diary of a solo mommy

Ryan is going to our family cabin in Colorado. 

Where there is no phone service.

For 9 days.

This is the diary of all the silly stuff that happens over that 9 days. 

I will update and publish this blog post every day.

so just for comparison
this is me


Hours of Screen: 2
Wounds that Leave a Mark: 2
Drinks for Katie: 1 (but it's a double)
Ryan Returns in: 9 Days.

Ryan left work early and came home at 3 to grab his gear and say good-bye.

Chicken (5) begged him not to leave. He stood in the doorway with his legs and arms spread and called to his brother to quick, bring some heavy crates. 

Buster (3) called back, "No!"

Ryan teared up. It was sweet, really. The way he felt that pang of deep love just before he bolted out the door and abandoned us, to wallow in the ecstasy of 9 whole days in which he could cut his pancakes any fucking way he wanted. (*And it's not gonna be "train tracks," ok Buster? Jesus.)

Dinner was spaghetti & meatballs (jar of premade sauce, frozen meatballs in the microwave, I must conserve my strength, people.)

At bedtime, Buster broke down sobbing. I assumed it was about Daddy. I went to the boy. I held him tenderly and stroked his soft hair as he blubber-talked:

Blubblubblub saaaad
blub blub da-blub Santaaaaaa

(wait whatthefuck?!?)

After about 20 minutes of confusion, I discovered that they had watched Little Einstein's Christmas Wish episode, in which Annie's Christmas Wish Box falls off of Santa's sleigh and (spoiler alert) lands on Mount Everest. Buster was now convinced that:

a) Tonight is Christmas Eve.
b) Santa is going to bring him presents but they're going to fall off his sleigh and a yeti is going to take them.
c) Santa is going to return to the workshop and discover that an American Tiger Beast has stolen the rest of the presents.

Here's the hard thing about proving that toys are not going to fall off Santa's sleigh: I had to debunk the scientific plausibility of Little Einsteins' Santa Claus narrative, while simultaneously providing airtight evidence as to the verifiable existence of Santa Claus AND inventing some time-tested sleigh-packing strategies that neither a yeti, nor an American Tiger Beast could fuck with. 

I was so fucking convincing you guys. I was like "MAGIC RATCHET STRAPS." But he needed third-party verification.

Cue these texts:

(PS, Gloria could do one hell of a Santa, even blitzed off his donder.)

So to recap, here's Buster's evening:
1. Daddy's gone for 9 days.
2. It's not Christmas and it won't be Christmas for another 2 months.
3. Little Einsteins is a fraud


Hours of Screen: 0.5
Wounds That Leave a Mark: 0!
Drinks for Katie: 1
Ryan Returns in: 8 Days

12:31 am: 

First things first, if I could go back in time and make the name of this post "Diary of the wife who didn't go on vacation, I would. I decided not to change the title, because I don't want to erase my mistake. 

I chose "solo mommy," rather than "single parent," because I am not a single parent. I have a coparent who is home for dinner more often than not.

I did not want to disrespect single parents by "dabbling" or flippantly adopting their identity for a week and two days.

It was pointed out to me that "solo parent" is as concrete a term as "single parent" is, and I apologize for not doing my homework, and for casually disrespecting people's lives. Thanks to the people who spoke up; I appreciate your voices. 

7:43 pm:

I have a coparent, and having a partner enables me to maintain the illusion that I can have and be all things to all people.

One of the things that's fun about a period of sole responsibility is the way it gives me permission to accept that I cannot have or be all things to all people. It helps me let go of the guilt. It helps me distill my priorities. It strips me of the delusion that I'm superwoman.

When my husband comes home between 6 and 7 pm, I often feel like the pitcher who's thrown 6 innings. He jogs out onto the field, his brow dry, his arm fresh, and he closes out the game. What an incredible gift. 

And somehow, my brain has changed this narrative from what it could be: 

You worked hard from 6:30 am until 6:30 pm, and you are blessed to have a relief pitcher. Take half an hour, eat a hot meal, and watch Blackish. It's okay to need.

to what it is:

You worked hard from 6:30 am until 6:30 pm, and now you're freed up from child care to do all of the other things in the world. First up: bees. Bees are a thing. Fix bees. HURRY!

So when Ryan is gone for a period of time like this, it's
not that my behavior changes necessarily, it's just that I release myself from the expectation of perfection. And I feel totally fucking fine making choices for one reason and one reason only: It's easier for me.

