This was written with a very lovely on-line friend in mind, as I know her little boy is about to leave on a trip with school and she is really suffering. This is a real toughy for so many people so I wanted to share some of the things that make the experience easier for me.
One of the toughest things I have to deal with about being a single parent, is that my son goes away regularly and often for at least a week at a time. If I know where he is, it is easier, especially if, for example, he is with Papa at his Grandparents’ and I know I can speak to him every two days, but on the odd occasions when he is just ‘off’ with his father for a few days and I can’t speak to him that regularly, it can really get to me.
This has been going on for two years now and over time, I have realised that it is not going to change, so I might as well try and turn it in to a positive experience. At the end of the day, when he is home I often find myself wishing I had an extra hour here and there to get something finished, or just to squeeze in a bit of ‘me-time’, so here is the ideal opportunity.
I have therefore learnt to ‘collect’ the things that can wait, to do during the time when my little one is away when I can get rid of them all in one hit! Once he is gone, I set myself 5 little tasks per day and am hard on myself to get them done, even if I have to stay up into the small hours. If I achieve them quickly I reward myself with a luxury thing that I wouldn’t normally be able to do as easily when my boy is home: a couple of hours’ undisturbed writing for me, or perhaps a bit of television in the evening or as an extra special prize, a film … with wine and popcorn!
So here is a list of things I might fill the time with while my son is not at home with me … I know there are people out there that go through the same pain, so I hope there is something here which could be useful to someone :
1. Really, really do some excercise … I have a dvd with the German Führerin from h*ll but boy I feel good afterwards. I then have loads of energy to do some of the other things on this list!
2. Catch up on the horrible bits of washing always left over for months at the bottom of the basket AND do the ironing … every last bit!!
3. Print out some recent photos of your child/ren and put them up (see also point 6)
4. Get all the hideous adminny paper-work jobs out of the way that you’ve been putting off for months and make those phone-calls! (but just a couple of bits per day … remember the 5-task rule. Don’t drive yourself into the ground unless you really want to).
5. Book 2 appointments: one with the doc/dentist/gyni that you never get around to doing when child is home and another nice one for you: hair / nails / massage / etc
6. Prepare a surprise for your child:
My son loves surprises and I adore seeing that ‘wide-eyed’ look when he comes home and, at some point, notices something different in the apartment.
It doesn’t have to be something expensive; small people are as enthusiastic about ‘little things’ as they are about some massive break-the-bank present. Sometimes I buy little things as I see them and put them in a cupboard with a view to hiding one of them somewhere for him to ‘happen upon’ when he comes back from a week away.
Last time I printed out a happy photo of him and me together and put it up in his room. It gave me an excuse to really go through all the pics I had taken and he was delighted! He shows the photo to everyone who comes to visit!
I also love making things for him, or just moving things around just a little bit so he has more space. It’s such fun trying to think things up and this puts a positive edge on the time when he’s not there, just looking forward to him finding what is different!
This last time L went away, there was a flea-market in our local town and I found a beautiful wooden aeroplane light-shade for 5 Euros, still in very good condition. He adores planes so I couldn’t resist. During the week, I made sure I took down the hideous old one and put the new one up and then waited … like a kid waiting for Christmas! He didn’t see it for ages, so I was hopping around with impatience for over an hour, but it was SO worth it – when he finally did look up, his little face was just a picture!
Another time I got my creative head on: he was fascinated with the concept of ironing and always wanted to ‘help’. On a serious budget I decided against ‘buying’ an iron toy, and set to work in his absence with a box, a pair of scissors, a shoe-lace and some black parcel tape. 9 months later, his iron is still one of his favourite toys! (On another occasion, I gave him the little sleeve-board which came with my ironing board so now he is fully kitted out. We now iron together which actually seriously takes the pain out of it for me!!)
7. Catch up with a friend or two – either personally or on the phone
8. Go for a little walk each day – no really, do it!
9. Treat yourself with a nice thing to eat that you wouldn’t normally buy … in my case, it’s usually a little filet steak or even, if I’m really pushing the boat out, a Thai take-out one evening
10. Perhaps you could take what you are feeling and put a different voice to it … be it in writing / sketching / crafting / music etc, whatever you create will be heartfelt and so much more powerful for the weight of emotion you are currently experiencing. Eyes closed, heart open … and go ….
These are just a few examples of things that I do to pass the time when my boy is away … aside of working, eating and sleeping that is! I find that if I fulfil a target of 5 tasks per day …however small, the sense of achievement is wonderful, which helps my moral and gets me through the week in a much more positive way.
Of course there are times when I am sad, but, I know that, for me, this is the way things are going to be until my child leaves home for good, so I might as well try and turn it around and make the best of it. Plus, it’s lovely to think that if I have achieved something, I am happier in myself and my son can come home to a very happy Mummy at the end of the week :-)
This is not a mindset which happened overnight so don’t be too hard on yourselves if it doesn’t work the first time, but I hope that maybe something in here has helped for the next time your little person goes off on an adventure without you xx