You know that your spouse will have to be away from you when they join the Military. You know that you will have to be alone with the kids. However, nothing can ever prepare you for what solo parenting will be like, how you will be able to handle the time away from your spouse and how hard it will be when they have to leave for months at a time.
The reality of solo parenting is that it will be one of the hardest things you will ever have to go through.
November 2005. That was the first time I was ever a solo parent. My son was 13 months old and my husband left for Germany. Assuming we would join him within a couple of months. Up until that time my husband had been there for everything. Every. Single. Thing. He worked a job where he left the house about 8:30 and was home about 6:30. He had the weekends off. Up until that time, the only days we had been apart were when I took my son down to my parent’s house for about a week.
But November 2005, all that changed when he joined the Army. I wasn’t naive and I knew I would have to be a solo parent. I knew he would be away sometimes.
I knew I would have to do it alone. However, I had no idea how hard that would really be.
I assumed it would be a bit easier than it has been. I was a babysitter for years, I knew how to handle children, right? Sure, I would have to do more but I could handle it, right? I would just have to find a good routine and we would be good, it would be like he wasn’t even gone. Right?
Wrong. That’s not how it went. Not for me anyways. We had adventures, we had good days filled with happy times with friends but at the end of the day it was me, solo with the kids. Me, doing everything that most households split.
Me, in charge, all day and all night.
It was me, pregnant me and a two-year-old. It was me, with a newborn and a husband in a war zone. It was me, trying to plan the days and the nights and weekends alone. It was me, trying to get through everything that I had to because my husband was a soldier. It was me who depended on friends and others because my own family was so far away.
The reality of solo parenting is that it is difficult and some days it does not feel like you will make it through. Other days will make you feel like you are failing this whole parenting thing. There is simply not enough patience or energy to do it all, there just isn’t. I have spent plenty of nights crying myself to sleep over everything. The exhaustion and the worry and the helplessness.
When you solo parent you end up becoming a different type of parent then you would be otherwise.
You don’t worry about certain things and you overstress about others. Like how much your kids are missing their father and if that will hurt them down the road. You might let them stay up a little too late or order pizza too many times.
The good thing about solo parenting in a military community is that other people get it. They understand and they have been there too. Other people can relate and know how difficult it can be to have to be mom and dad to your kids each and everyday.
For me personally, my solo parenting days are coming to an end. This makes me very happy. Although my children are older now and we are almost at the teen years, I am glad I don’t have to do them alone. I know that there are some that spend 20+ years in this life and they are able to do it with grace. Had that been my road, I am not sure if I could have handled it but who really knows? You never know how strong you really are until your faced with having to be as strong as possible.
I hope that what I have learned as a solo parent over the last 11 years can help me encourage others. I have been through it with babies, toddlers, preschoolers, school aged children and now a tween. Each stage comes with its own set of challenges. Each year was different. And when my husband has been home and we have been a two parent household, life got a little easier. I hung onto those times through the months of separation that left me as the only parent in the home.
My best advice is to take it one day at time, one hour at a time if you need to. Make plans, stay busy and find friends who get it. Know that you are not alone and that you won’t always be in this particular situation. Life goes on, children grow and things change. Be as strong as you can be and don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.