I had a whole other blog planned for this week, but my heart isn’t feeling it.
My husband left on Monday for the beginning of his service in the Air Force. He’ll be gone for 9 weeks, during which I will have very minimal contact with him – he’ll likely almost none with our daughter, except on the weekends. After that he will begin his technical training, which will keep him moving around for about 10 months, give or take a week.
This means I will be solo-parenting our 2 kids, ages 3.5 years and 4.5 months, for at least a year.
There’s no way to prepare for the emotional intensity of this.
We had a weepy goodbye, which I followed with even more waterworks while sitting on our front stoop after he drove away. Archer was in my arms and Milly in my lap. After a few moments, Milly looks at me and says, “Mommy, take a deep breath.” I did. The she says, “Do you feel better now?”
Silver lining: a proud mama moment in the midst of an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty, anxiety, and sadness.
I have no idea what to expect from the year to come. I know I will be mentally and emotionally exhausted since I won’t have someone to process the daily parenting with every night like I usually do. I know I will get angry and frustrated with myself as much as with my kids. I know I will feel alone at times. I know I will miss the feeling of being kissed and the sensation of being lovingly touched (sloppy, jelly-smeared kisses from the 3 year old and gooey, drool-covered touches from the baby don’t count).
After my first morning and night solo, I realized I am actually way more prepared than I thought.
I can’t do much about the emotional experiences. Those will ebb and flow as this year progresses.
I can manage the everyday actions and habits of my life. This is how I am prepared. Over the past few years, I have cultivated some basic daily self-care habits that keep me grounded and connected to myself. I’ve also created some routines and practices that help me move more efficiently and smoothly through my life.
When I maintain my daily self-care, I feel nourished and loved.
When I stick to my routines, I maintain the balance in my life and my health, not to mention my sanity.
When I don’t maintain my daily self-care, I feel resentful, cranky, and depleted.
When I don’t stick to my routines, everything falls apart and my stress level increases along with my temper.
Habit Guru, Gretchen Rubin, says that, “habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat about 40% of our behavior almost daily, so habits shape our existence, and our future. If we change our habits, we change our lives.”
Another way to look at this is that when we create healthy, sustainable, supportive habits, we have healthy and easeful lives.
I am certainly not perfect.
I have plenty of habits I’m not happy with or proud of.
I’m quick to anger and impatience, despite nearly 2 decades of yoga and meditation. Although I have more tools to cool my temper and even prevent massive flare-ups, I still sometimes react more quickly with anger than I would like to.
I am more easily distracted than I would like to be, especially by social media. No matter what incentives I put in place or boundaries I set up, when I am stressed or struggling with work, I use social media to avoid digging in and getting it done.
I still occasionally snack in between meals, which according to Ayurveda, isn’t great for digestion and can lead to weight gain, tummy aches, and other digestive issues.
These are just a few of my not-so-great habits that make up my existence. I’m working on them and making progress.
Practice makes progress.
Progress, not perfection.
There are habits I am proud of, though. These are the ones that allow my days to operate more smoothly, reduce my stress, and in general, make me a happier mommy.
These are the ones that are the foundation of my existence now. It took awhile to put them in place and I had some resistance to them at first, but once I got into a good groove, these habits became as easy as breathing.
These are the habits that I will rely on to save my sanity as a solo parent. I will count on these habits to help me navigate the daily ups and downs.
As I go forward, I will likely adopt a few more habits that help me smooth out some of the rough edges. I might even get rid of some of the habits I currently have if they no longer work in my year solo. Habits are fluid like that. I am grateful, though, to have several tried and true habits that have served me well when things are easier, as well as when the shit hits the fan.
The point of having strong, sustainable daily habits is that they don’t just work when life is good; they are also there for you when life is hard.
On my second day solo, things were harder. Both babies woke up in the middle of the night. My 3 year old was crankier in the morning on day 2 and honestly, so was I. There’s a bin of unfolded clean laundry in my bedroom that’s been there for days, while a new dirty bin is nearly full and needs washing. There are toys everywhere. Milly’s room looks like it was turned upside down and inside out. My work desk is hidden beneath a mess of papers, books, and diaper wipes.
I still got my yoga practice in before Milly woke up and after I nursed the babe, put him down for an early morning nap, and pumped. Milly helped me make her breakfast and then helped me make mine! We still made it to school on time, even though I forgot to make her snack for school until the moment we were about to walk out the door. And I washed our cloth diapers while writing this blog.
I’m not bragging. I’m grateful. And proud.
Not for the dirty laundry and the toys and the trash dump also known as my desk. I’m going to need to deal with those soon.
I’m proud of my ability to not just “hold it together” but actually have successful mornings with my kids.
All of this was possible because I made it possible.
Good habits create great possibilities.
In a year that sometimes looks and feels impossible, the reminder that I am actually in charge of what is and isn’t possible, makes me feel a lot better.
*If you want to learn how to create your own foundational habits that help keep you sane in good times and not so good times, I am here for you. I created a program for you called “Conscious Healthy Mama.” I explain habit change strategy and teach healthier solutions to the insanity of mom life. I’d love to work with you and share my insights. Don’t be shy. Get in touch.