Six things to keep in mind when preparing for winter as a Solo Mom
If you’re from the Northeast or other area where it gets quite cold in the winter, you are probably an old pro at the things that need to be done to prepare your house, car, and family for the winter weather. If you’ve recently moved, happen to be vacationing to a cold place, or have just joined the Solo Mom ranks, you may not have years of experience to rely on.
Preparing for winter goes beyond buying new sweaters and turning on the heat. Freezing temperatures and storms can come very suddenly, so it is imperative you begin preparations immediately.
After setting the clocks back an hour in November for daylight saving time, I was quickly reminded how early it gets dark this time of year. I know we’re on the downhill slide, as the shortest day of the year, December 21, has already come and gone, but it sure makes it challenging to squeeze anything into those few hours of afternoon daylight.
Things you should do
As a Solo Mom, you’re responsible for preparing your home and family for the winter weather. Freezing temperatures affect more than the coats your children need to wear (and hopefully, those children quickly realize we mean business when we say it is cold out!).
1. Winterize your car. I’m all for putting off vehicle maintenance if feasible, but doing so as winter approaches is not the time. You’re already aware of the precious cargo you spend hours transporting to and from school, sports, and activities. They rely on you, and you rely on your vehicle. Although I’m no expert on how to winterize your car, I know enough to recommend these steps: Make sure your tires have enough tread on them (put on snow tires, if applicable), make sure all the fluids are topped off, change the oil, and do any other preventative maintenance you can afford that is due. Also, for those with littles in the car, don’t skimp on car-seat safety. Winter coats are not meant to be worn under car-seat harnesses.
2. Keep the pantry stocked. January and February bring some real budgetary constraints to every household, particularly single-income Solo Mom–run households. Stock up on a few of those buy-one, get-one offers at the grocery store, and make sure you have a few meals in the pantry that can be made easily. Pasta and sauce, soups, even pancake mix are all great ways to have a delicious and quick meal on those days when you don’t want to cook or the weather prevents a trip to the store. If you enjoy frozen meals or have an Instant Pot, you may also want to keep some things on hand that can be popped into the appliance while you mediate homework time.
3. Prepare the house. Take a few extra moments before and after holiday decorating to make sure that you’ve picked up stray toys that may be in the yard. Seemingly harmless yard tools or kids’ toys can cause problems when the ground ices over. Pick up a bag of salt or sand to have on hand in case your driveway or walkway freezes over. Keep your car in a garage (if you have one) to reduce the amount of windshield-wiper fluid you go through and avoid having to spend precious time scraping the ice off your car windows on those frigid mornings when you need to get to work.
Things you should have
4. A method for cooking that doesn’t involve electricity (or food that does not require cooking). In the event your house loses power, you should have another way to prepare food. Once the storm has passed, you can grill or use a camping stove (outside the house only!). If you want to keep it really simple, foods such as sandwiches, cereal, and salads don’t require any cooking and can make the adventure of the storm extra fun for children.
5. Enough water for a few days. During hurricane season you can’t find bottled water anywhere near Florida, and the same is true for the northern states when a winter storm is coming. Throughout the fall and winter, grab a gallon or two of water when you can, and fill up extra containers when a storm is approaching. The ideal amount of water is a gallon of water daily, per person. You may also want to fill the bathtub with water for bathing and flushing the toilet if it appears the pipes may freeze or you may lose power.
6. A backup plan. Without a doubt, winter weather often results in school being canceled or delayed for a few hours, but not work. For those who can’t work from home or who don’t use child care during the day, school closings or delays can be a huge challenge. Avoid the last-minute panic, and lay out some options beforehand. Maybe a neighbor who happens to be a teacher will be home and willing to watch your kids or the high schooler down the street can help out. And don’t forget to look into the online child-care resources that are available.
As the cold winter stretches on, give yourself some grace; prioritize what needs to be done; outsource what you can; and, in the words of Frozen’s Elsa, “Let it go.”
We’d love to hear your cold-weather ideas! Please share them in the comments section below.
Rebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. Her writing experience includes military-family topics, research pieces, guest blogging, and much more. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY magazine and a regular contributor to several online publications, including the Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, and ESME. She also has been published in Ms. magazine and the Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com and on Twitter and Instagram.