outside. There are going to be moments when you make a parenting mistake (lose your mind yelling at them to STOP!) – but that’s okay. You’re human.

Be gentle on yourself when those days happen. The kids will forgive you for yelling (don’t forget to apologize), the dishes will get done – eventually, and instead of going grocery shopping because you’re too overwhelmed it can be a pizza night.  You’ve got this.

Practice yoga. Aim to do it daily.

There are so many benefits to practicing yoga. Most of all, it helps you center your mind. Mindfulness is a skill that can be essential when dealing with kids alone.

When we were all in lockdown, I couldn’t get the kids out for a daily walk and my body needed that exercise. Yoga became my sanctuary. Once the work day was done, and the kids entertained by their respective screens, laying my mat out was the physical indicator that I’d gotten through another day. Stretching into my body, truly listening to it’s aches and releasing them was marvelous for my mind, body and soul.

Plus, it can also be a great family bonding time, if you can accept that you’re going to be a jungle gym.

Get your yoga equipment here.

Choose your battles

This pandemic is tough on everyone, kids and parents alike, and it’s natural to expect that there will be some conflict. Having more than one is great because they can entertain each other, but sometimes that degrades into picking on each other and then full on yelling. It’s important to realize when it’s time to intervene, and when it’s best to just let them figure it out.  If your kids are younger, you will need to referee at a certain point (like, when the yelling starts), but if they’re tweens then it’s best to let them go.

When you do decide to intervene, having a calm discussion about whatever the issue is rather than just yelling at them (even if that’s what you really feel like doing) is likely keep things from escalating and you’ll also be modeling constructive ways of dealing with conflict.

Spend at least 10 minutes, 100% focused on each child

You, and if you are an only parent only you, are their world. They need to feel safe and secure, and in order to feel that way they need to know that they are the most important thing right now. Not their sibling. Themselves.

So, how do you try to circumvent bad behaviour from unsettled kids? You try to connect with them as much as possible to make sure their attention well is full. You need to be the proactive one, get them filled to the brim with love before they even realize they are starting to run a little dry.

The first place to start is to spend at least 10 minutes, 100% focused on each child. Whatever they want to talk about, or be silly about, or even just to be there in silence with them. Each child, ten minutes of 100% devotion. Start there.

Need something to do with them? Fun.com is stock full of fun games and activities you can use during bonding time.

Try to do this hourly in the time that you have them (barring school and other activities). If you get busy for a few hours, then top-up their wells with some extra minutes the next time you can connect.

It’s a habit that can be easy to remember, but hard to follow. Especially on the days where everything is too much and the kids are acting crazy and you’d much rather lock yourself into a closet from them than give them attention. However, I’ve noticed that when I do check in hourly with them, the days go much smoother. It’s when I neglect when things start to fall apart – myself included. Better to spend 10 minutes 100% focused on each child, then trying to calm all of you at once. You’re all much better otherwise.

Go on a daily family walk

I like to joke that mommy needs her daily walkies or else she goes nuts. I am not a dog person, but I do have two kids who need to run off their excess energy as much as puppies do. One will literally climb the couches and cabinets, while the other hunkers down into videos and will snap at any loving affection. Both clearly sending signals that they need to go outside, now!

Both kids have fallen in love with their scooters, but I haven’t purchased one for myself yet. I have invested in this wagon, which is great for carting their backpacks, groceries, and little girls when they’re too exhausted from scooting.

This exercise is great for all of us. It’s become such a part of the routine that when we were self-isolated for the Covid-19 Crisis the lack of twice daily walkies hit us hard. We ended up running circles around the house for an hour everyday to get our steps in. Better moods, better connections, better sleep. Get out there and walk your pups!

Need some motivation? Install Pokemon Go on your phone and catch them all. Go bird watching. Stomp through puddles.

Do the dishes every night – leave a clean sink

I’ve never been a slob – trust me, I’ve lived with a few – so I’ve never been particularly dirty. However, I haven’t always been as clean and tidy as I could be. I didn’t even consider that leaving a few dishes in the sink was a big deal.

A few years ago, I was temporarily staying at a former work colleague’s house while trying to secure our next apartment. She insisted that the dishes be done, and the sink clean every night. I thought I did my best, but there were several mornings when she let me have it. So I got my act together, and really made an effort to get that sink clean nightly, regardless of how exhausted I was.

