I know there are many parents out there doing it alone. Whatever the circumstance it doesn’t make it easier to be a single parent. In no way am I trying to take away from those going at it alone on a daily and yearly basis. What I am trying to do is get you to understand what makes us different.
As with most single parents, when your day starts, you are responsible for everything. Getting the kids up, making sure breakfast is served, lunches are made, kids are clean and presentable, and hugs and kisses all around. If you are lucky enough to have school age kids in your home, once they are on their way, you can go about your daily responsibilities. That could include everything from work, grocery shopping, car repair, cleaning the house, laundry, or playgroups for those who have kids under five etc. etc. etc. In many parenting situations where two are involved, you share custody of your kids. One parent has them one weekend, then the next weekend you switch and are childless for a few days. This is a common situation amongst the single parents I am friends with. That isn’t always the case I know and some singles have their kids every day regardless.
Now imagine your being a single parent isn’t offered the option of a day off. You have your children 7 days a week, 365 days a year. No one there to take them, no grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, or uncles to help out. Imagine being dropped off in the middle of a new town, in a new neighborhood without knowing a soul. When the cries of “Mommy” ring out in the middle of the night, you are the one there to fix their illnesses. You are the one who has to clean up after an upset stomach. You are the one that has to hold them as they cry themselves to sleep because they miss their Daddy. You wish you could ease their pain by picking up the phone to let them talk to their Dad, so he can reassure them that he is okay and will see them soon– but you can’t. Because you, yourself have no idea where he is. You reassure your child that their Daddy is alive and well. You kiss them, hug them, tell them their Daddy and Mommy love them, and do your best to curb their fears and get them to relax back into a deep, peaceful sleep. When you yourself go back to bed, you lie there, praying to God that everything you just told your child is true. And when they wake up, so do you because there is no sleeping in and there are no sick days.
My husband is a Dad who sets the bar high when it comes to his parenting responsibilities. He understands that he has children and it’s up to him how those children turn out. He plays with them, interacts with them, does science fair projects with them, and he has them hand him tools when fixing something around the house. Wherever my husband is when he is home, you will find my children right beside him. He wouldn’t change it for the world. He is also the kind of Dad who teaches his children limits and curbs bad behavior. We are a team 100% of the time.
I found out two weeks ago that my husband has to leave us. He just returned three months ago from being gone for seven months. This time he could be gone longer. I am now parenting single. I accept this role with the understanding that my husband is doing his job. I go to sleep every night with the hopes of waking up to an email from my husband reassuring me that he is okay. Not only that he is okay but that he isn’t in any danger. If my husband shares some of his ‘adventures’ with me I try to relax, not overreact, and trust in the fact that he is amongst highly trained professional military men and women. When my children come home from school, I do homework, arrange play events so that they don’t get bored, and to keep their minds busy so that they aren’t tempted to ask me when Daddy is coming home. In the eyes of a child, the timeframe of months, maybe years doesn’t really take effect, especially for my young boys. All they know is that something big in their life is going on and their Dad isn’t there to share in it. Playing baseball with Mom just isn’t the same as it is with Dad.
The difference between us is that I am not single. In the traditional sense of the word. I am a happily married woman, who is in love with her husband. I have two children aged six and three, both boys, who worship their father. The difference is my husband is deploying and I am not sure when he’ll be back. I also don’t know how he’ll be when he returns. Will he be the same man I kissed goodbye or a new version, a beaten down version, a damaged version of the man I fell in love with?
Many military spouses who have partners serving in these wars overseas have the same fears. If they get their husband/wife back, will they be in one piece? Will their mental state match their physical one? Will they still love me? Will I still love them? It took us three months to readjust and get into a comfortable schedule again…seven, maybe nine months from now we will have to go through the same thing all over again.
I can’t go out and meet someone to fill the loneliness I have being by myself like many singles can. I took a vow that I take very seriously and I will stay committed to my husband until as it goes “Death do us part”. I don’t plan on that last part coming until we are both too old to pee on our own. That fate however is not in my control because my husband is serving his country as a Chief in the United States Navy. My faith is in God.
If you don’t know of a military family in your neighborhood, go out and find one. Most of the time these families often feel isolated because they are living somewhere new and don’t know anyone. The worst thing a military family can feel is isolation. You don’t have to understand what they are going through; you just need to be there. It’s the little things that make a huge difference. Two hours a week of freedom for a military parent with a deployed partner could mean the difference between sanity and insanity.
God Bless our troops, their families, and the children who sleep peacefully every night because of the sacrifices they are making and the spouses who support them at home.