The Long Weeks

Single parenting isn’t bad, most of the time.

You know what is bad, though?

Single parenting websites.

Idiotic, patronising, faux-cheerful places.

Flea is with her Dad this week, on holiday. She’s spending two weeks with him – this is the longest time she’s had with him since she was 12 months old. Obviously that’s great, and I hope she’s having a great time. But the question of what to do with two whole weeks of “freedom” is vexing.

According to the experts I should be making the most of my free time by visiting friends and having lovely days out and generally pretending I’m 23 again. One website said, “Why not take a picnic and enjoy the gorgeous weather?” as though we single Mums have a convenient stash of friends happy to drop everything (including their own families) so we can skip off and live our own personal Timotei advert.

I’m not sure it works that way.

If this is the longest time Flea’s ever spent with her Dad, it’s the longest time I’ve ever spent away from her.

It’s an odd sensation. I miss her – she’s been my constant companion for the past seven years. It’s like a missing limb. I can feel the gap where she should be.

Truth be told, I don’t have a ready supply of single friends to entertain me. Most of my friends are married and spending time with their own children. Which is all well and good, but I’m not sure how much time I want to spend with THEIR kids when mine is overseas.

While it would be lovely to think I should be off frolicking in meadows and having lazy picnics, I’m trying to take the opportunity to stuff as much work into my week as possible, so we can relax when Flea does get home, and enjoy our summer. I don’t want to spend the 6 weeks of holiday she has left peering at a smartphone, checking emails 10 times a day.

So for these two weeks, it’s been one quick visit from my best friend, followed by a lot of long days at work and trips into London.

And when you’re sitting at a desk and nobody comes home at 4pm full of stories, and demands for pesto and pasta, you just keep working. And when nobody is playing on the lounge floor, there’s no reminder that you should probably both wash your hair and take a shower. There’s no need to take a break for play-time, or bed-time, or bath-time.

To be honest, the last few days, it’s only been when my eyes start to struggle focusing on the monitor that I’ve remembered to stop working. It’s not pretty.

I’m curious – what do other single parents do with this time?

How do you entertain yourself when your partner in crime is otherwise engaged?



Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. Vic
    20th July 2013 / 6:31 pm

    I’m much the same – jam in as much work as possible so the down time can be spent with the kids.

    • Sally
      21st July 2013 / 10:03 pm

      Sounds about right.

  2. 20th July 2013 / 7:37 pm

    The boys are going away a week today. In the past, with Max’s sleeping problems, I spent most of the time sleeping, but since that’s not really an issue this time around, I fully intend to get a week’s pass for the cinema and gorge myself with movies, and going to other places I can’t get to with the boys about. Hopefully I’ll have some company for parts of it, and I may actually tidy/clean at the start of the week purely because it’ll stay that way for the week. 😉
    I do always find myself missing them like hell after about 2 days though. Don’t know how I’m going to cope at Christmas this year when they’re at their dad’s though. :-/
    Marylin recently posted..Summer Holidays…My Profile

    • Sally
      21st July 2013 / 10:04 pm

      I go to the cinema during term time, I might try and squeeze a trip in this week – top suggestion.

  3. 20th July 2013 / 8:08 pm

    We don’t have an other half of our family so I don’t get these weeks or even weekends off. However, if i did I imagine it would be work without interruption, evenings out without worrying about a babysitter, and, as Marylin above said, lots of cinema. As I’m an older mother my friends are available to go out without their own kids who are mostly grown up or at least teenagers, so I could do a day trip or two with a friend. I guess I’ll have to wait a while until my fantasy break can be realized.
    Midlife Singlemum recently posted..#ShabbatShalom : A Good WeekMy Profile

    • Sally
      21st July 2013 / 10:05 pm

      The challenge for single parents with young kids is that generally you don’t have friends to go out with in the evenings – in the UK, at least, single Mums do get marginalised quite a bit and you’re invited to socialise with female friends on their own, during the day, but very rarely in the evenings – I find couples socialise with other couples most of the time – so without a child, you can feel rather cut off. It’s an odd thing.

  4. 21st July 2013 / 10:46 am

    Lol I read this and thought god I’m the same! My little man went to see his dad in Spain and spent the week before that at his nana’s 160 miles away in prep for going to Spain. After the first two days it was like “where’s my extra leg?” Got loads of work done while he was away and as soon as he came back it was like he never went ha! I never ever read those stupid websites where they try and create that ideal world! Ha it’s just not reality!

    • Sally
      21st July 2013 / 10:05 pm

      Yes, lots of work has been done, but I do feel like I’m missing a limb!

  5. finwilliams
    21st July 2013 / 11:07 am

    Hi sally,
    i felt compelled to respond to this post, because it’s the experience i have often! my kids go to see their dad every other weekend, but in the holidays its for three weeks. It’s so hard! and i often feel as though the house is too empty. i don’t bother cooking meals, and end up grazing through cereal or cheese and biscuits. There’s no washing / ironing / bedtimes to punctuate my evenings, and i often find myself wondering what people do when they don’t have kids?

