Moms Make it Work: Jenny | Stay at Home, Solo Parenting Mom

Today on the Moms Make it Work series, we have Jenny sharing her story about being a SAHM and a solo parent Monday through Thursday or Friday, with a husband who travels 100% for his job. I really respect moms who are without their parenting teammate for days on end because, wow. Talk about craving 'me time' and a break! I really loved Jenny's post, especially her tips at the end. Enjoy!


Hello! I'm Jenny and I blog over at The Chronicles of We. I'm a SAHM from Michigan to a two-year old toddler (I'm not ready to call her a pre-schooler just yet) named Callie. You can also find me on Instagram sharing too many photos of Callie! I feel so honored to share our story here on Julia's blog. I love this series and appreciate hearing other mom's stories! This mom thing is hard no matter how you do it and these stories always give me new ideas and encouragement. When Julia put out her casting call for round two I knew I needed to share our story but I was a little hesitant. My husband's job is 100% travel. He works as consultant in the IT industry. He is gone every week Monday - Thursday/Friday about 48 weeks a year. Even the weeks when he is home on a Friday he is usually still working. I  really wanted to share my story on parenting solo (not single) but right now we are living with my parents while we build a new house. My husband still travels but I am not alone as both my parents are retired. I will parent solo again once we move into our new house, most likely in October. I am writing this from my perspective of parenting solo because that is what I have mostly done and that is how I identify as a mom. 

-What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And where are you now?
I grew up in Michigan in the suburbs of Flint in the heart of General Motors (GM) country. Lots of hard-working, mid-west, working middle class values. My mom was a SAHM until I was in junior high. Once my sister and I were both in school my mom went back to school to get her teacher's certification. When she started working full-time she was a teacher so her hours were similar to ours, holidays and summers off. My dad worked first shift at GM. Between the two of them someone was always home, or available for stuff we needed. I hardly noticed when my mom went back to work, except we seemed to have more money for things.

I went to college thinking I was going to be an engineer. It only took one year for me realize I'm sooo not meant to be an engineer. Sure I was good at math and really liked math but I hated science! You know what? Engineering is mostly science. I ended up with a degree in Organization Communication (basically the non-business school management degree) and a minor in Public Relations. While in college I was an RA and super involved student leader. I never really used my Communication degree because I ended up working in Higher Education, specifically in student affairs. I really loved all the "activities" I did outside of class and started talking to our advisors and other staff about their jobs and how they got there. It seemed like a great fit for what I wanted to do! The jobs helped students, planned programs/events, organization, management, every day was different and you did so many different things! I started with a job as a Hall Director at a small private liberal arts school and got my master's degree in Student Affairs Administration while working. After that I mostly worked in residence life/housing supervising residence halls, student programs, leadership, student conduct and then moved up to management. I worked as an academic advisor in a teacher education program my last two years before Callie.

I met my husband in college in student government (I know I know nerd alert!). He was a year ahead of me, we were really good friends for awhile then started dating my sophomore year and have been together ever since. We got married a year after college (we were such babies but didn't realize it then!) and will have been married for 12 years this summer. Jake has been traveling for work since 2006, which means 8 of the 12 years we've been married. It's just our normal.

I am currently a SAHM and have been since our daughter was born. I didn't go back to work for a number of reasons including the cost of daycare compared to my salary working in education, the lack of flexible hours at my job, a want to stay home but mostly because of Jake's job. 

-What are the best parts of your situations? What are the challenges?
Some of the challenges for our situation are obvious. I am parenting solo every single week. When something goes wrong there's no back up. If Callie's having a bad day there's no daddy walking in the door at night to give us a break or change things up. That all falls to me to find a way to make it through. Every day I am "on" from the moment she wakes up until the moment she goes to bed. If I'm honest I feel on even when she's napping; only night time sleep feels like a true break or end to my day. We didn't have any family near by until very recently when we moved from Colorado to Michigan. Which meant I was really on my own. Luckily we had a really amazing babysitter who lived close and a really awesome block of neighbors who became good friends. I knew if I was really in a bind I had people I could call.

What's great is that I think Jake's travel has made us stronger as a couple. We really appreciate the time we have together and make the most of it. We get to miss each other. I also kind of love that we get to be independent people.

