In some ways I count myself really lucky that I don't do a great deal of solo parenting even though I spend every day from 7.20am to 7.20pm in sole charge of our children.
Noel gets up with Cherry and Violet pretty much every morning. He's a morning person, thankfully. And he generally does a fair bit of tidying up when he gets in. Sometimes all of it! At weekends he's much more organised with the tidying, laundry and household stuff than I am as well as very hands-on and energetic with the children.
It's all that I miss when he's away, on top of just generally missing him as my husband, best friend and sometimes the only adult I've made conversation with that day.
This last few days he has been in Texas and I have been at home with Cherry and Violet. We've known about this trip for a long time and I had plans in place, we were going to head to Doncaster to spend time with Noel's parents and give me a well-deserved extra few pairs of hands with the children.
If there's one thing I know about solo parenting it's that I need all the help, and adult company, I can get.
I had reckoned without the Illness Curse of 2016. In the last week alone Cherry has had a temperature and short-lived bug, Violet and I both had conjunctivitis, and I have been carrying around the tail end of a virus for what feels like months. I've been ill consistently for the last eight weeks, including two weeks of sinusitis, and as a result I am very fatigued and still bunged up with a chest infection, sore throat, chills and other unpleasantness. All in all travelling to Doncaster felt like too much of a mission. It's actually lucky we didn't go as Violet then came down with a horrible vomiting bug and as I write this she's still pretty poorly.
All of this meant my two go-tos, help and company, were pretty much off the agenda other than a brief but lovely visit from friends. Cherry only goes to preschool on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. I've had a lot of time to fill.
Despite all of this solo parenting definitely brings out the best in me. I'm the first to admit I can struggle with responsibility, not for Cherry and Violet per se but more for myself and for the general administration and day-to-day running of our home and life. If at all possible I do prefer to defer.
Without Noel around as a backup I find I really rise to the occasion.
And I also find I get much more out of the time with Cherry and Violet. I am of course used to spending huge amounts of time with them, Cherry's sessions at preschool are pretty short and other than a short-lived ill-fated flirtation with a childminder, Violet's never been in childcare.
Solo parenting makes me realise how much time I spend with my children not being present.
It's humbling in a way. There is something in knowing I have no backup, no help and no prospect of any kind of time to myself or time to pursue my own agenda that makes me just surrender. When the hope glimmers during the day of a bit of time to write or read or spend at the allotment, I find myself hankering for it but ultimately either grumpy when I have it because it has to come to an end, or grumpy because I didn't get it after all.
I can be guilty of rushing the children into bed just so I can get a bit of space - although given their horrendously early rising this is also just good sense, as I can confirm a child who rises at 5.30am will continue to rise at 5.30am whether they go to bed at 6pm or 9pm!
Without any real prospect of 'time off' I find it much easier to really sink into my children. I am far less resentful of things like early waking, tiredness, unexpected illnesses and other happenings that get in the way of me and free time. I am much more patient and calm because I am truly present with Cherry and Violet.
My expectations of what I will achieve melt away and I no longer beat myself up for not doing all the billion and one things I had unrealistically hoped to cram into the few short hours between Cherry and Violet going to bed and me following.
They tend to rise to the occasion too, even with illness as a factor they do tend to be much easier when I'm completely on my own with them. They seem much more willing and able to entertain themselves for longer periods, and much more amenable to working together to find solutions to problems, arguments and issues.
I find it massively confidence-building. Last year we spent some time in Singapore, and after Noel came home I stayed out with the children a bit longer. Initially I went to pieces without him, but by the end of our time there I felt more confident and connected with Cherry and Violet than ever. Our 14-hour flight home was a breeze.
For some reason when in company I tend towards passivity, which might come as a big surprise to people who know me. Despite my assertive nature and very high professional confidence, I'm actually pretty plagued with self-doubt and general feelings of inadequacy on a personal level. I tend to assume that everybody else is more competent and better able to deal with the general business of life than I am.
That means if there is somebody else around that I can leave all the 'big stuff' and 'boring stuff' to, I will.
There is also the element of time. I don't have a great deal of free time on a day-to-day basis and a lot of the administration of life does tend to get forgotten, overlooked or pushed aside to make way for the all-consuming work of raising very young children. But I can't deny that I sometimes hide behind my lack of time and use it as an excuse not to do the grown-up stuff.
And given the billion and one other things I want to do in that time I'm often really reluctant to put 'life admin' in there too.
It's a highly frustrating character trait because I'm actually very competent and capable, but it seems I hide it well even from myself. Without anybody to hide behind I really come into my own. And I realise actually how much more smoothly things run and how much easier life is when I take the time to be organised and self-disciplined, and make myself do more of the things I don't really want to do.
I also realise how much more connected with Cherry and Violet I feel when I stop throwing obstacles and expectations between us. How much easier it is to find alternative ways of doing things and to remove the little barriers and hiccups that get in the way.
On a day-to-day basis we coexist reasonably harmoniously and we are all pretty happy with life. But lately I have been noticing I am less happy. With life, with myself, with everything. I have felt stuck, almost paralysed in a way, incapable of making changes that I know will benefit myself and everybody around me.
These last few days have shown me a way forwards. When I am left with just myself to rely on, I always seem to have the answers.
I just wonder why I have to feel I am completely on my own before I realise this! Perhaps one to think about when Noel goes away again in June. Until then, I will be counting down the hours tomorrow until he gets back.
That's the other great thing about solo parenting. The knowledge that at some point it will come to an end.