With every deployment, I hear the same sentiment from (well-meaning) friends and even hear it from other military spouses.
By “it”, I mean referring to military spouses with children as SINGLE MOTHERS.
Did you just stop in your tracks while your head tilted to the side with a “Whhhhaaattt?” thought bubble, just like me? Whew. Let me explain.
I get it. We’re doing all the daily activities by ourselves during deployments, training, TDY and what have you. But, Mommas, hear my heart when I say this- single parents we are not!
Before you get up in arms, you don’t have to justify all that you do and that it is HARD. It is hard to be the only physical person your child(ren) can depend on for several months, sometimes a year or more, at a time. But, honestly, I feel like I can say this with conviction, because I have been a single mother AND I am currently a military spouse.
When I gave birth to my daughter at age 21, I was going through divorce and bankruptcy. During those times, I was convinced that it would be Brielle and I for the rest of our lives. Granted, my family was a huge support system. We lived in our hometown, I commuted to Nashville every day, my parents picked my daughter up from day care and often had her fed by the time I made it home each night. I still remember, almost 13 years later, just how incredibly hard it was, though. Every time we visit home, we pass our old apartment and Brielle says “There’s where we lived, Momma”, while looking at me and smiling. She doesn’t remember actually living there (she was 2-3.5 years old), but she remembers that it was an important time in our lives.
Not only that, my sister is a Single Mom of 2 of my nieces. I’ve watched her put herself through Nursing School, become an RN, worry about who can take care of her girls, endure tragedy, miss out on opportunities, all while NEVER complaining and loving every bit of being her princesses Mommy. I often see her get off from a 12 hour night shift, only to come home to the girls who need her time and attention. I’ve seen her start buying Christmas gifts in January, so that she’ll be able to provide a nice holiday for them. I’ve witnessed her budget out and pay rent months in advance, so that if nothing else, she knew the rent would be paid. I’ve seen her struggle, but do it all gracefully and her girls are none the wiser.
I know some of you are thinking- THAT’S ME! I’ve done that! I do all those things when my husband is deployed!
Only, the difference is…..
Single Mothers don’t have an additional, dependable paycheck coming on the 1st &15th.
Single Mothers don’t have phone calls and emails and Skype sessions to look forward to.
Single Moms don’t have a countdown in a jar of M&M’s for when Daddy’s coming home.
Single Mothers don’t have in the back of their minds that it’s temporary, and things will go back to normal soon.
For the Single Mom, there’s only her. And maybe (hopefully) that will change. I pray that it will…but right now, all she can count on, in all aspect of providing for her children, is her. That’s TRUE single parenting. No co-parents. No one else…just them. Doing it ALL the time. The LAST thing a Single Mother wants, at least I know my sister doesn’t, is to feel sorry for them, or bad that they have to do it all. Single Mothers are AH-Mazing, and would do it all again, for the sake of their babies. But, that doesn’t change the magnitude of what they do with often times, no help.
And there’s this other tiny nagging thought that creeps up when we call ourselves a Single Mother. That thought goes to him, your Soldier.
He’s doing something that so many people could never even imagine. He may not be beside you at night, but he’s still protecting you, defending you…along with everyone else in this great nation. He’s thinking of you, missing you and your children. HE would NEVER say you’re a Single Mom. Because, although he’s not here physically, he is very much still a part of your family, still working hard and doing all the things that he vowed he WOULD do, the day he made sure that you wouldn’t have to face this world alone. The day, you no longer were Single.
Military Mommas, you’re in a league of your own. An amazing one! What you accomplish and endure is not for the faint of heart. Raising a family with the constant change, and added stress of safety concerns, while wondering how our lifestyle is affecting our children (and our marriages). It’s not easy, and I definitely am not downplaying your role (our role, really). Only trying to show that there is a true difference in what we do, and what a Single Mother endures.
Single Mothers, many who have no help at all, are incredible- in their OWN right. But we’re not them, and they’re not us. We have similarities, and we’d probably make a heck of a team! You can look at her in the eye and say proudly, “On some tiny little level, I understand what you do, and I admire you for all that you are”.
What we do is not single parenthood.
What we do is hold down our family, while our husbands hold down our country.
That is something to be proud of, all on it’s own.