To the Military Spouse Who is Solo Parenting for the First Time
My son was 13 months old when my husband left for Germany to start his Army career, leaving us behind in Kentucky to join him as soon as possible. Other than a trip to my parent’s house when my son was five months old, my husband had always been around to co-parent with me. Then he was gone, across the ocean and I became a solo parent.
I was lucky. At that time I would put my son down at 7 pm and he would sleep until 7 am. However, I couldn’t sleep and would finally close my eyes around 3 am every morning. On four hours of sleep, I had to be both mom and dad. I got burned out very quickly. After 4.5 months of this, we joined my husband in Germany. But my solo parenting days were far from over.
Over the next few years, my husband deployed or was away at training. For months at a time, it was just me with the boys. The longest we went without seeing him was 11 months. That was rough. These days I am still a solo parent with drill weekends and training. And there could always be another deployment in our future.
When your spouse is in the military, you will have to be the solo parent sometimes.
Maybe just for a few weeks, other times for a few months and if you “get lucky” for over a year. The truth is, when you become a solo parent, you have this strong belief that this isn’t the way things were supposed to be. Your spouse was not meant to miss your son’s first birthday. Your spouse was supposed to be there on their first day of kindergarten. They were supposed to be there to help with bedtimes and soccer games and birthday parties.
When you are married to a service member, they are going to miss those things, and that is going to hurt.
But as a military spouse, you figure out how to make solo parenting work. How to be three places at once, how to say no more often, how to let the little things go and how to make a fantastic dinner of mac and cheese with a side of cereal.
You learn how putting the kids to bed a little earlier will give you some time to take a bubble bath, one that you might need after a long day. You learn to befriend others who get this life and ignore those who don’t. You learn that you are so much stronger and can do so much more than you ever thought you could.
So, to the military spouse who is solo parenting for the first time, there are things you can do to make life a bit easier!
Take things one day at a time
Take everything you are going through one day at a time. Sometimes you might have to take things one hour at a time. That’s okay. Solo parenting is no picnic and most likely getting through the months you have to do it is going to be challenging. But try not to think about how long they will be gone and work through each day as it comes.
Find mom friends
Mom friends are a must when you are solo parenting. Find other moms who are going through deployments too. Make plans to get together on a regular basis. Let your kids play together. This will keep you busy and will give you people who understand what you are going through.
Play groups are going to be your weekly lifesaver. You can take your kids out to do something fun, to keep them busy and you can make some friends of your own. Playgroups could be the only time of day when you can do something fun outside the house with such small children. MOPS is also a great place to go if you have a MOPS group in your area.
Say no, it’s okay
When you are solo parenting, you might want to say “no” a little more often. And it’s okay to do so. You are not superwomen. You can’t do everything. Your kids need to come first. So figure out what works for them as well as your emotional needs and feel free to say no if there is just too much going on.
Remember, this is temporary
No matter how long a deployment is, it will be temporary, and your spouse will be home again with you and your children. This is hard to remember sometimes, but if you can put the deployment in perspective, that can be helpful.