Last week, I had the experience of being a “single” parent while my wife was off at a conference in Baltimore. This is not the first time that I have been left alone with the girls but it is the first time I’ve been without a backup parent for days. Needless to say, there were some tears, there was some teeth grinding, and I doubt it was a whole lot of fun for anyone.

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Choose dinner carefully.
This mess is yours and yours alone.

I tried leaving the house on the first day and took the girls to the park. Now that they can both walk, it has become a challenge to keep them free of injury. Where Valentina wants to slide, Victoria would rather climb. Five minutes later, Valentina is trying to climb up the slide, blocking the other kids. Meanwhile, Victoria is crawling ever closer to the edge of the tallest thing she can get on top of. That trip ended abruptly and I knew that I would no longer be leaving the house while Dania was gone. I also quickly learned a few other things about “single” parenting:

Have everything ready

A one and three year old will not wait for you to decide, make sure your mind is made up and everything is prepared before you start. I am “lucky” enough to work from home. That means, my lunch break is me cutting produce and thawing meat for dinner. Once the girls are home from school, there will be no time for slicing onions or pulling out pans – have the dinner ingredients prepared and the dishes laid out before you start. Also: pull out clothes and prepare lunches the night before…AND KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO SERVE FOR BREAKFAST BEFORE YOU GET TO THE KITCHEN.

You’re the dad, everyone understands when your daughter’s hair looks terrible.

You needed to leave 10 minutes ago and Valentina just told you to give her a ponytail. What do you do? Don’t bother fighting it, you’re going to do it. Don’t sweat it either. You’re running late and her hair looks like shit. That’s ok! The staff at the preschool doesn’t expect you to throw together a Paul Mitchell; heck, they might even compliment your effort. You’re a dude. As soon as you walk away, they fix the mess and when you go to pick her up, her hair is looks great and everyone is happy.

One thing at a time

When mommy is around, one of you can get lunches ready for tomorrow while the other one does bed prep. Do not expect that to be the case when you are alone. Feed dinner THEN get the kids to bed THEN prepare lunches THEN wash dishes, etc. Unless you want your infant unloading the contents of the bathroom trashcan on to the floor while you are scrubbing plates and making sure your other child is not feeding the dogs chocolate, you need to give them your undivided attention. As much as it would be beneficial in this case, you can not multitask. Do not even try. It will end poorly.

You’re doing a great job

  • Kids are healthy? ✓
  • Kids are smiling and playing? Nobody is crying? ✓
  • You’re still holding on to your sanity? ✓

What more is there? You’re doing everything expected of you, checking all the boxes. When you break parenting down to its simplest parts, the job is easy to manage even if it is hard to accomplish. Hang in there, only a few more sleeps until mommy gets home!