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 that with my husband. I did this by myself and that changed so much about the way I would parent in the years to come.
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.
- You Have To Let Things Go. There are so many parenting choices out there. From breastfeeding vs formula, how you give birth and how you discipline. What I learned during deployments was that the little debates we have don’t really matter. I can’t beat myself up if a parenting choice isn’t going to work for us anymore. As long as my children are being taken care of and being raised in a loving home, nothing else really matters. I can’t do everything and I am only one person.
- 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. I can’t get upset if things look different then my neighbor’s house or even the house I grew up in. Sometimes life gets in the way, other times it just doesn’t work right for our family, even if that same parenting choice works for someone else’s family.
- 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 the choices I have made during deployments. I am only one person and I just have to do the best I can. There are other lives we could be living but those lives are not where we are. We have to deal with our own realities.
My parenting is always evolving. Based on the kids and our experiences. Based on when my husband is home and when he isn’t. Things are always changing and I am always surprised by each stage. I never truly know how our family will handle them or how much my husband would be a part of that stage of our lives.
I could easily look back over the years and call myself a bad parent. My kids watched too much tv and have probably had too much pizza. They don’t always get to do all the things they could do if we had always had two parents in the home. That is life and as they get older I can see more and more that they will look back on their childhoods with good and happy memories.
The 15-month deployment we went through set me up for my years of parenting, for good or for bad. Going through that has made me the mom and the person I am today. For good and for bad. I want to embrace that instead of crying over what else could have been.