This past week I solo-parented 4 children.
(For those of you who don’t know, solo-parenting is exactly what it sounds like. Parenting. By. Yourself.)
Can you sense my exhaustion here? By my last night, my theme song become “One More Night” by Phil Colins.
All jokes aside, I decided to pursue this endeavor for a few reasons:
- I love my sister and her family.
- I got paid.
- My kids got lots of time with their cousins.
Though this was such a challenging week, some unexpected blessings came out of this:
- I enjoyed bonding with my niece and nephew.
- I got to see how much everyone cared about me and wanted to help me. My other sister came over twice and my parents came and spent the day with us so I could get some relaxation time. My sister’s in-laws checked on me most every day and brought me supplies. On a normal basis, I might have child care help once or twice a month. It was a huge blessing to go take a walk in the middle of the day by myself, or to take myself out to lunch.
- I got to enjoy 70 degree weather.
- I got to be at my Grandma’s 94th. birthday party.
- I got to explore the city a little.
- I got validation for the fact that day-to-day my life actually is hard. The only difference between what I did for my niece and nephew and what I do for my own kids each day is I had two more kids to mind, and I was at a different house and my husband wasn’t there at night. Those factors definitely made it way harder, but as my sister pointed out to me, “what you do is so hard because you have no time just for you it’s all about them and you always have to be on.”
So how on earth did this all work out ? How did I do as an au pair? Well that’s just it. I wouldn’t call myself an au pair. Or a babysitter.
I would call myself a commander. Much like Mary Poppins. Especially after reading a few pages out of the book “Ungovernable.” Google defines commander as:
Mary Poppins is my heroine. She is so hardcare and I will tell you why. Of course she is beautiful, well-dressed and poised. But it’s her self-possession that truly inspires me. She is a leader. She is firm but kind. She commands respect.
You better believe I powered up on my way there. Much like Julie Andrews on her way to be a governness to all those children:
I listened to Dr. Ray Guarendi’s podcast to put me in the mindset to be ready to discipline. This helped immensely. Here is the link:
A side note: I love Dr. Ray because he is a no nonsense Catholic psychologist who rejects psychobabble and he is also hilarious I might add. He also has a great heart and will respond quickly to any email questions you may have. I’ve ask him something a few times and I was always encouraged by his response. He tells it like it is, and he isn’t afraid to convict you, but that’s exactly why I admire him.
When I arrived, I established the rules and I let all the kids know I mean what I say. Everyone became well acquainted with the corner. Everyone had to say “Okay Momma” or “Okay Auntie” and use polite requests in completely sentences (except for the two-year-old. He could say “milk please.”) And when it was time for an activity, they had to say engaged in that activity until I decided the time was up. And when it was bedtime. IT WAS BEDTIME. No ifs, ands, or buts. I was ALL DONE. I said, calmly, “You went potty. You brushed your teeth. We had storytime. You drank your water. We sang a song. We said prayers. It’s bedtime. You are growing kids and you need your rest. I am tired and I will be cranky if you don’t stay in bed. So I love you and goodnight”. You better believe during my visit I said things like “spit spot” , and “I don’t want you running amuck”.
Sweat, Blood, Tears, and Hives
My hardest day was one by sweet daughter scraped her finger and refused to have a bandaid at night and was keeping the other kids awake. I slept terribly and I woke up in the morning with a rash all over my body as if I were having an allergic reaction.
One day while my sister was there, she asked me if I had done laundry (it was day 4 by then) I could have laughed out loud. I had been doing laundry twice a day since i arrived. With that many kids there is always something to wash! While I was there, there were two beds wet, baths everyday because the kids played outside everyday, and towels laid down to help control the dirt being tracked in and prevent slips. So yeah, I did laundry alright!
The hardest part of everything though was well-meaning family members worrying about me, trying to comiserate with me, and pitying me. I truly think they were trying to be helpful but the most helpful thing I heard was “You can do this! I know you, you got this!” Thank you, Auntie.
Plans for the Future
Would I do this again? In short, maybe. But on different terms. I’d do it at my house so:
- I could sleep in my own bed.
- I could have my husband’s support.
- I’d feel more comfortable in my own environment.
- I’d do it for less time.
It was a learning experience and I’m so proud of myself for doing it. I realize not many people would because it is a huge undertaking. I was extremely brave to take on four kids, especially by myself for almost an entire week. I’m also proud of myself for accepting the help that was given and reaching out to friends for morale while I was there. I’m proud of myself for using the support I was given to take care of myself and go to mass and take myself out to eat and get my nails done. My natural tendency would be to just keep going and going. (Can you tell I’m a control freak?)