    It’s taken me quite a few years now (mine are 13 and 11) but slowly i started to realise that so much of what i do is for them, that i had forgotten how to really take care of myself…. it’s not something i am used to and certainly doesn’t come naturally. What i have realised though is there is something deeply satisfying in being able to really care for yourself. i started small: I found a good book and forced myself to go and sit in the park and read my book and ‘people watch’ it felt uncomfortable at first, and easy to feel as though everyone has someone except for you, but i stayed and faced the feelings… then i started taking the time to get a massage or a leg wax (i have always been one to not even look in the mirror of a morning when messing with the kids – my best friend once took me to a clinique counter in a large department store and declared loudly to everyone “she washes her face with shower gel!” needless to say the heavily made up counter girl looked at me in horror and insisted that i SIT!)

    What i found was that with these small things i started to feel as though i could appreciate myself as to who i was beyond being a mother… You are right – my friends all have families, and they mix with other families, but there is something oddly isolating about being a single parent: i only ever spend time with girlfriends when they are not with their families, as though there is something odd about the numbers to spend time as families as a whole; i am also willing to accept that this might be my own difficulty though.

    I guess what i’m trying to say is that it takes practice, and it is completely normal to begin with to feel lost and empty – but the practice is good, it can be cathartic, and with time i am sure you will come to accept if not welcome the times that are not filled with caring for someone else.

    Take care

    • Sally
      21st July 2013 / 10:06 pm

      Thanks for commenting – you ABSOLUTELY hit the nail on the head about friends mixing with single friends when they’re not with their families. In the small town where I live most couples are married, and it can be very isolating not having a regular partner around. But your advice about taking care of myself is really very good – it’s not something I generally think to do, and maybe I should.

  6. 21st July 2013 / 1:33 pm

    Before Ross was on the scene I was very much the same as you – flitting between not quite knowing what to do with myself and then cramming as much in as possible before Grace came back. The longest time she spent away with her Dad was last summer – I was with Ross but still felt the same way! And she is off again next Monday for over a week and I know I am probably still going to worry and fret and cram as much work in as possible! Oh, and for the record, I agree with you about those single parenting websites!
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    • Sally
      21st July 2013 / 10:07 pm

      Crikey, we’re very dedicated, us single Mums, aren’t we? All that hard work – someone should tell the Daily Mail about it… 😉

  7. 21st July 2013 / 7:17 pm

    I’m not a single parent but my best friend is and although her kids are now 13 it has only been the last year or two that she has had longer periods away from them when their dad has them in the summer for 2 weeks now. She was the same and always dreaded it- but now she saves up all jobs that are time consuming, decorating is a favourite, a garden overhaul- she finds visiting friends at these times tough as their children are always around. She has become more used to it now but it did take a long while. Hope you don’t overwork 🙂
    Mum in Meltdown recently posted..Schools out- Summer Bucket List!My Profile

    • Sally
      21st July 2013 / 10:07 pm

      Oh goodie, because nothing makes a crappy week better than adding housework to the mix… arf! I am overworking and oversleeping, in equal measure.

  8. 21st July 2013 / 9:02 pm

    This totally explains your unusual social media presence over the last week. It has been lovely seeing you more chatty. 🙂
    Monika recently posted..Humbled!My Profile

    • Sally
      21st July 2013 / 10:08 pm

      Ha! I’m not sure Flea’s absence is the excuse – or maybe I’m missing the conversation and spending more time on Twitter as a result?

  9. Sally
    21st July 2013 / 10:03 pm

    Thanks, it was just snapped on my phone as I dropped her off last weekend at the train station.

  10. 22nd July 2013 / 3:39 am

    About 3 years ago my ex took my girls on holiday for a couple of weeks* and although I enjoyed the first 3-4 days after that it was torture.

    There’s something quite odd about having all this time without your children, who is normally what you base everything else around, and it brings us up short. I would say though, that it’s a warning sign for when they’re older – these days, my girls are often out with friends, staying at sleepovers, at parties, etc and I’ve had to start trying to build some sort of ‘social life’ for myself again and it’s been quite hard work.

    I know it might seem alien at the moment, but think about some of your own interests that maybe you did before Flea came along, visit some friends or take a little break from work and do something you’ve always wanted to do (i.e. sleep).

    *p.s. he said it was ‘really hard work’ and hasn’t done it since.
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  11. Isobel
    9th August 2013 / 11:50 am

    This post made me smile. Being a single adopter I don’t have much time off as no-one for Fred to go to at the weekends (and not moaning, this was entirely my choice!), but when my brother kindly has him for a sleepover every 6 weeks or so, I tend to do nothing – watch tv, drink a glass or 2 of wine, and mentally prepare for the return of the whirlwind!
    Fully agree with you about the single parent websites – patronising and generally stupid!

    Your girl is beautiful!