It has been nearly a year since Gman and I started our unaccompanied tour. We have a long distance marriage while Gman works overseas and Noah and I camp out in the US. In Gman's job with the US Department of State many families will have to endure this hardship at some point in the employee's career. It's a matter of when it will work into the family dynamic, financial benefits or concerns, etc. For us it seemed to work best to do it while Noah is so young and resilient.
We still have another half a year to go. We learned a lot during our separation about our marriage, each other, ourselves, and what we want and don't want out of life. I'd like to share some of the things I learned with you in a series about our unaccompanied tour. I have searched for support online through blogs, websites, Facebook groups, etc. and while there is some stuff out there I really feel on my own about the decisions I have to make and the lifestyle that we lead.
So I hope this series will answer some questions, give some insight, and share some stories to help myself and others like me feel empowered during this difficult journey.
So let's dive into the first one...
The separation is an emotional roller coaster. When Gman is here, we have our whole marriage in two weeks. When he's gone, we barely talk about anything. There are days when I feel on top of the world - I cleaned the house, cooked for the week, and Noah is dressed and ready for the day all before 10am. Other times I feel defeated before the first demand for juice is uttered. It comes down to taking the time to invest in myself and my health. Here's what I do to feel calm, grounded, and joyful.
1. Sleep. I make sleep a number one priority over everything else in my life; chores, meeting friends, anything besides taking care of Noah or myself when we need it. Noah has a bedtime routine and so do I. When he goes down, I do a little dance on the way to the shower because I know now it's me time. When I regularly get at least eight hours it is the difference between "I got this" and "OMG why is this happening."
2. Eat right. For me, it truly it makes a difference. When I eat healthy I feel good and energetic.
3. You guessed it - exercise! I try to build it into my day with an active lifestyle. Noah and I ride my bike everywhere we can and go for 20 minute walks at least twice a day. If I'm really good I practice yoga during Noah's mid-day nap. Once in a while I'll be able to go to a class somewhere, too. Between that and a good night's sleep, I feel unstoppable!
4. Have downtime. I give myself more downtime now then I did when Gman and I were in the same house. When I put Noah to bed, I don't do anything else besides have my downtime. No dishes, no laundry, no responsibilities. They all have to wait for tomorrow. Every night I curl up in bed and read for at least an hour, usually two.
5. Have a support network. Single parenting is not for the faint of heart. Many times there is no one to tap in for you at the end of a long day. No one to pinch hit when you just want to sleep but your little one is crying from their crib, standing in a pool of throw-up at 3am...
I live across the street from my parents, which makes it convenient for them to help me out. Sometimes my mom will unexpectedly be able to watch Noah for an hour, or my dad will come over, do the dishes and take out the trash. It's those little things that make me feel like the burden of my family is not all on my shoulders (even if it usually is). I'll still be cleaning puke up all by my lonesome at 3am but at least I know that someone nearby will have a large cup of hot coffee waiting for me in the morning when I call.
I go to a weekly bible study class with other adults. It's really nice to talk about something other than being a mom. It's a safe, emotionally rewarding, and sometimes intellectually stimulating environment that I find helps me release some of my anger or exasperation from the week as well as gain a new perspective on my life.
I see a therapist regularly. With my husband and confident unavailable, therapy gives me a place to have constructive conversations about myself, my heart, my fears, and my dreams.
6. Lastly, go easy on yourself. It's ok if you don't get to everything in one day. It's ok if the dishes sit in the sink while you place horsey with your toddler, or if you make dinner plans with a friend and leave the bedtime routine to another caretaker now and then. Having a rough day so you drank an extra glass of wine or snuck some ice cream while hiding from your kids in the garage? It's totally fine. Tomorrow will be better.