Survival Mode

We are hunkering down for the last few weeks of My Man’s semester. ie: Finals. Things have already been getting increasingly intense around here, but now we’re in it for real. I have curbed my expectations for papa to 1-2 hours/day. Nix on the Saturday=mama day business.

This last weekend I took the kids for a little trip, to give him some space to work on a paper. I have often found that trips aren’t any harder than being home if I don’t have help from papa at home anyway. Both our kiddos really thrive on newness, and it tends to keep them distracted from fussing.

But trips do of course take a certain kind of investment from me, a dive into mama-ness. Complete submission. And I’m afraid I just don’t have it in me right now. The weekend was okay. Won some, lost some. Might have added up to neutral if it weren’t for the packing and unpacking.

So, if I’m gonna stay here and be essentially a single mom for two weeks, I realized I need to batten the hatches. Stop unpacking boxes, even though I’m so close to done. Stop cooking anything but the most basic foods. Stop cleaning the house unless 1. we can’t walk or 2. we’re attracting cockroaches. Start taking more outings again, since they keep everybody happier. Especially to the Parenting Center, a local grant run place where I can really just sit and actually read a book while the kids play. A brilliant and sanity saving resource that all towns should have.

My main trick for survival mode:

Roll with it baby.

3YO’s eating store-bought cereal for lunch? Roll with it. Laundry still on the line 4 days later? Roll with it. Dust bunnies in every corner? Just kick some toys that direction so you don’t have to look at ’em.

Of course, there’s only so much rolling you can do. At some point I discovered that the house is an awfully lot faster to “tidy up” if I just go through with a laundry basket and put everything in it. It’s nice when the toys are somewhat organized, books all on one shelf, clothes in their own bin. But what the hell? Not like the kids can’t pull their toys out from the jumble when they want them. You can clean up a messy room in like 2.5 minutes if you just get down on the floor and throw all the shit into one basket.

Of course, a feisty 3YO can mess up a room in 0.5 minutes if all she has to do is upturn a laundry basket. Better put it on a high shelf.

And I can roll with it for lunch but a decent dinner I cannot let go. Doesn’t need to be fancy, just reasonably healthy. Starch, protein, vegetables. So many possibilites. Goat tacos tonight– fry burger, shred cabbage, heat tortillas, crack a jar of salsa. Dinner.

Hopefully I’ll still be writing posts over the next few weeks, since this has become one of my lifelines. But the new FB and HG groups will have to fend for themselves. Also, I doubt I’ll be answering comments for awhile. I was trying lately to respond to them more, since I do so adore comments and want to encourage y’all to speak up. But even though it seems simple enough, and there aren’t all that many of them, it takes me time to respond. Time that I could be writing another post, and have a much greater sense of accomplishment at the end. I need that sense of accomplishment.

I also really like the way writing posts makes my brain feel, compared to the other online stuff. Responding to comments is fun, chatting in the various chat hot spots, but all those things make me think and write in a choppy, disjointed, jumpy way. I don’t need help feeling disjointed.

Post writing gives me the space to see a thought through to the end, which is what is so sorely lacking in my life right now.

This all sounds so ominous, like I’m gearing up for a year in Paraguay. I guess I feel a bit like that. Two weeks is a long time to work 23/7. I just never can understand how you single mamas do it. Holy fuck.

What are your survival mode tricks?

10 thoughts on “Survival Mode

  1. Keep going. :)

    Just wanted to let you know I’m reading and and I’m sure lots more are too even if we don’t comment much, keep up the posts.

    How about getting the kids (or the older one at least) involved in tidying up, cleaning or ‘arranging’ dinner on a plate.
    My little one loved it when I gave her a damp cloth and asked her to wipe down the paintwork, sofas, wooden floor etc. I gave her a bucket of water and a paintbrush and had her ‘paint’ the car and the fence while I pottered outside.

    Also, when having beans or peas for dinner I ask her to group them either by size or by tens, or just count them for me – educational and keeps them busy! She loved chopping mushrooms with a blunt knife too.

