Hello, week № 42.
This week I’ve been thinking about my solo-parenting picks; picks when your partner is away and you remain at home handling the child, dogs, cars, and all of their daily details.
Doing the work of two adults is stressful, so here are the picks that help my sanity while my other half is away.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links; I may earn a tiny commission from purchases.
Here are my five favorites this week:
- Lamb & Rice
- Bedtime Routines
- Lowered Expectations
Laugh if you will, but sharing is caring.
When I am managing the home by myself, I tend to cook at night when the Kid is down. Cooking is fun and calming for me, and waiting to do it later in the evening means that I can cook elaborate meals (for future lunches) without toddler distractions.
Combine my solo status with knowing that others are solo too. This is when I cook for others too, simply to share that I care.
My most recent shares have been pumpkin & cream cheese pies. They take a little time because I insist on making the whipped cream from scratch, but otherwise I can make two pies in an hour. So I make pies in the evening, let them set in the fridge overnight, then deliver before lunch. Sometimes I give both away, sometimes I keep one – it just depends on how many people may need pie (my own home included). My current pattern is that I keep one of four pies because the Jupiter House also loves pumpkin & cream cheese.
I’ve joked about being solar-powered for years, but it’s more real than I realized. A nip of sunshine makes me feel better overall, plus it’s free and easy to obtain when you get the timing right.
When I am parenting for two people I like to plug in to an audiobook while taking the Kid on a stroller walk. We both enjoy the sun and fresh air, but with the book (via AirPods) I get to zone out while walking. Sure, I love sitting on the couch to watch Shawn the Sheep, but I really enjoy walking around the block listening to Dr. Jason Fung talk about gluconeogenesis.
Besides, a former neighbor told me that her toddler son ALWAYS slept better after some good time outside. When she said that Kid Jupiter wasn’t six months old yet, and we went on daily stroller walks to get out of the house. We often saw our neighbors outside too. Sometimes on walks like us, or sometimes just playing in the yard making little naturalist discoveries.
Sometimes the only sun we get is when we’re in the car, and that’s okay too! Not all days are right for an afternoon stroll, so we love when we can, but don’t stress if we can’t.
— LAMB & RICE
This is one of those meals that I love – it’s quick, cheap, and easy like a casserole – but lacks the cheese that classic casseroles have in abundance.
Be advised – I love cheese, but American casseroles are a bit much (I don’t really like them to be honest). But lamb & rice however is an easy dish that gives me the flexibility that I want while still providing a solid meal for my toddler to eat by hand.
In the Instant Pot I simply brown one pound of ground lamb, onion optional. Once browned add one package of Vigo Coconut rice and 16oz mushroom broth. If I have spare veggies, I add them now, then seal the lid and cook the rice for 20 minutes (low or high pressure). The end result is a hit. In fact, this recipe is very similar to the maqluba that I make each week – that is also a household favorite. If you don’t like lamb – use a pound of something else. If you don’t have the same coconut rice – use whatever rice or grain you have. As for spices, again, use what you like.
The combination of 1lb meat, 8-12oz rice, 16oz liquid, veggies, and spices is endless. I like lamb with coconut rice. We’ve also enjoyed beef with tomato and cumin rice, and I bet that ground chicken would be great with basmati and paprika or curry. If you’re not feeling the meats, definitely use beans instead (dried or ready-to-eat will definitely change your cooking time, so if you stick with my 20 minute cook time, you’ll need to pre-cook your beans so you can start with 1lb ready-to-eat beans to replace the meat).
The point here is that when you’re solo-parenting make meal time easy when you can. This is easy for us because I can start it during naptime, and it’s ready to eat by dinner. Plus I like trying different combinations. Kid Jupiter can easily handle the ground meat, rice, and veggies. As long as it’s not spicy he’ll eat any meat and rice combination. I make one of these each Monday whether Mister Jupiter is home or not.
— BEDTIME ROUTINES
Routines are great for so many reasons – but I’m not going to get into those mechanisms. Or the American cultural norms that push for parents to keep their kids on routines.
I want to wax about toddler bedtime, and how this (one of many) daily routines is especially great when solo-parenting. We’ve been doing the same things at the same time for months, and it’s great for adults because we know that the Kid will be down soon and we can have one-on-one adult conversations (texting long distances totally counts), and it’s great for the Kid because he knows the sequence of events and loves bedtime.
It may seem odd to have a toddler who loves bedtime – but Kid Jupiter really does. He starts getting fussy and clumsy at 7pm like clockwork. That’s when we watch some TV to wind down (despite sleep experts’ advice). Then we change clothes, have some milk, read a book or two, then lay the Kid down with his favorite toys. Does he go to sleep immediately? No. But he doesn’t cry or complain either. He rolls around and plays with his toys until he falls asleep peacefully.
When Mister Jupiter is home we do the bedtime routine together, but it’s just as easy solo because we all know what to do. It’s common for Mister Jupiter to do the whole routine when he gets back home simply because he misses the Kid – and I love that they can easily have quality time together.
— LOWERED EXPECTATIONS
This might sound grim, but I promise it’s not.
Each time that Mister Jupiter is TDY (“working out of town for a few weeks” for my civilian friends). I let the housework slide. I kind of keep up with dishes and laundry essentials, but I might not vacuum or mop – that’s fine.
Lowering household expectations is about simplification and being reasonable about time. Sure, I could vacuum and mop during naptime, but taking a shower is more important to me. I could make the bathrooms sparkle after bedtime, but then I would be too tired to cook…so I make choices that favor my health and wellbeing because I am just one person, and I’m not competing with anyone.
I used to get super stressed about doing the work of two adults. I would regularly stay up past 2am just to squeeze in all of the work and “me” time, but the days got worse as the lack of sleep took its toll. Then I lowered my expectations down to the workload of one person, not two. That simple re-frame helped me relax about a lot of things, so I could focus on the immediate needs of caring for my toddler and dogs.
Now when Mister Jupiter leaves I urge him to enjoy his clean hotel room because he’ll be coming back to a house full of fur and a dryer full of ready-to-fold laundry. And he’s okay with that – one hundred percent. Why? Because he knows that while he’s gone I won’t stretch myself too thin. He knows that I’m going to keep the boys clean and well fed. We’ll go on walks in the sun, and eat fun dinners each night. I’ll take long relaxing showers and get a full night’s rest so that I can make the best of each day. Sure, clean floors are nice, but they can wait.
Looking for something specific? Scan the Picks of the Week, Index.
Otherwise, here are some previous picks if you’re feeling clicky: