It was mid 2005. My husband had just gone to a recruiter for the Army reserves. We walked out of the place and said, “Nope, that isn’t going to be an option for us.” One reason was because he would have to drive a few hours to get to his drills. Another reason was that I would have to be a solo parent and I couldn’t imagine it. I laugh at my old self. Back then I had one little boy who wasn’t even a year old yet. I really didn’t think I could handle it. It sounded awful. Just being the only parent around for days, weeks, months at a time? How could we even be thinking about that?
Well, as it turned out, we decided that Active duty Army was the way to go. He signed his papers in November of 2005 and left for Germany. Instant solo parenting!
Over the years I have in fact gone days, weeks, months and one time almost a year as the only parent in the house. Over the years I have learned a lot about myself, my parenting and about how to be with kids when you are the only one in charge.
1) Somethings ARE easier by yourself. Take middle of the night feedings. Ben was gone when #2 was a newborn and when #3 was about two months old. That meant he just wasn’t there during the months that my babies woke up to eat in the middle of the night. As hard as it was to do that alone, it also was nice to not have to worry about waking him up. I didn’t have to be extra quiet as I climbed out of bed. I could turn the light on if need be. It really did make the middle of the night times a little bit easier.
2) Sometimes you can only do what you can do. When it is just you, when you are tired and lonely and worn down, you look at what is important. You don’t dwell so much on the little silly things. You focus on what needs to get done and do it. It can be freeing in some ways.
3) No butting heads about the little things. Since you are the solo parent, you don’t tend to ask your spouse about all the little choices you have to make when it comes to parenting. It is all up to you. You never want to do something your spouse would hate but it is nice to not butt heads over something small. It is nice to have that freedom to do what you think you need to do each day.
4) More time for yourself. More time to think. After you put the kids to bed, you have your me time. It gives you more time to think. To think about what went right, to think about what went wrong and what you can do better the next day. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my husband after the kids go to bed when he is home, but when he isn’t, I take the time to reflect a little more than I do when he is around.
5) I can do more than I think I can. Going back to 2005, I didn’t think I could handle being a solo parent. When people tell me they couldn’t do it, I remember that. I remember that I didn’t think I could either. Is it hard? Yep. Do you just want your husband home when they are away? Yep. Can you make it work if you have to? Yes you can.
Whether your spouse is in the Military or has another job that keeps them away sometimes, solo parenting can be draining. Find some good support systems to help you through. Realize that you will have to let things go and enjoy the time that you do have together. You can get through it, I know that you can.