My son was not even a year old and my husband and I started talking about him going back into the Army. I remember telling him that I couldn’t possibly parent my son while he was away from us for months and months. I couldn’t possibly do it alone. I needed him!
Just a few months later, my 13-month old son and I dropped him off as he headed off to Germany as an active duty soldier. At the time I had no idea what the next few months or years would bring. I had no idea how much solo parenting I would have to do.
By the time we got to our 4th deployment, I think my husband had been gone more than he had been home. I went through so many months of solo parenting during those early parenting years.
These days, he is home a lot more often and I am so thankful for that. But I will never forget the years he wasn’t. I will never forget all those days as a solo parent, that went on for months and months, causing me to have to completely rethink the way I parented and the way I lived my life.
I learned a lot during my periods of solo parenting. I am still learning even now. Taking one parent out of the house changes the dynamic and you have to figure out how to adjust.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned as a solo parent:
You can only do what you can do
You will learn this lesson rather quickly. There is only one of you. You might also be on a limited budget.
You can only do what you can do. You can only be in one place at one time. You will have to make some choices, ones you might not have had to make if you were not a solo parent.
You can do more than you think you can
This is huge! There have been so many times when I would cringe and think that I couldn’t get through a deployment or other situation. I felt so overwhelmed. But in the end, I was able to make it through.
Remember, I used to think I couldn’t possibly solo parent with one child, and yet in the end I did, and now do it with three. We, military spouses, are capable of more than we think we are.
Somethings are actually easier
My husband was gone for many of the newborn years with my 2nd and 3rd babies. And those early months were actually easier in some ways than when he was home with my oldest son. That isn’t to say I would wish him away or glad he missed those months, not at all.
But the little things, like nursing in the middle of the night became a lot easier. I didn’t have to worry about waking him up. I didn’t have to worry about being too loud. I could just attend to the baby and that was my sole focus at the moment.
I am a better parent when my husband is home
As much as I try to look for the good during my time as a solo parent, at the end of the day, I am a better parent when my husband is by my side. We are both different people and handle situations differently but I think we complement one another.
If I am getting too stressed out, he can take over. If he needs a break, I can step in. And sadly, when I am solo parenting, I don’t have that. And I miss it.
The small stuff doesn’t matter
You will find that as a solo parent, you stop worrying so much about all the little stuff. There is so much we have to think about as moms and letting some of that go is a must when your spouse is away. You simply don’t have the space to worry about it.
Of course, what is “small” might be different for each person. I am fine with a pizza night, but others might not be. I want everyone to sleep in their own beds, but others are all about a family sleepover.
I have also learned that I can’t compare myself to other moms. I just can’t. For one thing, I would be comparing knowing 100% about myself to the smaller % that others show the world. That just isn’t a good way to live your life.
You have to figure out what works for you and your family and what your kids really need. You need to do what is best for your own family and not worry about anyone else. And doing so will bring you a lot of peace.
Self-care is so important
Self-care is always important. But as a solo parent, self-care is a must. And do not feel guilty for taking time for yourself.
If you have small children, see if your base or post offers any free childcare options. They might have a Super Saturday or night out you can use. Take advantage of these times, even if all you are going to do is grab a book and sit at a coffee shop for three hours.
Find things you like to do and make plans to do them. Yes, you want your kids to be okay and live their best life, but you can also stop and make time for yourself too. Even if you have to be creative to find that time.
Whenever you go through something challenging, there will be lessons to learn along the way. If you are in a season of solo parenting, remember, you will be able to get through this, and learn from it all as you make your way to the finish line.