It stuck. Now, I try to get the dishes done at night, but if not, then it’s the first thing I tackle in the morning while sipping my coffee. There’s a sense of calm and satisfaction in having a clean sink when you go to bed, and a shiny good start to the next day.

Save aside an hour to yourself once the kids are in bed

Once the kids are in bed, your day isn’t done yet. There’s still the dishes to do (see above), plus so many other chores that you weren’t able to get to, including prepping for the next day. A parent’s work is never done!

Knowing that tomorrow will bring more crayons to pick up, leave what you are able to until the next day. It is so important to save aside an hour to yourself. Take off your parent hat for a bit, snuggle up to watch some Netflix, read the latest bestseller, chat with some friends online, or work on your blog. The next morning will be here before you know it, and you’ll have to be a full-on mom again. Take this hour to be YOU again.

Stay Sane When Solo Parenting – Outsource Resources

It’s so true that it takes a village to raise a child. Then why do this all on your own? Take advantage of the resources around you to keep you, and your kids, sane.

I’ve compiled the resources that I swear are life savers. I promise you, you will not lose mommy points for using them.

Invest in a bi-weekly cleaning service

If I was to define the three essential needs to have a healthy, happy mom life they would be: food, sleep, and a cleaning service. Really. Even during Covid, if you’re comfortable with others in your home (yes, they are masked).

We live in a tiny two bedroom apartment, so you wouldn’t think that it would take much to keep neat and tidy. You’d be sorely wrong. I try to stay as organized as possible, and pick up after myself and the kids, but I swear the stuff breeds. Even with daily cleaning schedules and chores for the kids, the place is usually in semi-disaster mode. It’s exhausting.

When I was on maternity leave, my cousin gifted me a cleaning service to help me get through the next few weeks with an infant and a four year-old. Once I realized how indispensable they were, I’ve never looked back. Most of the time, the place is a mess – but twice a month I’ll come home to a clean house. The floors are shiny, the dishes done, the living room table cleared off, all of the various kids’ toys organized and put away. It’s AMAZING.

The service I use is Merry Maids (CDN / US). They are reliable, professional, and immaculate. Best of all, I can afford their services, which as a sole-breadwinner is super important. Go to their website to get a free estimate, and tell them that Sarah Gallagher of Toronto sent you. I’m confident that you’ll want to sign up for bi-weekly cleaning after you walk into your house the first time after they’ve been there.

Take advantage of a delivered meal kit

I love cooking, and I love grocery shopping, and I really could spend a lazy weekend afternoon menu planning. Except, I find it trying cooking with the kids if we’re on a tight schedule (we usually are), I hate grocery shopping with them because it takes forever and we end up with more than I intended, and I never have a free weekend afternoon to properly menu plan.

About two years ago, I decided to try out a box. Out of the many options out there, I decided to try out Good Food and Hello Fresh. They both offered a highly discounted meal kit box, containing 3 meals for 4 people. I meant to try them on consecutive weeks, but because of a technical malfunction (likely mommy-brain) they both showed up on my doorstop at the same time. Although this meant that my fridge was overstuffed with food, it gave me the advantage of testing out the meals against each other.

In the end I chose Hello Fresh.

Honestly, both services were great with mouth-watering recipes, but I found that the meals offered by Hello Fresh were more appealing to my kids. Considering that it was my job as a parent to feed the critters, it made more sense to get meals they might actually eat.

They have several plans to choose from, to get the exact package that fits your family. Leave the menu planning and food shopping to Hello Fresh. Right now, you can get $65 off your first three boxes, including FREE shipping. $35 dollars off your 1st box, $20 off your 2nd, and $10 off your 3rd box. Sign up for your first three deeply discounted boxes.

Use apps to your advantage

I know, the idea of giving your kid an excuse to stare at a screen brings some reluctance, but let’s face it: technology is here and imprinted on our lifestyles now. Instead of watching YouTube unboxing videos or TicTok, let’s use the tech we have and use applications to your advantage.

There are so many good ones out there, that probably need their own round-up post. For this article, I’m going to focus on two key ones that I use everyday.

Endless Learning Academy

I discovered this gem of an app when my son was a preschooler, and in hindsight should really have stuck with it. It’s a cute little app for kids aged 2-6 that’s robust in learning applications. There’s modules on spelling, reading comprehension, math, music and Spanish. My son was enamored and would spend a whole hour at a time on it. In retrospect, I should have continued the monthly subscription as I haven’t found anything that engages him as much as this app did, and he’s too old for it now.