  2. Hang in there, Sister! My kids are older, but I am, essentially, a Single Mama for 2 week stretches. The Big Man works in San Francisco for 2 weeks, then comes back to Portland for 1 week. Constant re-entry syndrome. It is not easy! I make it easy by making basic meals (pasta, beans, tacos, meatloaf…mashed potatoes with bacon or cabbage inside, etc)…we go to the park after school so we all feel like we’ve ‘gotten out’. We put a blanket on the floor & say we’re having a picnic…you do what you can, & let the rest go. Kids are amazingly great this way. Wish I were closer to help out.

  3. Hey
    I want to send you a big old hug you lovely mama. I completely understand and feel every word you say. Could be me writing this post except I don’t have a blog of my own. But loving reading others blogs – they give me strength and a sense of thank fuck I’m not the only one who feels like this!
    I homeschool four boys. They are real live wires, aged 2,5,8 and 9. Lovely kids, but complete loons and very bouncy and full on. Having them around me 24/7 is great but just lately my Hubba has been working days, evenings and weekends! Just like you, I can expect 1 1/2 h to 2 hours involvement with the bambinos every day, in the evening. I am often up with the kids from 7 ish and they’re still awake some nights till gone 10 pm ( the older two boys) listening to audiotapes in their room, but they’ll come and pester me and hang around some evenings if they’re in thee mood. They tend to be on a slightly later time zone than the younger two, with a 2 hour difference : ie they get up more like 9 am etc…etc…
    Even with some outside help, which is literally a few hours a week, I really do find it mentally draining, and some days are just survival days. Some are also good, some are fantastic, the whole gamut. it’s not always like this. in a few weeks the crazy workload will become normal again and there will be some opportunities for time off again to do oth things besides housework, children and a bit of Internet light relief!
    Here are some of my survival strategies
    Cook jacket potatoes a couple of times a week.
    Have sandwiches for lunch and a hot meal for dinner.
    Zone in on something lovely about one of your children, ie: twiddle with their hair and notice how soft it feels, really look at how beautiful they are
    Do something little each day that makes you happy
    Eat out as often as you can afford
    Have a house cleanse and be brutal.
    Read some zen literature, and think about the teachings, and how they apply in your own situation.

    Wishing you strength, joy, and peace across the ether, from a stranger in England who thinks your blog rocks, and has been there.

    1. Hi Motherfunker,
      I never know the etiquette about this, but thought I’d drop you a hello- I’m in Croydon, just South of London, and looking for like-minded Mamas. I have a 2 1/2 year old and a nearly 2 week old, will be homeschooling them, and would love to pick your brain, and perhaps share a picnic in the park or something?
      Please do drop me a line- wanderingsue at hotmail dot com.

      Thanks CJ- for this as well as all your lovely blogging- keeping my head above the waves, but heck, paternity leave ends today! Thank God for Easter, (heh,) and thank the Royals for having a wedding- we’re all about long weekends around here. Not sure how this whole 2 kid thing’s going to work, actually- loving all this wisdom. Wish me luck!

  4. Know all about Survival Mode. My tip would be invite friends around for playdates who KNOW the deal, and won’t expect clean or tidy, who will bring food for everyone, who may even distract your kids long enough for you to get the washing in!! I wish I had some of them myself right about now… I also like Cook Once, Eat Twice, or Make In Advance type meals.

    Good luck, don’t feel obligated to reply to comments, just reading your amusing & always relevant anecdotes is enough for me… maybe do one big general reply to everyone, nothing individual? Think if the HG & FB groups like a bad boyfriend who nevers calls, but that makes his girlfriend all the more endeared to him!

  5. I agree with all that Motherfunker said! Jacket potatoes are great for kids and so easy for you. Get outside as often as you can. it minimises the crap-spreading that kids have down to a fine art and wears them out a bit more too. Hang in there. Be aware of your need to rest.
    If all else fails, gin in their meals!! Or at the very least in yours!

  6. Yes! Similar story around here (my fellah is working extra days and late at night – I can expect zero help with kids because he gets home after they’re in bed, but he usually has to help mop up the detritus of the day.) Sounds counter-intuitive, but having (the right) people around for dinner helps – it ain’t much harder to cook more, and if you can wangle it, get em to come earlier so they can entertain kids while you cook, AND then they can help clean up after. It’s all done and dusted by bedtime and you don’t feel so lonesome in the hardship.