Dinners, for example. Tonight was a box of chicken noodle soup, a baguette from the store smeared with butter, and pomegranate seeds.

Did I chop a carrot to make soup in my own fucking pot? Not today, motherfuckers.
And hell no I didn't bake bread.
Are you high, asking me if I seeded a motherfucking pomegranate?

My husband is gone for 9 days and my definition of the word "cooking" has been EDITED.

I'm proud of myself for having the same number of living critters in my house tonight that I started with this morning. 

I'm triple-fisting with black coffee, sparkling water, and red wine, about to do the few dishes I made today by using compostable plates and microwavable meals, and then I'm going to fold laundry, watch something silly on TV (I'm thinking Girls' Trip), and simply put, enjoy the permission I give myself to enjoy these precious few hours of rest.

Bees, stand by. I'll see you in 8 days.


Hours of Screen: 2.5
Wounds That Leave a Mark: 0! Two days in a row?! I'm not going anywhere without gauze and a sat phone until the dam breaks.
Drinks for Katie: 1
Ryan Returns in: 7 Days

This morning the clock fell back an hour. I let the kids climb into bed and watch 2 hours of Blaze and the Monster Machines while I clung to the hope of a deep restorative sleep. 

Then I grew more and more resentful of my children for proving that hope to be folly, with their wiggling bottoms and elbows hitting my nipple right on the bulls-eye. WHO WATCHES TV LIKE THIS.

It snowed fat wet flakes and I popped the can of ready-made biscuits and mixed hot cocoa for the boys, and brewed coffee for myself and clung to the hope of someday having kitchen counters that are empty and clean. 

Then I grew more and more resentful of my children for proving that hope to be folly, with their art projects and Costco baby wipe packs and their needs that I have to meet instead of cleaning my own counters that are always full of laundry hampers overspilling tiny child shirts that we all know will never, ever get folded. WHO LIVES LIKE THIS. Not anyone in a Nancy Myers movie, I can tell you that right now.

maybe the rakish bachelor
lives like this
in a nancy myers movie
but his clutter is usually
hand-stitched leather clutter
and it's a visual metaphor
for the mess of his life

she's so

I took the boys to my in-laws', and broke free for a short walk through the neighborhood in the snow. It wasn't really snow; the flakes didn't alight soundlessly on my eyelashes. They tapped on the hood of my coat. It was quiet. I talked to myself. I listened to the tidal sound of my own breath, and I felt exactly right. There was nothing that I could have been doing better, right then. 

I came home with cold cheeks and Buster (3) lay his large hands, as warm as biscuits, on my face, and exclaimed, "Mommy! Mommy, I'm so glad you're back!"

No more talky. Time for dinny.



do you even know
how hard chicken worked
compose this scene
on his bedroom wall
this morning
at 5:45 am
you bastards
making me the asshole in the house
who has to take that shit down


Hours of Screen: I don't know. The babysitter came for 2 hours today so I could go to the gym and run a short errand. They told me she let them play iPad. How long, I asked. Oh, not long, they said, can she come tomorrow? Sooooo... probably like 1 hour 56 minutes. There was probably a snack in there.

Wounds That Leave a Mark: 1. Buster fell out of a cart at Michaels and hit his head on a Santa statue's boot. #Real

Drinks for Katie: 1

Ryan Returns in6 Days

We are busting out the Family Values again. 

I'll tell you guys, this shit works.

Sometimes Buster will push Chicken and Chicken will kick Buster and Buster will throw a spear at Chicken and Chicken will dump a capful of bleach in Buster's oatmeal and Buster will rip the throat out of Chicken's stuffed tiger with his teeth... you know how kids are... and at the end of this rolling snowball of fraternal destruction, Chicken will say, "HE NEEDS A TIME OUT!" 

I try to say, "He needs to remember what a good friend he is," even if what I'm thinking is, "No, y'all need a new mama because I'm obviously a fucking circus train wreck. Like, I can see the decapitated monkeys in their fancy embroidered vests."

Stay with me. 

That's where the family values come in. Read that link up there - it tells you all about the origins of family values, and why they are such a kickass tool when it comes to helping my kids (cough cough and me) remember that they AREN'T ACTUALLY ASS HOLES.

Our values are kindness, respect, helping, and learning. I'm campaigning hard to add "bread," "smashing the patriarchy," and "fucking the man," but I don't have the votes yet in the house. #house #getit #wordsmith

We have 4 pieces of paper with the values written on top.

When one of my kids gives me a hug, I write it down on the paper labeled kindness. 