So, Warrior receives a benefit from Second Child Syndrome as I’ve signed up again. This time, I’m sticking with it as she shows even more enthusiasm than her brother. The characters they designed are adorable, and each module builds up the learner’s knowledge at just the right pace, without frustrating students. So important! Check out their site for more info.

HeadSpace

This is a fantastic app to learn how to meditate. I got it as there were so many topics offered that I needed to focus on: basics, happiness, appreciation, balance, navigating change, productivity, sleep, prioritization – I’ve completed 19 courses so far, and am working on more. However, I also discovered that it works wonders with my kids. One night, in a fluster trying to get the little one down so I could work on her brother, I brought out my phone and opened up HeadSpace. They have a Sleep section with sounds and music, which I quickly scrolled to. I let her pick which sound she liked best, and within minutes she was asleep. It is now part of our routine that she has her music to fall asleep to every night – and as her brother sleeps in the bunk above her, he gets to hear it once his stories are done. It’s now become so essential to her sleep routine that I’ve had Grandma download it as well, which has helped Grandma’s meditation journey as well. Highly recommended for the whole family.

Stay Sane When Solo Parenting – Find Your Village

Everyone is feeling the effects of isolation, but solo parents have this flipped upside down and sideways. Single persons are alone all day for weeks on end, craving the presence of another soul. Solo parents are never alone, are on mommy-duty 24-7, and as awesome it is to listen to another thrilling rendition of Paw Patrol or how thrilling it is to walk into the bedroom to find your kids throwing themselves off the top bunk onto a mattress, the absence of another adult to talk to is mind-blowing. Literally.

Social media became my social lifeline. Sure I surfed Facebook every couple of hours pre-pandemic, but now I’m checking my life feed like I’m checking my own pulse. Is the real world still out there? There are other people doing other things? It’s not just me stuck in an unending time loop, right??

Connecting to parenting groups on Facebook helped, but especially those that were localized. Reading and responding to posts complaining about how cars always sped down our street, or that a family tried a new local restaurant’s menu (delivered, socially distanced) and everyone was in tastebud heaven made me feel physically connected. That though we were all isolated, we were together in solidarity.

Here’s some tips on what you can do to keep talking to other adults, without being in the same room as them:

  • School PTA meetings – with our visibility into the schoolroom denied, being connected to the parents of your kids’ classmates is hugely beneficial.
  • Virtual visits with the Grandparents – I loved chatting with my mom everyday. What I loved even more was to put her on Facetime with my daughter so she could play pretend camping while I got some work done.
  • Pick-Up and Drop Off (once school is back on) – talking to other parents while our kids got their stuff together to leave is a great way to end off the day. Plus, you get to mentally note how long your roots are, and feel okay with them.
  • Social Media – there is a reason why it exists. Just be careful not to revolve your life around them. Seriously, put limits on your phone if you need to. It can be addicting to virtually escape.
  • Talk to your neighbours – they crave human interaction as much as you do. Talk to them across the way. Say hello to each other if you’re passing each other on the street. Organize socially-distant street hangouts where you sit under the stars with a glass of wine.

Stay Sane When Solo Parenting – Wrap-Up

Okay, so that’s pretty much it. That’s my updated, Covidproofed, handbag of tricks – at least the absolute essential ones. I really hope they help you as much as they help me.

  • Mindset
  • Daily personal goals
  • Outsource resources
  • Find your village

At least you can make sure that you’re stay mentally healthy as much as possible, while the insanity continues around us.

Do you have some trick or wisdom that you’d like to share with the group? Comment below! We all need more techniques to stay sane while parenting alone.

7 Replies to “How To Stay Sane When Solo Parenting – COVID-Edition”

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widow solo parent of two

I’m Sarah!

I created this site to be a safe place for those who are under a tremendous amount of stress. My focus is two-fold: helping those who have experienced grief learn how to live through it; and helping solo parents bring their all to their kids, without losing their minds.

My goal is to tell our continuing story to help other widow/ers of young kids find hope and inspiration again. I want to help guide you along your path of grief, through the shadows and pain to a better, brighter life. To help you live with death, while embracing life.

 

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