Another challenge is All of the house management is on me. It was something we agreed on when Jake took the traveling job years ago as it just made sense for us. I am the one who manages the budget, pays the bills, meal plans and grocery shops, laundry, taking care of the fur babies, etc. The list goes on of those "grown up" things. I'm sure this house management is the case for many stay at home moms. When things are hectic Jake will of course help where/when he can on the weekends. However I try to get all these things taken care of during the week so when he is home we can enjoy our family time. That's something that is really important to me.

The flip side is all of Jake's travel does let US travel for free a LOT. It's made travel with Callie easier having access to the lounge, the fast lines, first class, getting her a seat, etc.

The biggest challenge is finding down time for both of us. When Jake gets home all I want to do is had the kiddo over and take a break. All he wants to do is relax and be home because he's exhausted from 12-14 hour work days and flying across the country. We also want couple time and family time. The weekends are never long enough. It's a constant juggle to find ways to meet both our needs but when we do everything seems to go smoother so we keep working at it.

Being home has allowed me to see and capture all of Callie's firsts. Jake isn't home for all of them but I am. So if he misses something I was able to capture it in a photo or video or exited text message! I feel like my being home allows me to keep him more connected. I do a weekly photo stream share with him of photos and videos I take. Now that Callie is older we've also started to face time. To help her I give Jake a list of things that happened that day so he can ask her questions not just "how was your day" but "did you have fun at story time?"

-Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?
Yes and no. We both had moms that stayed home when we were young so we always talked about my staying home when/if we had kids. We had a pretty long phase where we were both loving life, our careers and our freedom and were thinking of not having kids at all.  We were both on the fast tracks in our respective careers. That typical mid-twenties take on the world mentality. We got our master's degrees, moved to three different cities (more than three moves) and went endless conferences and happy hours. After we bought our first home, a condo in Chicago, I started to feel burnt out in my career. I still really loved my work with students but the hours and the commitments to "get ahead" were taking a toll on me personally. The sacrifices no longer felt worth the gains. Shortly after that we moved to the suburbs of Denver, CO and that's when I took the academic advisor job. In talking with colleagues and mentors it seemed to be a way to help students but have a more normal 8-5 type of job. I defiantly had better work-life balance. So while I wasn't burnt out I wasn't as professionally satisfied either. As we got serious about wanting to start a family we saw no immediate end to Jake's travel. I knew pretty quickly upon getting pregnant that it wouldn't work for me to have a career, be a mom and do all I do to take care of things while he's gone. Would I have made a different decision if Jake had a more normal job? I don't know. I'm not sure I'm fully SAHM material but I'm not sure I'm working mom material either. There are very few part-time options in my previous career so given the choice between no working and working full-time not, not working was an "easy" choice for me.

-Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?
This is the most ideal for our family. I know that being home is what's best for my daughter. Every kid is different and all thrive in different situations. As a baby Callie had awful reflux, was super fussy and would not sleep anywhere but her crib after she was about six weeks old. I know daycare, which was all we could've afforded, was not right for her. That helped with my decision to stay home. I also know that my being home means when Jake is home on the weekend we have more time as a family. It's really important to me to take care of the house management stuff during the week as much as possible. I'm not perfect and life happens sometimes so things fall into the weekend but I try not to have that happen so we can just enjoy our time together.

-Do you see yourself making a career change (whatever that means) in the next 5-10 years? Or is this current set up staying put for the long haul?
Honestly I have no idea! I don't see myself going back to my old career. I really loved my work in residence life and housing. However the late nights and weekends and other sacrifices for that career are not worth it to me as a mom. I had very little job satisfaction as an academic advisor even though the hours were better. I am happier home than I was the last few years working. Part of me thinks once Callie is in school I'd want to work part-time during the day. Then I think about all the school parties, field trips, after school activities, home work, sports practices and I think she'd need me even more then. Plus I think the only way I could get anything done would be while she was in school as our afternoons/evenings would be so packed! At least it seems that way from watching my SAHM friends with school age kids. There are very few part-time options in my previous career so if I did go back to work part-time I am not sure what'd I'd do. I don't really see going back to school as something I'd enjoy either. If Jake were to stop traveling I think I'd give this some serious thought but we both feel that while he's traveling it's best for all of us for me to continue to be a SAHM. I'm good with that decision so for now I'm in this SAHM gig for the long haul. We are fortunate that Jake's travel position comes with an income that allows us to do this comfortably.

