My husband traveled every week for the entire month of September and it sucked. It felt like he was home for a day or two with just enough time to unpack before repacking and leaving again. That left me to manage my kids, the house, the chores, the lunch packing, my blog and gave me zero time to take care of myself. Let me tell you, working from home isn’t easy when you’ve got last nights dinner dishes calling you from across the house. And of course it doesn’t feel like I’m winning mom of the year when I forget to pack an extra snack for my daughter’s long bus ride home. Ooops!

Chaos coordinator reporting for duty! When I am left alone to hold down the fort, I go completely into survival mode. Every parent knows survival mode. It’s what gets us through those lengthy stretches of teething and middle of the night vomit. There is nothing glamorous about survival mode.

For the first three years (or four – it’s kind of a blur) after my twins were born, I lived in survival mode. I mostly remember my husband working 17-19 hours per day while I was home alone with two infants and not a single extra helping hand. I cried a lot because I was so exhausted and in constant management mode. I actually made an appointment with a neurologist because I was convinced the exhaustion and dizziness were signs something bigger was wrong. She simply looked at me and said, you’re perfectly fine. You just need more help. And that’s when I realized perfection cannot exist in survival mode. I was trying too hard to make every piece of the puzzle fit perfectly and it was only hurting me in the end. Those early years really taught me how to live life with the bare minimum and that even the hardest days will pass. 

Thankfully, my husband doesn’t travel often and today he only works around 9 hours a day, but there are times those survival skills come in handy! It’s what gets us through a rough week, kid sickness or when things go a little off kilter. It’s good to have those skills, but survival isn’t a place you want to live in for too long. Believe me, there isn’t much joy in it.

I know there are plenty of you out there doing this gig solo every day. Whether you are divorced, widowed or maybe your spouse travels routinely for work. No matter what the reason, carrying the parenting load all alone is incredibly exhausting. My hat goes off to you! I’m sure you are familiar with survival mode, but I hope you are finding the support you need!

It has been a chaotic month for sure. It is also amazing how quickly I can slide right into trading perfection for whatever works. If I slow down and focus on each moment as it comes and not think too far ahead (and extend myself a little grace), I find it easier to survive when the wheels fall off the track.

How are you surviving this week?

Tips if your spouse travels for work:

If you know your spouse is traveling, prepare as much as you can ahead of time. Start by writing a simple menu for the week so you aren’t caught off guard at dinner time.

Use paper plates to eliminate the big clean up.

Line up the help you need – a cleaning lady at the end of the week, or a baby sitter during the week so you can run errands or grocery shop kid free. Order your groceries online and pick up at the store to save time.

Being out numbered by picky eaters and time, I try to keep dinner super simple. I will sometimes call a DIY sandwich night and round everyone up for a picnic on the living room floor, or I might put out a picky platter like this and let everyone chose what they want.

Use your calendar and sticky notes to keep you on task. I try to look at my calendar each night and make a list for the next day of the most important things I need to accomplish (lunches, phone calls, emails, etc). I write my list on a sticky note and I leave the note on my kitchen counter to review again in the morning.

Lower your expectations. Do not expect to fit everything into one day, or make all the ends meet. Your perfect plan will be destroyed by kids with a stomach bug, or a sudden school event you forgot about. Just keep things basic and aim for survival until help returns.

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2 Comments on Parenting in Survival Mode

  1. Great tips for survival mode! I have been through this many times with challenges related to my son’s mood disorder and autism. Living moment to moment and letting everything, and i mean everything, non essential fall away is the only way to make it through during these times. And repeating to myself the mantra “this too shall pass”.
    Keep on keeping on, Whatever Mom! You are awesome!

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