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My husband was out of town this past weekend and I was home alone with my three sidekicks. I generally try to face these single parent days with a positive attitude, because the alternative is pretty bleak.

Its not that I cant handle a weekend on my own with the kids, its just that its so hard. Theres just no denying that three-on-one often means I lose.

There are two philosophies from parents of three or more kids.

There are the parents who say Once youve had two, the third is no big deal. The older ones help with the younger ones. You hardly notice the third kid.

Then there are the parents who are not in denial.

There is no way one more person does not require more work, more love, more energy.

This became alarmingly apparent to me when I realized I had 72 hours to fill with activities, 10 kid-friendly meals to serve and nine bedtimes to enforce on my own, with no backup.

I begin these spouse-free weekends with high hopes on Friday afternoon. I entice my kids with all of the fun things well do if their behavior holds up. But no matter how well-organized and optimistic I am, something always happens because I cant be three places at once.

Here are just a few of the happenings from my weekend.

On Saturday afternoon we arrive at the pool down the street from our house. Weve been there only 15 minutes when my son bounds out of the pool screaming, hopping on one foot. Im in the baby pool with my toddler who doesnt swim and cant be left alone. The more I call to my son to come to me, the louder he howls as he hops around the pool and provides entertainment for the other guests. The lifeguard finally guides him over to me so I can watch my daughter and take a look at his foot. He ends up having a splinter (who knew you could get a splinter in the pool), and my attempts to remove it revive his screaming, causing me to choose potential infection over further embarrassment.

An hour later, foot apparently healed (thank god for chlorine), I instruct my son to shower so we can get going. After the longest shower known to man or boy, he comes toward the table where were waiting. When hes just steps from the table he decides it would be a good idea to walk on top of, instead of around, the lounge chairs separating us.

Before I can stop him hes got his full weight on one of the chairs rubber slats. His leg plunges through the opening between slats and he falls forward, the entire chair hanging off his leg. I manage to grab his head before it hits the ground. The lifeguard runs over and extricates his leg before the whole chair folds and collapses on top of him. As we leave the pool I dont make eye contact with anyone.

When we get home I announce its quiet time and everyone must take a rest. I am exhausted and collapse on the couch with a magazine. I doze off and when I awaken I realize my 2-year-old shadow has left my side. I get up to look for her and as I enter my bedroom I see her through the open bathroom door. She is naked and lifting a dripping scrub brush out of the toilet and rubbing the floor with it. I am incredulous until I reach the bathroom and see her soiled clothes on the floor and the yellow puddle shes trying to mop up with the toilet brush. She proudly tells me Mama, I wet to the bafroom all by myself.

After cleaning her and the floor and getting her dressed, I realize its pushing 6 p.m. and Id better make dinner before they turn on me. Everything is coming together nicely. Ive got macaroni and cheese for the little ones and Im broiling steaks for my older daughter and myself.

I leave the kitchen for a few minutes and when I return I notice the tea kettle is whistling and shaking on top of the stove. None of the burners are on, so I cant figure out whats making it so hot. I open the oven and get my answer.

Our steaks are on fire and flames are leaping out and tapping the cabinet doors. I slam the oven shut and jump back. My eyes rest on my toddler sitting on a stool eating her macaroni at the counter. I wish I could say a calm feeling came over me and I knew exactly what to do. But the truth is I felt sheer panic and a visceral urge to just grab her and run screaming from the house.

Instead, I call my son in and tell him to get the neighbor just in case I need help. Then, I turn off the oven and look for our kitchen fire extinguisher. Ive never used an extinguisher before and through my fear I remind myself to take a deep breath. If I can read, I can figure out how to use it. I pull the pin, make sure I have the can pointed the right way, and open the oven door. The heat is staggering but with only two sprays the fire is out. The kitchen fills with smoke, so I open the doors and windows and burst into tears.

Within a few minutes its all over. The smoke is gone, the steaks are gone, but Ive survived the weekend. While it wasnt perfect, I feel some satisfaction that I retained my sanity through a roller coaster of mishaps. And when youre home alone, thats no small thing.

What are your strategies for getting through a long weekend when you're "home alone"? In the comments section let me know your ideas and share the mishaps you've survived when there are more kids than adults to go around.

Deanna Martin Mackey is the mother of an 11-year-old girl, a 7-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl. She is an associate general manager at KPBS, and has been writing professionally for 20 years. She is working on her first novel about a family.

Pam
September 18, 2007 at 06:46 PM
Oh, my. The hair on the back of my neck is standing up! Deanna, you are one brave and resilient momma. You have my respect! -----



Myrna Sabatchi
September 19, 2007 at 01:37 AM
Wow,you made it.You are not the only one.Every mom experience that challenge in life.You can do it no matter what.You are a brave mom.Always pray for God's help,support,strength and guidance and everything will be fine.

Dolores
September 21, 2007 at 09:40 PM
Ever consider writing a screen play? Your son, the fire and your daughters bathroom atics had me and my staff in stitches. As mother I can empathize with you on how overwhelming it can be raising three. My, husband was away visiting family in Oaklahoma, and my 3 year old and I were sleeping together in my bed. I woke up very early (for some odd reason) and went to do laundry to catch up before my husband returned the following day. While in the garage loading the dryer, I went to open the door and was locked out. Suffice it to say, I had to wake my daughter up attempting to break into my bedroom window. I only tore the screen when she started to scream. She courageously met me at the back door and let me in. I had been locked out for over 2 hours. By the time I walked through the kitchen it was well after 5 am. By 7 am we were all dressed and at breakfast. My only strategy was to have a mamosa at breakfast and praise our 3 year old for saving Mommy. Good luck and God bless.

Dave
September 27, 2007 at 12:35 AM
Raising kids is always harder as a part time parent. Seeing your children only on the weekends makes everything a little harder for both you and the kids. I think that stay at home moms seem to have less stress and more reward. Just a suggestion you might think of putting your career on hold for awhile and enjoy your kids more. They will grow up fast and you may miss out! The most important job in the world is a full time mom!

Sebastian
October 29, 2007 at 07:50 PM
Interesting comment from "Dave." Well, I am a stay at home Dad and prior to that I was an account executive for major marketing company in Los Angeles. We recently moved to San Diego. Speaking from experience from my wife (who was a stay at homer) and for myself who am a stay at home parent. For anyone to claim that there is LESS STRESS being a stay at home parent has their head not on their shoulders but in a place my youngest of (4 children) would say in the poo poo place. It is the HARDEST most challenging and yes rewarding (at times) to stay at home. I have to laugh that this "guy" believes that the best job in the world is a stay at home mom. I have learned from a young age NEVER to project what "I" think someone should do. Dave needs to go back to kindergarten and realize that we all come from different backgrounds/nationalities etc. And to accept all of us for who we are and what we do. Dave needs a time out. Sincerely, Sebastian G. The stay at home Daddy!

Andrew
August 11, 2008 at 05:31 PM
Jeez, i thought my friends who had twins at 40 have it rough!! I am sending them this story to put things in perspective!

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