How to Stay Sane (and Even Have Fun) When Dad’s Away


surviving bedtime as a solo parent Evening is approaching and the natives are getting restless (i.e. hungry, whiny, increasingly prone to assaulting one another). And guess what? Dad is working late/out of town/fill-in-the-blank and you’re managing this circus solo up through bedtime.

Before you start silently cursing or take a large, frantic sip of wine, why not view this as an opportunity rather than a setback? Either way, it’s happening, so wouldn’t it be better to earn some “Mom Fun Points” in the process?

Here are some ideas for making the most of things when Dad’s away.

Dinner Anywhere But the Kitchen Table

Change up your standard dinner routine. My husband is rarely home for the kids’ dinner on weeknights, so being solo during that time is nothing unusual for me. But if he’s not coming home until late, or at all, we’ll often spread out a picnic blanket in the family room and have dinner there—often a “movie dinner,” which really means a 20-minute show. One friend of mine takes her kids to a drive-thru as a special treat, while another serves breakfast food for dinner (which just sounds like a great idea in general). Maybe you raid the costume box and have a superhero meal. Or you use old birthday party decorations to create a themed “restaurant.” Even something as simple as eating the meal with chopsticks instead of forks and spoons can keep your kids entertained enough that they forget to misbehave.

Fancy Bath

For my kids, Mom and Dad’s shower holds a particular allure, so when my husband is gone I’ll often pile them in there, usually accompanied by random (non-life-threatening) kitchen implements they can repurpose as bath toys. Or how about breaking out the bubble bath and letting them have an extra-long soak? If they’re not too filthy, consider skipping bath and extending playtime a bit. Alternatively, if you have a backyard and a sprinkler – and it’s not the dead of winter – you could win the Best Mom Ever award by letting them run wild.

Trade Books for Puzzles or Board Games

Unless you’re about to wrap up the final Harry Potter, take a night off from bedtime stories and break out a puzzle or game your kids haven’t touched in ages. It’s a screen-free way to keep them engaged without getting over-stimulated right before bed.

FaceTime with Loved Ones

Looking to fill some time and distract from Dad’s absence? Set up a video call with grandparents, cousins or a family friend your kids don’t get to see often.

Leave a Surprise for Dad (no, not a sink full of dirty dishes!)

Hide something personalized and homemade—a simple drawing, a note, etc.—under Dad’s pillow, in his slipper, or in the medicine cabinet for him to find when he gets home.

Two Words: Dance Party

If your partner is like mine and fails to appreciate the irresistible allure of “Despacito,” his absence is a prime opportunity to expose your children to your excellent taste in music and your killer dance moves. Bonus: It will also help your kids get out some energy and perhaps dull their instinct to fight off bedtime.

A Final Note: You may very well be the one who’s out dominating the corporate world and leaving Dad in charge of evening child wrangling (it’s 2018, after all). If so, feel free to pass along these ideas to him. Except the last one, because no living room dance party is worth having without you there.




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