How Going Through a Long Deployment Shaped My Parenting
When my husband deployed for the first time my oldest son was 23 months old and I was 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 my son and me.
A few months later our 2nd little boy was born. My husband came home for R&R and met him when he was three days old. He left again when he was almost three weeks and didn’t come home again for 11 months.
During all this time I was a solo 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 about survival for me, getting through each and every day.
Every 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, to how you give birth and how you discipline. What I learned during deployments was that the little debates we have don’t matter. You have to do what is right for you.
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 couldn’t do everything, and I was only one person.
Don’t Judge Other Parents
We all have our circumstances and different experiences which shape us into who we are. We all have reasons for why we do the things we do as a parent. We might not totally understand why other parents do things the way they do, but as long as they are not abusing or hurting their child, we shouldn’t be judging them about their own parenting journeys. Most parents are trying to do what is best and we should respect that.
Things Would Be Different If My Husband Never Had To Go Away
I think things would be very different for me if my husband never had to go away, especially for over a year when my kids were so small. 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 during those years.
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. There are other lives we could be living, but those lives are not where we are.
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.
As I look ahead at another possible deployment and the ages my kids will be, I know that deployment will be very different from the one we went through back in 2006 and 2007. We will have different challenges and even if I don’t want to, I might have to handle some of those alone.
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 our 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.
How has parenting changed for you because of deployments?
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