Home alone – with a toddler

This week, my husband is on travel and I am home along with our daughter.  This presents both a challenge and the opportunity for great fun, as this week will be the longest time we’ve been apart since the babe was born.

On the fun side of things, we’ve eaten our – ok, my – favorite meal of pb&j’s and mangos for breakfast twice, enjoyed the daylight-savings-time-enhanced evenings with baby jogger runs and extra park play-time, and spent a lot of time building – and knocking over – pillow towers.  Usually, I am up and out running before our daughter is awake, returning to my husband and daughter eating breakfast. The past few days, I have been on wake-up duty and have been able to relish the gentle way our baby greets her day: each chubby leg stretching out, her crooning burbles, her eyes fluttering open for a moment and then closing as she relaxes back into dreamland. I rarely get to experience these quiet moments, and am enjoying them.

Hiiii! Back from our afternoon run.
Hiiii! Back from our afternoon run.

On the challenge side, I am also single-handedly trying to fit in a high-mileage training week, academic work, and sane mothering. The fundamental running challenges are the amount of time spent running and that it can’t really be done with my baby: with the exception of short afternoon recovery runs with the stroller, the 2-3 hours I usually spend between 4:30-7:30AM training are now being shortened and crammed in during day care hours.  The plus side of day-time running is that while I know the heat is coming, now it is warm and sunny enough to enjoy smashing workouts in shorts, and not having to worry about dimly-lit, pre-dawn footing.  The second challenge is keeping up with my schoolwork and graduate student commitments; every minute spent at school is extra-valuable to me in my tightened schedule.  My grand solution to this is only taking one – ok maybe two – coffee breaks each day. I jest, but seriously, when amped from a workout I just completed and under the gun to get work done before baby-pick-up time, who really needs caffeine?!

Daytime running = you see all the hazards
Daytime running = you see all the hazards

The sane mothering part has been surprisingly easy. The hardest part of this for me is getting enough sleep: our daughter is not the best sleeper, so she has spent a few nights in bed with me, which leads to her having great sleep and me barely sleeping at all (I might squish her! She might roll off the bed! I can no longer feel my arm…!).  Fully aware that getting enough sleep and getting “hangry” (hungry+angry) are my weak points, so I did spend the time to carefully plan out and prep our meals for the week so that we can pretty much arrive home and have a nice dinner in a few minutes, saving us both from short tempers simply due to empty bellies and busy days.

There is ample opportunity to get discouraged during a week of parenting solo: I miss my husband, I prefer to do my running early and be on with my day, I am tired and have a crick in my neck from (barely) sleeping in a funny position with a wiggly bedmate, etc., but the time alone also allows one-on-one with my daughter. I can see her using newly learned skills, hear her latest words, and have a monopoly on cuddling.  Going into this week, I knew that I would have to give myself a break and be ok with rearranging my workouts and hammering on my time at work in order to chill out with the I’m-not-accomplishing-everything-guilt, and take full advantage of the time  we are together.

No socks, no pants...no problem. Girls only, yo!
No socks, no pants, no problem. Girls only, yo!

Parenting and training go hand-in-hand for me: the more content I am with my life, the happier my brain is, the better athlete I am. During times of situational stress (e.g., single parent time!), I know I need to pay special attention to keeping my attitude positive, stay focused while at work, and not let training “bumps” (e.g., shortening weekly mileages, needing to swap workout days for additional recovery/cross training days due to fatigue) derail my happiness.  Similarly, I know from experience that during heavy training weeks, even when every muscle in my body is aching and exhausted, a positive outlook can go a long ways toward getting me out the door, through my warmup and into an awesome workout.  Thus, when I start to feel the urge to worry about the slight training schedule changes I make to accommodate my temporary single-parent schedule, I shift my perspective away from the minutia of daily workouts or lost sleep and focus on the exciting array of long-term goals I have ahead of me.

Oh Yeah – hats off to all single-parent families! Due to lifestyle choice, divorce, military engagement or whatever the situation is, I stand in awe of you.

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