When my husband deployed for the first time my oldest son was 23 months old. I was also 25 weeks pregnant. I was a new mom with some parenting experience under my belt. I was still learning a lot and we were slowly leaving the baby stage. And just like that it was just me and my son. A few months later our 2nd little boy was born. My husband came home for R&R and met him when he was 3 days old. He left again when he was almost 3 weeks and didn’t come home again for 11 months. During all this time I was acting as a single parent. My husband was overseas, fighting in a war and I was in charge of two little boys. I was still growing and learning as a parent but I didn’t get the chance to do it with my husband.
We have been through other deployments since but there is just something about that deployment that sticks out to me. Something about that deployment changed me into the person I am today, into the parent I am today. That deployment was pretty much about survival for me. I had to get through each day. I had to make sure everyone was fed, clothed and got enough sleep. Once bedtime came I felt like I had accomplished something big. I always feel that way during a deployment but especially during that first one.
That long deployment taught me a few things about parenting that stick with me to this day.
- Somethings just aren’t as important as we tend to make them. There are so many parenting choices out there. From breastfeeding vs formula, how you give birth and how you discipline. What I learned was that the little debates we have don’t really matter. I believe certain things are better ways of doing things but I have learned not to beat myself up if things don’t work out the way I would like them too. Sometimes life gets in the way, other times it just doesn’t work right for your family.
- Try not to judge other parents. We all have our circumstances and different experiences who shape us into who we are. We all have reasons for why we do the things we do and others have their own reasons. Reasons we might not understand. Maybe reasons that don’t make sense to us. But I think most parents are trying to do what is best. We should respect that.
- Things would be different if my husband never had to go away. This is true. I would have more patience and I would have more time to myself. I would have an extra person to bounce ideas off of. Potty training with my oldest wouldn’t have taken so long, I probably would have been able to breastfeed for a little longer and life would be a little calmer. But my husband is in the Army so he does have to go away for periods of time. I have to work with this and do the best I can. I can’t spend too much energy beating myself up for it though. I am only one person and I just have to do the best I can.
My parenting is always evolving. Based on the kids and our experiences. Based on when my husband is home and when he isn’t.