In a perfect world, both parents are actively and equally participating in their child’s or children’s lives. They wake up and get to visit with their children, eat breakfast, go to work and then pick them up from school for a night filled with dinner and movie watching. That is a perfect world and almost what I would call “normal.” In my family, we like normal, but we seldom see it.

Where my job is rather predictable in the way of office hours, my wife’s job as a performer sometimes means random hours for her and tough situations for our family. Now, before I go painting us on an uneven playing field I want to be clear. There are many after-hours events with my job that I must attend as well. This post is about helping you during those times when your partner has to work or be elsewhere and you are left alone with your kids. So without further ado, here are five tips for flying solo as a parent with your kids:

I also want to give a shout-out to all the single moms and dads out there. You are amazing and I am not sure how you do it!

1. Make A Plan. If you know you are going to have the kids during the evening, make sure you know what you are going to make for dinner. If you are brave enough to go out to eat, then make a plan for that too. Tell your kids in the morning where you are going for dinner that night (but only if you can follow through on actually going to the restaurant you identify). If making your meal at home, try to make sure you have all the ingredients so you don’t have to stop by the store on the way home with your kids. Heck, if you don’t feel like “cooking” something, pick up a plant-strong pizza or some organic  soup and heat it up for them. I can’t tell you how many times it has been “waffle night” because I just didn’t feel like cooking.

2. Virtual Goodnight. With technology these days, it is so easy to FaceTime or even just record a video on your phone and send it to your partner that is putting the kid(s) to bed. Simply record yourself talking to the kids just like you would in their bedroom. Give them a little kiss at the end and kiss the screen…the kid will kiss the screen too, I promise. It really is nice to see Mommy and Daddy before bedtime, even if it is a video. You can mention that you have a video from your partner for the child to watch and it will be a great incentive for them to accomplish their bath, tooth brushing, floss, etc. before bed.

3. Reset the Kitchen. If you know you are flying solo, do it with a clean kitchen. The kitchen is the heart of the house and if the kitchen is all messy and has food leftover and dirty plates from last night’s meal, you are one step behind before you even get started. Cleaning the kitchen and making sure it is nice and tidy will help your mental state whether you know it or not.

4. Use A Lifeline. Remember that show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” I especially loved the original with Regis! When you were in trouble and didn’t know the answer to a question, you could call on one of your lifelines. A lifeline is usually a family member or close friend that you think can help you. Think of it like that. If you know you are going to be flying solo, call up  your friend who also has young children. I texted a buddy of mine one day to whine about how I was alone all day with the kids and was not sure what to do and he said he was in the exact same situation. We met up at IKEA and the kids had a blast. They really do keep each other company and socialize. It is much easier sometimes to get them together to play.

5. Free Babysitting. Yes, I really typed that and yes it is for real. Did you know that there are some businesses that actually offer to watch your kids for a set amount of time while you do what you need to do? I mentioned IKEA above. Did you know that if you are lucky enough to have an IKEA in your area that you can drop your kids at the play place and have an hour of glory to shop alone while they have a blast in the kid-friendly, super safe play area? Furthermore, if you have an IKEA Family Card, you can get an extra half hour. Since the IKEA Family Card is free, that is a must have! If you have a gym membership, that would be another place to check. I work out at my local YMCA and they allow you to drop your kids off to play for up to two hours while you get workin’ on your fitness. Sometimes it is hard for me to drop them in a play place, especially when they have been in school/daycare all week, but there are some times when you just need a sanity check and that is ok.

I hope this post helps you when you have to fly solo without your partner. What do you do when you have to fly solo? If you have any tips or other thoughts, feel free to post them in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!