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Solo parenting: Squandering child care

On Sunday, I arranged for my sister to come watch the boys as I rode up to the prettiest and hilliest part of NW Portland for an interview for a job writing a book. I was breathing hard as I locked my bike, and the interviewer met me there. By 15 minutes into the chat I had so little hope of getting the position that I almost stopped worrying about it; it was one of those situations where, despite the likeability of the people on the other side of the table and our obvious shared interests, I knew we just didn't mesh.

When I got the email message on Tuesday -- I hadn't gotten the gig -- I wasn't upset about anything but this: I'd squandered my child care! With my sister pregnant and in possession of a day job, we have our regular Tuesday/Thursday gigs (errands and writing group) and sometimes one other day. I'd used up my share and knew it would be too much to ask her to babysit Wednesday... when I had rare dinner plans with the other urbanMamas. Emails and phone calls to my regular backup caregivers were fruitless.

In the end, I was happy how the situation had turned out; the gig would have been a lot of work for a payoff that wasn't quite enough to give up some other opportunities (and not enough to afford a new regular caregiver). Except I felt so cheated that I'd "used up" my small tender of loving care for my children. As a solo parent while my husband is in Kuwait for the Army, this is one of the most valuable resources I have, and I'd thrown it away!

I'm wondering if other parents who spend lots of their time solo, whether for a travelling spouse, an absent partner, or a very busy one -- or who are doing the job on their own full-time -- feel similarly. How do you use your precious commodity? How badly do you mourn when you've wasted it? Do you, too, feel as if you have to pack a million things into those few hours each week?


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Um...what? You lost me somewhere in the confusing paragraphs...

I totally get this. I am often solo - husband travels a lot for work. When I am solo, I don't tend to use my "me" time for me. It ends up getting used to go grocery shopping, clean, etc. Then I get snippy and passive aggressive at my husband because I don't have self time. But, I feel pressured to do those things because I can't do them well with kids. If I don't do those things well, I feel frustrated with the state of my house and the lack of meal planning and ultimately get grouchy.

Loved the last comment! I am in the same situation and feel the same about doing the "necessary" jobs and rarely get to relax. I get the passive-aggressive thing too! I also feel guilty about having my husband watch the kids so I can be alone, when he gets back in town because he's been away and working so hard. I guess I need to get over that! Thanks for the post.

Im a single Mum but I get my babies father to pay for help around the house (he was never any help anyway)

I'm not really much of a solo parent, but I totally get the pain of squandering precious free time. I hate to use grandparent babysitting time to do things like go to the dentist, but since I only work part-time, I also don't want to take work time (when my kids are already in preschool and day care) to do it. Too many things to do, and too little time to do them!

What stands out to me in this post is that you feel "cheated," that the time was a "waste," that you "threw [time] away." Honestly, I think taking the time to pursue an opportunity is never wasted. Sure, you had to dedicate some resources to seeing it through, but isn't that just part of life? Taking chances, following through, putting yourself in situations that just might be the perfect match or the next door to something great? Would you NOT do that next time you're handed something that isn't a 100% guarantee? It might be worth examining exactly why you *really* feel so upset about one day's worth of childcare being squandered on what sounds like a worthwhile pursuit of opportunity. I bet you'll find come to some interesting realizations!

I understand this feeling. My husband is home most nights, but usually not until bedtime or after the kids go to bed. So I pretty much solo parent five days a week. I only use friends for daycare for doctor's appts., etc. that are difficult for my 3-year-old to sit through. She also goes to nursery school twice a week, but I still have my infant at home with me and spend that time having precious one-on-one time with him, getting laundry done, etc. So I cling to those precious hours after bedtime -- when my infant decides to recognize his bedtime. I can't leave the house, of course, but at least I can focus on myself a little bit.

I am a 24/7/365 mom of a spirited 5 year old girl. The most time I get away from my child is when I am at work. I have 2 friends who will take her overnight if I need a break, but I don't want to over use this option. I cannot hire a babysitter at night because I cannot drive them home after my daughter has gone to sleep and I would never be able to afford a babysitter who can drive! ANY time I get to myself is precious, even if it is for doing taxes! The time I will never get back, though, was the night my friend took my daughter overnight so I could go on a date, and the guy totally stood me up. I waited, waited, waited, then texted him and waited more and he never showed. If I had known, I would have taken myself to the movies or out to dinner, but as it was, I was on FB or hulu all night. TOTAL waste of childcare! :P

Oooops, I failed to mention that I am a 24/7/365 SINGLE mom. You probably figured that one out when I was talking about going on a date! ;)

I would sure like to meet some of you. I have a 3 1/2 year old VERY high energy boy who for sure will soon be labeled ADHD and some how im managing to raise him without any help and im 45 years old and VERY tired! i've been trying to find the "right" childcare for him and that's not easy. Thank God for urbanmamas and my computer/internet service and for coffee.

Im a single mama of a tornado of a four year old boy. I have him 4 days, 3.5 nights a week, and the rest of my time is spent at work. Literally. Last night the ex drove me & the boy to the grocery store and oddly enough opted to wait in the car with our son. I was elated. Not only could I shop solo, but I could have a linear though as well! I have been racking up the hours and spreading myself SO thin that I feel as though I might physically pop. All our family is out of state, babysitters are expensive & it seems that almost all our friends are too busy. So, to answer the question, yes. I absolutely mourn the time to myself. Not even greedy sit on the beach read a book time, but go to the bathroom with the door closed/ finish a cup of coffee time. We as parents have such a huge job that I feel is often misunderstood or under appreciated except by other pro creators. It's okay to be sad that you missed some time to yourself, life is short; but in that same moment it is good to remember the opportunities and gifts we do have. Hope and humor are salvation!

@Debby -
Not all babysitters who have their own transportation are very expensive. We have HS students on our street who can walk the 1/2 block home. I also advertised on the Univ of Portland job website & found college students with their own transportation. Although I'm not a single parent, sometimes my husband's business travel conflicts with evening obligations I have (work, volunteer boards, etc) so we have the same problem - how to get a babysitter home when you can't drive them. We also sometimes use the grandma of a neighbor kid - she too has her own car!

I am very weary of leaving my child with a babysitter I do not know well. We prefer to use a family friend or if this is not possible we have used agencies but they are pretty expensive.

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