I hate solo parenting. I hate being the only parent in the house. I love having my husband there. Yes, I love having someone else that can help with the kids, but I also like having that other person to bounce ideas off of or to work through problems with. When he is gone, solo parenting gets to me. My anxiety goes up, and that makes solo parenting even harder than it could be.
Over the years, I have found ways to make this part of military life easier for myself. I have figured out ways to cope, to make myself get through whatever issue I am having, and to help remind myself that I can do this, even if my other half is on the opposite side of the world.
Over the years I have learned that I am not the only military spouse that deals with anxiety. That I am not the only one that struggles with this. That, through conversations with military spouses over the years and my own experiences, I have learned how to handle solo parenting and how to get through a deployment when my anxiety wants to take over.
Although solo parenting with anxiety makes thing even more difficult, there are ways to get through. This is what has worked for me:
Lots of lists
I try to make lists of everything I have to do. For work. For the home. For my kids. I have a planner I check all the time. If it isn’t written down, I might forget so I make sure to do that as soon as I can.
Writing everything down is a visual way for me to stay organized and manage everything I have to do. Sometimes things can get quite crazy around here, and I need those lists to stay grounded. And that helps with my anxiety levels.
Make a plan for getting out of the house
When I first had my 2nd son, I was overwhelmed with the thought of us all leaving the house. I had a two-year-old, a newborn and a deployed husband. So I broke everything down.
The first step, gathering everything I needed to bring with me. The second step, make sure baby was ready. Third, make sure I was ready. Fourth, make sure 2-year-old was ready. Fifth, recheck baby because you know there could always be a dirty diaper to change right before you need to leave. When I broke things down like that, it made leaving the house a lot easier.
These days, my boys are older and can do most of getting ready to leave the house themselves. But in my head, I still kinda go through a checklist before we go anywhere. Doing this is good for my anxiety levels and ensures that I rarely forget things, although that can still happen every once in a while.
When my husband is gone, I don’t have him to bring up the little things with. So Google steps in. If I am worried about something that might not be that big of a deal, I Google it. I see if anyone else has had that worry. I check to see if it could be something else.
Now, you can’t trust everything you read on the internet; I know this well. However, it can be a starting point for figuring out what is going on. I know I can also send an email or call my children’s doctor for more serious health-related questions.
Ask a friend
Sometimes asking a good friend about your worries is a good idea too. You never know if they might be struggling with what you are struggling with too. Acting like we have it all together is way too easy to do, I am guilty of that. I know when I am more open with good friends about struggles, we can talk them out and help one another.
I might be struggling with a child at school, a friend might be struggling with potty training, but we can offer our advice and help one another out. While when my husband is home, this is easier to do with him, I know I can depend on good friends to work through these problems too. If we have that type of relationship when he is gone, it can carry over even after my husband comes back. That can make for stronger more longtime friendships.
Respite and breaks
When my boys were young, in the midsts of deployments, having respite and breaks was a lifesaver. Maybe that was dropping them off at hourly for a couple of hours a few times a week, maybe it was going to MOPS on a regular basis, or maybe it was simply trading babysitting with a friend, so I could get my grocery shopping done.
There are quite a few ways to find childcare in the military community. They might not all work for you or your situation, but they are worth checking out. Having a small break can energize you and allow you to work on your parenting goals even if your spouse is far away.
Involving my husband
Just because your spouse is deployed, it doesn’t mean they can’t have any say in what is going on at home. You know your spouse and what they can handle. See if you can talk with them about what is going on at home.
The trouble sometimes is that since your spouse is not currently living in your home, they can’t see the whole picture. This means that the advice they give might not work for you. That’s okay, but talking about your struggle with them can help them feel connected back home and offer you something to think about.
I never look forward to solo parenting. I know that my anxiety levels will be higher than when he is home. However, I want to do what I can to make the best of solo parenting with anxiety, to find solutions to the little issues I am dealing with, and to have a better experience than I have had in the past.