When one of my kids puts his plate in the sink, I write it down on the paper labeled helping. 

When I walk into the bedroom to find my son has emptied a bottle of lotion on the bedsheets, I write that down on the paper labeled learning -- but if we had a "bread" paper, I would totally write it down there instead.


Hours of Screen1. I had to clean the house.
Wounds That Leave a Mark0

Drinks for Katie1
Ryan Returns in: 5 Days

It feels like a reckoning is upon us; we are about at the halfway mark and my imagined greeting to Ryan when he returns has changed somewhat since he left. 

Saturday: "Babe! I'm so glad you're home! Mmmmm... I missed you." (big hug, kiss, smell his skin)

Monday: "Hey! Did you have fun? Good. We REALLY missed you." (hug, quick peck, pat on the shoulder that clearly says "back to it, soldier.")

Wednsday: "Oh. It's you. Go unlock your children from their crates." (grabs keys from counter)

Both my children have serious drinking problems. They cannot hold a cup in their hands without pouring it all over themselves, each other, the ground, and more often than not, something electronic. I ask myself: can they hold a book without dropping it to the ground? Can they hold a cookie? Of course they can. But a cup of chocolate milk is a ticking time bomb that always - ALWAYS - goes off. 

After cleaning up 2 FULL cups of milk, a smoothie, and my own mug of coffee, I have vowed that until Ryan gets home my children will drink water and only water. #FoolMeOnce #ShameOnYou #FoolMeTwice #CouldBeAGrowthSpurt #FoolMeThreeTimes #OKAreYouFuckersDoingThisOnPurposeStayCalmKatie #FoolMeFourTimes #IfYouWantMilkYouHaveToShowMeYouCanHandleIt #Literally

I'm also quite simply off my game. I've been rewinding a lot; yesterday when we got in the car, Chicken declared, "Buster you are a bad person and you're going to be punished." His crime? Holding Chicken's water bottle. Now, normally, I would say something like, "Wow, you sound mad." Yesterday, however, the tank was empty:

"Oh for God's sake, Chicken. STOP IT."

*That alone was a victory. "God" was not the word in my head. The word in my head started with an F. And ended with an uck.

"Will you relax? He's holding your water bottle.
He's not setting it on fire.
He's not throwing it out the window.
He's not even drinking it.
He's holding it.

I have a list of things I always say that never work. "Stop whining" is like #2 on that list.

What's #1, you ask? I'm actually writing this at 6 on Wednesday morning, having just spent an hour saying it: "Lie down and go back to sleep."

Good one, Katie.

So since it's Wednesday morning, and I've just spent this lovely few minutes reflecting on yesterday, I'm going to make some goals for myself today. My hope is to combine all of my positive coping methods with all of my pathetic coping methods.

1. Eat Chipotle.

2. Do a yoga podcast.

3. Listen to the parenting book that Ryan and I use as our foundation - How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, by Joanna Faber. Make a list of tools and tactics and post it in the kitchen for when I'm tapped out.

4. Eat cake. Drink coffee. Then more coffee. Then another pot of coffee. Fun fact: You don't actually HAVE to sleep if you don't mind having mild free-floating anxiety all the time, and trembly fingers!

5. Get in bed by 10.

6. With more cake. 







  1. Warning: if you work too hard on your Santa convincing, they'll only be angry when they figure out you duped them later. I think it's better to be a little offhand about it; let *them* be the ones who believe. You can be a little bit skeptical or careful. I'd say something more like "Well, I've known a lot of kids and they all got presents from Santa. I've never heard of anything like that happening. I don't think that can really happen." Which is all totally true.

    Also, though, this risks coming across as a teeny bit privileged? because there are lots of women and a few men who take care of their kids 24/7 and also have to earn all the money and don't get any help?

    1. Hi Kidipede! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Santa. I'm hoping this was a one-night transference of anxiety of Daddy leaving...?

      And you're right - I am privileged to have a coparent. That coparent is gone for 9 days, and I'm sure that there will be some silly shenanigans that go down during that time. This is a narrative structure for a blog post so that I can share some silly shenanigans. I am not writing this as a contest to see who is working the hardest. There's a reason I chose the title "solo mommy" and not "single parent"; I would never claim to be a "single parent," because I am not a literal superwoman. I know that there's a huge difference between going it alone for a string of days, and going it alone with no end in sight. In fact, I already have some words jotted down on the subject to add to this post later on this week! I hope you'll check in to read them, but I'll also understand if this post isn't your particular brand of bourbon.