-Tips on how you make your situation work for you:
A really good reliable babysitter
I mentioned before that one of the challenges to Jake's travel was balancing time for us to both have breaks. The best way we've found is having a regular babysitter. I get a sitter for just ME time at least twice a month for 2-3 hours. I use this time to run errands I can't (or really prefer to not do with Callie), blog, relax, go meet a friend, whatever I need to just be me. It allows me to recharge so when Jake gets home he can have some down time too (without my getting resentful). We also make a point of having a date night at least once a month. We need that together time to reconnect as a couple.

Be the first person up
I get up before Callie (and often before Jake on the weekends). I have since she was less than two months old. I've always been a morning person. I've found as a mom I am a better mom if I have at least 30 minutes to get that first cup of coffee and wake up alone. My daughter is a really great sleeper BUT she is like her mom - a morning person. So for me to get up before her means I get up everyday at 5a.m. Callie is usually up by 6a.m. and sleeping in for her is 7a.m. When I was working I got up at 5a.m. so it's not as hard as it sounds. My internal body clock hardly even lets me sleep past 6a.m.!

I'm not joking. Everyone is different on this but I need sleep to function. I've always been a 7-9 hours of sleep person. I'm no different as a mom. So I go to bed really early. That 5a.m. wake up also dictates that early bedtime! This is one of the ways that helps me. Callie goes to bed early and man when she's down I'm spent so it's not hard to get myself to bed. When Callie was a baby and still getting up at night I would be in bed within 30 minutes of putting her down. Thankfully we had black-out blinds in our bedroom since this was mostly over the summer!

A gym with good daycare (and showers too!)
I've found for me exercise really helps me be a better mom and my ability to cope with the stresses of motherhood. I do have a BOB jogging stroller and will jog with Callie (and to get the dog exercise). However getting to workout alone is like a little piece of nirvana! Callie gets to play with other kids, I get a break and often I get a shower alone! The gym was a lot easier when Callie went to one nap at 13 months especially having the time for a shower too. It was always a good break. Getting into the routine wasn't easy and Callie still gets upset when I leave but she always settles quickly (or they'd be paging me every time) so the time is well spent for both of us.

Freezer meals
I do not enjoy cooking. Baking I love but that's totally different. Even though I don't like to cook I prefer homemade food to store bought freezer meals (although they have their time and place!). To help manage meal planning/prep with Jake gone I like to make a lot of things ahead and freeze meals. This way if things get crazy, we don't follow a meal plan or I just don't feel like it, I know there is something healthy and easy ready to go. My favorites are meatballs, lasagna, tacos (just the meat), chicken and rice. All these meals freeze really well, are easy to heat up and also fairly easy to prep to be frozen. I also like to keep some seasoned fish and chicken from Costco/Sams that can be baked from frozen. Steamed frozen vegetables are a life savor (and really tasty and full of nutrients)!

I know it may seem counter productive with littles to plan but planning helps me be flexible. I can look ahead at what needs to get done. I know what can be moved around for whatever reason. With Jake gone we do a lot of planning via e-mail for our weekends. We talk about neighborhood events, family activities, date nights, gym time, boring stuff like chores that have to happen on the weekend and if we want some be lazy time! It really helps us to be on the same page. I also try to plan ahead each night for the next day, especially during the week. Going to the gym? I pack the gym bag, snacks, workout clothes, etc at night. Have a play date? I pack the diaper bag with all we need for morning. It just helps me to make the next day smoother. Even simple things like programming the coffee pot and getting Callie's morning cup of milk ready make the next day go smoother.

-How do you handle mommy guilt?
So I'll just be honest. I don't have a lot of mommy guilt. Maybe I'm selfish or maybe I just know myself.  I joke with one of my girlfriends about being cold hearted (I'm not really) because I don't get sappy about leaving Callie. I NEED breaks from my kiddo to be a good Mom. I need them regularly or I start to loose it. I get cranky and resentful and loose my patience over things that don't phase me normally. Do I miss her when I'm gone? Of course but I always feel so refreshed from having that little bit of time away that I'm excited to see her! Does it stress me out when she cries when I leave? Of course but I still do it. Was it harder to leave her as a baby? Of course. But I knew it was better for both of us. I started using a babysitter when Callie was six months old and a gym with daycare when she was nine months old. I'm currently looking for a Mom's Day out Program or a two-year old pre-school to get some more regular breaks. I also think Callie will benefit from the structure and interaction.

-Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying at home is the right choice?
I don't know if there is fully a "right" choice. Honestly, I sometimes think that with all the choices we have today as moms, the choices make things harder. I'm sure the feminist police are coming to knock on my door for saying that (and being a feminist I still cringe saying it). It can be overwhelming with all the choices we have to make on a daily basis. Worrying about making the "right" choice for your family, hearing others opinions on the subject and trying to avoid mommy wars adds all sorts of extra pressure on moms that doesn't help anyone.

 The best advice I can give is trust your gut. Now sometimes it takes a while to develop and trust your mom gut. It took me awhile to figure that out. Talk to your spouse, reflect on how you see yourself parenting, think about your support systems. We all need different things to be successful as moms figure out what those things are for you and then figure out how you can get them (or as many as you can since we don't have unlimited resources). Experiment. As time goes on you'll know which choice is the right fit for you. Once you do trust that and be confident in that choice.

-How do meals work in your family? Meal planning? How often do you grocery shop? Who is in charge of this task in your family??
I definitely meal plan! I mentioned I'm a planner by nature right?! I don't always follow our meal plan exactly but use it a guide. It helps me plan for what to shop for and helps me make healthier choices. I do my meal planning in two parts. What Callie and I are eating during the week and what we'll eat when Jake's home. On Wednesdays I email him a meal plan for the weekend (it also includes our weekend activity planning), ask for feedback and anything else he wants from store (snacks, different meal ideas, etc). I try to do our big grocery shopping trip on the day he's coming home (Thursday or Friday) and then a small one that's usually for small things like milk and fresh produce on Monday or Tuesday. I also plan to go to Costco/Sam's about every six weeks. I usually try to do this trip without Callie. So it's planned for a Friday morning Jake is home or I get a sitter. I won't go to those stores on the weekends. In general I try to avoid shopping for anything on the weekends but the warehouse stores I will not make exception on. There's just too much craziness for me!

-How do you keep your house clean? Power cleaning after bedtime? Staying out of the house as much as possible? Cleaning while kids are awake? Purging often? Cleaning schedule?
I mostly clean when Callie is awake. Sometimes she wants to help - so I find a part of it she can do - or something she can do to feel like she's helping even if she's not. Other times I can tell she's not into it and so I'll get her distracted with TV and a favorite snack such as milk and goldfish crackers. I also like to find ways to multi task. If she's in a good mood during her bath I'll use that time to clean part or all of the bathroom or fold laundry. I usually save moping for during nap time. I'm just worried she'll fall on wet floors.

I do have a cleaning schedule but I don't follow it that closely kind of like my meal planning. It's more of a guide. It helps me remember things that I don't clean every week. It also helps me to look at my week's tasks and make plans. I keep my cleaning schedule in my to-do list app Wunderlist. I pretty much always vacuum the day Jake comes home and the day he leaves. With three fur babies the floors always need attention! The rest just gets fit in as the week rolls along. Jake is really good at helping some some of those seasonal cleanings that involve moving furniture and he also mostly takes care of mowing the lawn and other outside tasks. Although I've been known to do the mowing just because I want do and I love to do the edging!

The first year of Callie's Life we had a cleaner. We first got a cleaner when Jake started to travel when we were both working (it was a compromise/balance thing). The cleaners came every other week and cleaned the whole house. They even changed the sheets and cleaned out the microwave! When Callie turned one we took a break from the cleaners to use that money so we could both workout with a trainer at our gym. We no longer do that and have been thinking of going back to having a cleaner. It really gave me more time to spend with Callie intentionally and as she gets older it's something we both see she needs more of.


I just wanted to thank Julia for hosting this amazing series and allowing me to be a part of it! If you made it to the bottom of my wordy post thank you for sticking with me! As I said in the beginning I think being a mom is hard no matter how you do it. We need to be kind to ourselves and other mothers and remember we're all doing the best we can. Being a mom is hard and there is no "right" way just the way that is best for your family!

