God has brought some of the dearest people into my life because of this little blog, and Michele White just happens to be one of them. A mom of five, Michele lives many of her days without the help of her husband who is travelling all over the country to bring home the bacon. Michele takes Jeremy's absences in stride, and her humor and energy inspire this old homeschooling mom every time I hear her infectious laugh.
I asked Michele to share with you how she copes without the help of her husband many of their days. I love what she has to say, and I hope you feel blessed and encouraged.
Jeremy and Michele
My husband recently logged his 100th night in a hotel this year. Which, of course, means 100 nights of being away from home. Which means I was a solo mom for 100 bedtimes! It isn't uncommon for him to arrive late Friday night and then have to catch another flight out before lunch on Sunday.
Friends often ask me how I do it, particularly after we brought home baby #5 through adoption in the middle of the year. I don't pretend to be a supermom, nor do I try to get everything done. However, I know that this is a season of our family's life and it's primarily up to me to determine what shape our family is in when the season changes. I know that there are lots of other women that are facing a similar situation and I want to share with you some of the methods and tricks our family uses to thrive (and let's be honest – sometimes just survive) while Daddy is gone.
Probably the most important tool I use is a morning and evening routine. These routines are the same everyday of the week, no matter if Daddy is home or not. They aren't complicated (our children are ages 9 and under) but they are consistent.
I have learned the hard way that when we deviate from the routines we have far more meltdowns, disobedience, and cranky mommy-moments. With the routines I can be reasonably confident that things are getting done that NEED to be done each morning. This includes me getting dressed. My morning routine starts way before the children get up at 7am, primarily because this is the only absolutely quiet time I have all day.
My 5-year-old is responsible for emptying the dishwasher before breakfast. This is a VERY important job because kitchen cleanup requires an empty dishwasher! If I don't get the kitchen cleaned up after breakfast time, there is a very good chance it will still be dirty at bedtime. When I am the only parent at home for the entire week, I need things to run on auto-pilot as much as possible because my brain is busy just trying to make sure everyone is alive at the end of the day!
Freezing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for easy lunches
Another tool I use, mostly at the insistence of my husband, is a very basic meal plan. What is basic? At its simplest for us that means spaghetti on Mondays, burritos on Tuesdays, stir-fry on Wednesdays, soup on Thursdays and homemade pizza on Fridays. Why does he insist? It turns out that when I don't have a meal plan when he's gone, we eat a lot of cereal and sandwiches and not a lot of vegetables!
Again, my brain is busy keeping children alive and I don't always have the mental space available to think up meals on the fly at the end of a long day. I have nothing against cereal and sandwiches, but we all know that this doesn't make for ideal health, night after night. By having a basic meal plan, I can be sure that we are all eating a balanced diet and it helps keep our grocery budget under control.
For me, it also means that I can make 3-4 family-size servings at once and freeze them so when my husband is gone it's just a matter of defrosting and heating. Or putting something in the crockpot at breakfast and forgetting about it. I recently did a big freezer cooking session so I put 20 meals in the freezer at once, which has been incredibly helpful as we begin the holiday season.
What about school? This is an area that I am having to revisit in my own head. We women can be so hard on ourselves, comparing our families to other families that we know or read about online. My husband and I have determined that a love for God and others, as well as a love of learning is the goal of our homeschool. As a result, our school doesn't look incredibly academic to someone who might be looking in.
Our children are 9 and under, with only three being school-age. We focus on reading, writing, and math everyday. When Daddy is home during the week, we are able to get lots of work done. When Daddy isn't home, I make sure everyone does at least one lesson of math each day and that the emerging readers read at least two pages out loud each day. We try to foster independence in our children so they will work on projects on their own throughout the day which incorporate handwriting and art and science and all those other things. And I make sure that everyone is still alive at the end of the day!
Happy kiddos, before bringing their fifth child home by way of adoption
Postscript: I started writing this at the end of October. It's now the end of November and just this morning I texted a more experienced homeschool mom friend and said “I need you to organize my brain!”
My husband left yesterday for a three-week round of travelling, which will bring his total weeks away this year to 31. To be completely truthful, I'm starting to lose it a little. A moment ago I was holding my 2-year-old, trying to help him get control, and I was inwardly crying out to God – HELP! Which brings me back to the basics of life – we cannot live life separate from God. He desires to give us abundant life, joyful life, if we will only rely on Him.