    Agree totally on baked potatoes. Also, ‘pumpkin pizza’ – cut pumpkin in slices, lay em out on a baking tray (like a puzzle) cover with passata (tomato sauce from a bottle) and sprinkle with chopped up garlic and oregano. Bake at about 180 Celsius for 20 mins, pull it out and sprinkle with grated mozarella and bake for another 15. Add steam veg to the plate. YUM! A winner every time.


  7. My survival techniques? Well, that’s easy! Just keep reading the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about mamahood, as ably and humerously written by dear dear CJ!

    (You have ALL my sympathy dear women. We had our first bubba when The Fella started his first year of med school. We then proceeded to have numbers two and three whilst he finished. Glad I didn’t know any different or I may just have quit!…. Anyhow, GOODLUCK, and, when it all seems just tooooo horrid and unbearable, remember, this too shall pass).


  8. Hey CJ. Hope you’re going great, and if you’re not ‘just keep swimming, just keep swimming’ as Dory said on Nemo.

    My survival tips, from me who is alone two weeks at a time, one week with the man home, rinse, repeat, are as follows –

    *shower before bed at night. In fact, shower as soon as the babe and the toddler are sleeping, and then it’s done. You’re clean, and you have 24 hours (at least!!) til you need another!
    *get a drawing/craft box and dedicate an hour a day to sitting with the kids and letting them draw/playdough/create. Make binoculars with empty toilet rolls, make egg carton people, stick stickers all over paper, anything. And after you get the kids sorted on something, grab out your journal and write or list, or what ever helps you get the thoughts out. I can’t recommend the laptop, it never works here, it’s just ‘another toy’ they wanna grab from you!
    *fried rice. It is the bestestest dinner of all, especially as you have already cooked the rice earlier so you just need to fry it, add veg and eggs and then put it on a plate. We usually have 1frypan and 4 plates to clean up afterward. Then you might even be lucky enough to have leftovers for lunch another day!
    *screen-free mornings, including tv, mobile phone, AND the computer. I’ve been doing this religiously for a week, only screens are on when the baby is napping in the arvo. Works wonders because the 4yr old has re-discovered what tv is for – a nice relax, watching that one thing while I sit by and get my banking or blog reading done on the computer. I dunno what your kiddo’s are like, but I don’t even turn the radio on in the mornings any more, because it’s even like we then have to be ‘louder’ than the radio noise.
    I know your man is working hard, but try get him to spend a bit of time each day with them – I ‘make’ mine bathe the kids each night when he’s home. Seriously, it takes the best part of 20 mins and the kids get to love it. I dunno what your’s could do (or maybe he does already, but seein’ as ya asked!), even just sharing a quick book with them over a morning coffee is such a special thing to a kid. Anything. And that 20 mins is like nothing, but it is sooo nice when I know that it is gunna happen, no matter what, each day that he’s home.
    *get to the library twice as often if you like it there – the stuff is free, man! You can even hire audio books to put on (the 4yo’s current fave is Bad Dog Marley, with a book And a cd that he can turn the pages as its read), and they free you up for feeding the babe, or even just giving the older one some ‘alone time’ if they want some.

    It’s a blessing and a curse, this solo-mama stuff when there is actually a partner to count in. It shows you can do it – and ANYONE can, who puts their elbow grease in to it – and it also shows how full on you can parent if you are doing it solo. Like a job promotion ya didn’t sign up for!

    Ok, good luck. We were thinking of you guys last night, because our local ABC TV was showing America’s Biggest Oil Spill, by Stephen Fry. Was quite brilliant, so your ears might have been burning as I was telling my fella about you, and your delayed trip to Cordova, etc, because your man was doing his thing. Which reminds me, you’ve done this before hun, you can do it again!!!

  9. Yes we’ve been there too recently with hubby in hospital and then recovering. And I too wondered how single mamas did it. Made me resolve to be extra nice to him ;-)

    I apply the same let it roll tactic! And getting out a lot

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