Hold my hand, internet.  Mr. Chalk is going on a business trip.

It’s a short one — just three days — but those will be the first three days that I will be home alone with both kiddos overnight.  To the more experienced mamas out there, this probably sounds like no big deal, but to this brand-new mother-of-two…. well, let’s just say that I’ve been taking lots of deep breaths lately and trying to strategize how to manage a toddler bedtime that coincides with that lovely infant “witching hour,” as well as plan out our dinner menus in advance so as to minimize preparation time.

In the past when Mr. Chalk has been away, Owen and I have muddled our way through.  It generally has meant that we had lots of time to sit around and say “Dada?” while looking quizzically around the house.  It also has meant that bedtime became a little looser, pizza was consumed a little more often, and that, while our day-to-day lives continued relatively seamlessly, things were just a little bit different.

For better or worse, we are not always the best at routines in the Chalk household.  We certainly have some; Owen knows just what to expect when he goes upstairs to get ready for bed at night or when we get ready to leave for daycare in the morning, but overall?  Things….vary.  Mr. Chalk and I tell ourselves that this is good – it will force Owen to learn to be flexible.  To a large extent, it’s worked.  He’s pretty good at just going along with things, and doesn’t get worked up if nap or dinnertime get pushed back an hour or so, or if he goes to school one day but not the next.

But, despite my hopes that we can just ride things out, there are sometimes reminders that even the minor routines that we have are pretty important to the little Chalks.  Last time Mr. Chalk was away, things went relatively smoothly, but there were still a few moments that made it clear to me how sensitive Owen still is.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, daycare pick-up is generally the best moment of the day.  Nothing beats having 33 pounds of toddler run across the room and hurl himself at you while saying “Mama!” with a big smile on his face.  But after Mr. Chalk had been away for a day or so last time, this all fell apart.  As soon as Owen realized I had brought neither Binky nor Dada with me to pick him up, our smiley sweet boy quickly exited the scene and was replaced by a puddle of thrashing child on the floor who could be consoled by nothing.  Forty-five minutes, one car ride, one binky, one banana, and twenty minutes of Sesame Street later, and he had almost returned to normal.

Nighttime also went temporarily south, with Owen confused as to why Mama was suddenly taking over the bedtime routines that he usually did with his dad.  “Dada book?” was a common question, as he puzzled through why I was suddenly the one sitting with him reading Goodnight Moon, instead of his usual time with Dad.

And now… now, there are two of them!  Two little ones who look to us to provide structure to their days, two little people who need to know that — even if Dad is away for a little while (“Dada airplane!”) — things are still ok. Luckily Eloise is small enough that, as long as I can continue to give her milk, snuggles, and a cozy place to sleep, she’ll be fine.  And with the dust still settling on her arrival, Owen is just now adjusting to the new type of normal in our house.  I’m hoping that he’ll see this as just one more bit of change in his world, and that he’ll understand that things will get back to normal in the near future – even if normal right now just means having all the same people in the house each day.

Wish me luck!

Eloise, wishing that she had more competent parents

How do you keep household routines going when your partner is away?