Solo Parenting Time is a Gift, Not a Burden

Occasional solo parenting, right from the start, helped strengthen our bond
Occasional solo parenting, right from the start, helped strengthen our bond

As you might have deduced from my lack of blogging, this has been a crazy summer in the Behson household.

I traveled to a conference in DC and then almost immediately flew off to London for a family vacation. Then, Amy and Nick flew back home, while I continued on for a faculty retreat at FDU’s study abroad campus in Wroxton, England.

Then, Amy directed and performed at the Depot Theatre in Westport, NY, right along Lake Champlain in the Adirondack Mountains. While she was performing about 4 1/2 hours away, I was the solo parent for Nick during the week, and then we drove up to spend long weekends with Amy. Whew!

It has now been just about a week with the entire family at home together. It was a busy but great summer, and it is so great to be relaxed at home together again.

This summer also represents a microcosm of my family’s dynamics. Because of my and Amy’s idiosyncratic careers, every month presents different joys and different challenges (I’ve written about my family’s balancing act herehere, here, here and here. These are among my favorite blog posts). Our schedules mean that sometimes, Amy’s the sole or primary parent. Other times, I do the solo parenting. A lot of the time, we’re both around and split things pretty evenly. Through it all, we make sure Nick is taken care of and that, enough of the time, family time comes first.

But this doesn’t mean it is easy. When Amy works out of town for long stretches, solo parenting can be a grind – although now that he’s older, it has gotten easier. I have to schedule my life and work around Nick, and often have to arrange for help from family and friends. I always try to remember, however, that solo parenting time is not a burden — it is a gift.

Because I’ve been able to spend long stretches as Nick’s go-to parent, we’ve been able to build an amazing bond. I’ve been able to experience so much of his childhood, and I’ve tried to savor every moment. I hope that the stretches of solo parenting will mean a stronger relationship throughout our lives.

Many of you have the opposite problem- work and financial demands are obstacles preventing you from spending as much time with your kids as you’d like. However, I believe that we all can get some more solo parenting time into our lives, and that we’d all benefit from it. Here’s some advice from a previous blog post:

  • Think about the flow of your work and identify the peaks and valleys
  • When you see a peak time coming, you can make plans to ensure your family will be okay while you hustle at work
  • When you anticipate a valley coming, respect it. Work shorter hours, take a long weekend, and spend fallow time at work thinking about your long-term goals (you may even want to pick up a book you’ve been meaning to read)
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you miss some family dinners or even bedtimes during a busy stretch. Make it up by carving out time chunks on weekends
  • Occasionally play hooky from work, and let your kids play hooky from school 2 days a year to make memories with you
  • Negotiate for more work flexibility or an alternate schedule. Working from home can save wasted commuting time, and flexible hours and third-shifting can open up family time even during busy work days
  • Consider solutions such as “Daddy-Daughter Wednesdays.”
  • Remember, you have 168 hours in a week. If you spend 50 sleeping and 60 at work, that still leaves 58 for the rest of your life- over 8 hours a day! Plan ahead, and you can carve out enough time for family (and for taking care of yourself).

Being a father is the joy of my life, and becoming a highly involved dad- both due to choice and circumstance- has been a gift and a blessing. See if you can carve out some time for solo parenting.

What do you think about the challenges and joys of solo parenting? Any experiences to share? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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