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  • Oriana Skylar Mastro

Surviving Solo Parenting

OK, I love my kids. And I love my job. But many days, especially during COVID when my kids are home from daycare often, balancing both is exhausting. And to try to maintain my sanity at the same time? Impossible.

Especially impossible when my husband is gone for work (single parents, you are my heroes). I’ve got two weeks of solo parenting coming up. I’ve done this before – a month in Italy with the boys and another week in April when my husband was traveling. And I'll have to do it again. So, I’ve put together a survival plan.

The main components consist of easy meals, a variety of activities that keep both the kids and me entertained, and prioritizing downtime on my own. All of this requires, you guessed it, planning!

Meal Prep

Prep the battlespace. Do epic trips to Costco, Trader Joes (insert your fav store here) 2-3 days before. This is also a great time to splurge on meal services (like Good Eggs, Hello Fresh, etc) or try grocery delivery. If you feel especially spoiled, you can ask a helper to make these meals for you (or in-laws that might be fans of cooking to make meals that are homemade, but easier frozen and defrosted like chili or lasagna). I also make lists of go-to snacks and pre-made meals during the 2-3 weeks before, so I remember what worked.

But also have a bit of fun with it. Combine the need to eat with the need to entertain. Great time to let your kids make homemade pizzas. Also, to set up playdates that involve your friends feeding you. I've set up a rotating neighborhood dinner where we host the week before my husband leaves, but the other neighbors host the next two weeks so that's two dinners and post-daycare fun time taken care of. Is there a nearby restaurant that has playground for the kids or some activity (where did the Chuck’e cheese go?!) Picnics are a winner because there is minimal cleanup. I even walk them to daycare (about 2.5 miles away) in the wagon, getting takeout breakfast on the way to kill four birds with one stone (dog walk, food, daycare drop off and my exercise).

Get Other People to Help Entertain Your Kids

OK, so ideally you are keeping track of activities and playmates that work especially well for your kids (and those that were complete sh*tshows). If there are extracurriculars that are stressful or hard – cancel them. But for my kids, I organize MORE not LESS as it helps me when there is something other than me to entertain them. I usually throw an informal party for their classes to fill up Saturday afternoons (either ordering pizzas or doing potlucks). I impose myself on friends with pools. I get tickets for somewhat enclosed activities (zoo, museums) where I don’t have to be on top of my kids which gives me a bit of a rest.

Get extra help and backups

Surprise, surprise my kids are home from daycare sick. A LOT. Lucky for me, my husband is usually in charge of the kids’ daytime care during the week. But when he is gone, I’ve got to step up (my husband has jokingly put on the calendar that I’m ‘babysitting’ those weeks to remind me I can’t do work events early in the mornings or late at night). So, if there are work events I CANNOT miss, I schedule backup care in case. You never know.


OK, it seems like a lot already. You are solo parenting, potentially working, and making sure your kids have a good time with it all. And maybe you are a super mom or dad and just thrive under these conditions. But me? After a few days, I feel like I may lose my mind if I don’t have a little time for myself. So, I make sure to keep our babysitter for an evening and meet friends or organize a massage or just take a bath and read a book while they sleep. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but if you don’t plan your leisure, it won’t happen. So do yourself a favor and make sure to make time for your needs.

Good luck!

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