{Thank you, Jenny! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}


  1. Such thoughtful and smart tips for making it work. Warms my type-A plan-loving heart :) But honestly I have found much of the same through my own trial & error. My husband is not gone anywhere near to the level that your husband is gone, but he does have regular periods of crazy working hours (plus trips) where I need to get it all taken care of on my own (so surprise basement water, lawn moving, etc.). Sometimes I think it's the house management stuff that can feel the most daunting. Good post!

  2. Love these tips, especially about planning and freezer meals! Very interesting to read about how you handle life with a traveling husband.

  3. This is amazing, Jenny! You are a rockstar! Such a well-written and really thoughtful (and helpful) post! You and Jake seem like such a great team. Callie is so lucky to have you home with her during the week. You're a supermom! Loved the advice on feeding him questions to ask her over FaceTime and sending weekly photo stream. Awesome.

  4. Oh my goodness, SO MANY cute pictures!
    Funny...I was a communications major, with a concentration in PR as well and never used it either, ha! I later went back to school for a career change, but during my undergrad, I did work study in the advising office and always said I would have loved to be a student advisor….seems like such a great job! A challenging job, but fun too.
    I totally agree with all of your advice. And I don't think you are cold hearted at ALL for not having mommy guilt. I feel like "mommy guilt" is another one of those things that has crept into our lives (and is very much exacerbated by social media) to make moms today feel badly for not "doing it all." News flash - moms never did it ALL. They've just been doing the best they can since the beginning of time. We are just meant to feel badly about any shortcomings now for some reason. I mean, sure I feel guilty if I lose my cool with the kids, but I'd feel badly for losing my cool with anybody! I think all moms need to give themselves a HUGE break these days. The proverbial bar seems to be set higher and higher each day as far as parenting is concerned these days!
    It was so great to see a "familiar" face on this series! Thanks for sharing, Jenny!

  5. You are awesome Jenny! I loved reading how you make your situation work for you and your family. You are a wonderful mom!

  6. That would be hard to be apart all week, mostly because of the solo parenting from sun-up to sun-down! I liked how you said you get to miss each other and be independent people. That's a definite pro!

    And good for you for not having guilt about leaving your kid sometimes - no one is meant to be with any other one person 24/7 - even moms with their kids, I really believe that! And it stood out to me, too, that you said you clean while Callie is awake. Amen. I read something once that said if you do all the grown-up work while your kids are asleep, they won't see what it takes to actually be a grown-up and keep a household running. They'll think the work just magically gets done by someone else!

    Since I work and only get a few hours a day with my kids, I struggle with this sometimes, since I just want to spend quality time with them every second I have, but I'm slowly learning to back off and do my own thing (like cleaning!) when I need to so that they can see my world doesn't revolve around them, even when I'm home with them. That might sound harsh, but I think it's a good thing.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing!

    1. Erin thanks so much for your kind and supportive words! I appreciate your perspective on helping our kids realize our world doesn't fully revolve around them - they are important but so are other things too. :) Thanks for reading!

  7. I learned so many things! Jenny, you are a rockstar!

  8. Great post, Jenny! I can definitely relate. While my husband doesn't travel nearly as often, he does work 12-15 hour days and I find myself flying solo during the week. Loved your tips for success, including finding a weekly babysitter (which saves my sanity!) and sleep (I usually go to bed the minute my kids are in bed, too). I'm so impressed with your meal planning ways, even when your husband isn't there to eat with you. Finally, I find the reconnection time on the weekends to be so wonderful as well. Happy to see you've found a way to make this schedule work for your family - it can be tough, but it sounds like you're thriving at it!

  9. Really appreciated this post Jenny. I'm another solo mom due to traveling husband, and I think I need to work harder to fully commit to getting up before everyone else. It's something I've tried to do on and off, but I always seem to end up convincing myself that I like sleep more than I like some me-time :). I think I would be a nicer mom in the mornings though if I felt more grounded and caught up with the days events.

    One thing I was curious about was how you stick to your bedtime schedule on the evening when your husband comes home, and the rest of the evenings through the weekend. With two kids the period after when they go to sleep is our only alone time, and it's hard not to push bedtime back farther and farther in order to get some adult time together. It also doesn't help that my husband prefers to work late into the night and sleep in. When do the two of you get that adult alone time together?


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