On being a military wife and single parent during a deployment

Posted on: January 31, 2012

Today’s post is dedicated to military spouses who serve as mom and dad while their spouse is deployed, and to single parents the world over.

My husband just got home from an 8 month military deployment overseas.  While he was gone, I was at home raising our son on my own.  I was a single parent.  To say it was difficult, is an understatement.  This was truly the most difficult thing I’ve gone through.

I had never before known what it really meant to be a single parent.  Sure, I have a couple of friends and family members who are single parents, but until you experience it for yourself, you have NO IDEA what it’s really like. 

Being a single parent means you never stop working.  You work 24/7.  It starts when you get up in the morning, get yourself and your child fed and ready to go.  You drop them off at the babysitter or school and go to work. You work a full eight-hour day and then pick your child up.  Then, you go home and have to get dinner made and on the table.  If you have a baby, that can also mean making one meal for you and a different meal for them.  Next are after dinner activities.  Depending on the age of your child this can range from playing with them/keeping them occupied and out of trouble to helping them with their homework.  After this is bedtime.  You go through the routine of getting them ready for bed (pajamas, teeth brushing, reading a book) and finally getting them settled in bed for the night. But, your “work” doesn’t stop there because after your child(ren) are in bed, you have to do all the things you couldn’t do while they were awake.  There’s cleaning up any left over dinner mess, putting toys away, going through the mail, doing any work you may have brought home from your job (or jobs, since many single parents work multiple jobs to pay the bills), perhaps getting some exercise in, and possibly taking care of any pets you may have.  After all that, you’re absolutely exhausted and want nothing more than to go to bed.  But, maybe your baby wakes up and isn’t feeling well so they’re up for two hours and you only get four hours of sleep that night (speaking from experience).  Maybe your older child wakes up in the middle of the night from a bad dream or wets the bed or gets sick.  It’s a never-ending cycle.  As a parent, you’re always on call.   

Being a single parent also means experiencing the joys of parenthood without having someone by your side to share it with you.  There are so many moments that excite you as a parent; a baby’s first steps, their first words, first tooth, first haircut, a child’s good report card, their team winning athletic events, going on a first date.  There are so many joyous milestones in a child’s life and it’s in those moments that you rejoice with your child(ren).  But, if you’re a single parent, there can also be a void in your heart.  I remember experiencing so many happy moments with “G” and being so delighted at all of them, but also sad because my husband wasn’t here to share in the joy with me. 

Along with the joys of parenting, come the stresses, the hard times.  There are days when your baby messes his diaper right as you’re walking out the door for work and then he won’t cooperate on the changing table and it takes twice as long to change his diaper as it should. Inevitably, you end up late for work causing a chain reaction and a stressful start to your day (again, speaking from experience here).  There are the days you are so utterly exhausted you can’t even think straight let alone try to be alert and energetic in order to take care of your child(ren).  Then your child gets sick and you have to take time off of work to stay home with them, take them to the doctor, and nurse them back to health all on your own.  And, what about when you get sick?  There isn’t anyone to take care of your children if you’re sick so getting well can take longer than it should.  If you have family close by, sometimes they can help so you can recover.  But, for single parents who don’t have any family nearby, you’re on your own.  This is what I experienced.  No relief.  There were countless nights I would cry myself to sleep, countless days I would cry over things like messy diapers, baby food being spit up and/or thrown all over the floor, things around the house breaking…the stress of handling such a large load all by yourself can really take a toll on you.

One other emotion I experienced as a single parent was jealousy.  I hate to admit it but it’s true.  I was jealous of my friends who talked about going to dinner with their husbands or going on vacation somewhere.  I would go shopping or be at church or watching TV and see families everywhere and be jealous of what they had.  I became jealous when I received Christmas cards from people with their beautiful family pictures on them.  Jealous because they had their whole family together and I didn’t have that.  I had to pray hard and really work at not becoming bitter.  It would have been so easy to fall into a downward spiral of bitterness and stay there, but I knew I couldn’t just sit around feeling sorry for myself.  I had to do what I could to stay positive and deal with things day by day. 

Being a military spouse added some extra stress.  Every day you think about your spouse and pray for their safety.  You try not to worry, but there is a part of you that just can’t help it.  And, In the midst of thinking about this and trying to avoid watching the news so you don’t see any bad news from over seas, it’s like I said above, you are saddened that you can’t share in all the little moments and joys with your spouse. But, it’s also more than that.  You’re sad for them; you’re sad because you get to experience special moments with your child(ren) as they grow but your spouse misses them.  And, when you have a baby, it’s difficult to know your spouse isn’t able to experience the baby’s first steps or first word, or all the other milestones they make as they grow.  Pictures and video can only do so much.  Skype is great too, but it doesn’t make up for the lost moments.  But, it is better than nothing so you rejoice in that.   

 After this experience, I have a new respect for single parents and what they go through each day.  Every day I would pray and ask God to bring Tim home safely and every day I would pray for my friends and family who are single parents.  I would pray for God to give them strength and stamina to get through each day; each long challenging day.  I know now what single parents experience; the exhaustion, the stress, the emotions, and I will never take for granted again the blessing it is to have my husband by my side day after day.

I am very grateful to those who stood by my side and helped in any way they could.  To those who made me meals and babysat, to those who came over and watched “G” so I could grocery shop, do laundry, or clean, to those who came over when I pinched a nerve and watched “G” for a bit so I could lay down and ice my neck, to those of you who prayed for our family day by day.  To all of you I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.  I couldn’t have gotten through this without you

To all you military spouses with deployed partners and to those of you who are single parents every day, I pray blessings on you and I salute you.

 **And to those of you who read this LONG post in its entirety, thank you!**


11 Responses to "On being a military wife and single parent during a deployment"

Hola from Rochester NY: Today’s temperature is a fabulous 53, no coat , not still grey.
I enjoyed reading your blog on being a “single parent”_I can not imagine what it would have been like since I had my spouse there to assist. I was also a stay at home Mom until my /our son Dario turned 8 months. At that time I went to work pt and Daddy was the care taker.
I love your words, your descriptions and I can almost hear your passion of being a Mom & a wife in your words.
I love reading about your son and hope your continue to write about his days.
As I sign-off I recall the many, many hours that I played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and or with his Hot Wheels and the true pleasure that it gave me every day. I especially loved leaving the dishes in the kitchen sink so I could go ” playling” . That’s what Dario called it, “playling.”
So to “playling” and enjoying each & every moment that being a Mom brings.

Peace Michele

Thanks Michele. It’s fun to hear your memories of when your son was younger.

Cannot imagine what it was like. You are amazing friend. 🙂

Thanks Christine! 🙂

You’ve gone thru alot in a short time – and you have soooo much more to experience. I pray you have the strength to do what needs to be done and thank God that you have someone at your side. Cherish each and every experience while G is growing up. Having Zack has been the best thing in my life – though I cried a river a tears nothing can compare to the pride and joy that I feel when he gets to another milestone. Now that he is 19 there are is a whole other set of things to get thru – girlfriends and hope he is good, going out with his friends and his working late and the worry until he gets home, not being around as much to share in things with me because he has to experience things with his friends, the showing of his independence and pushing limits – he’ll soon be going on his first trip without me – we have never been seperated for more than one night – I want him to grow and experience and have a great life, but boy do I miss the totaly dependant little boy who needed and wanted me around night and day. Being a single parent is a 24/7 job – I thank God I was given the chance to do it and I still praying for strength and patience to carry on. Thank you for your prayers and always remember you all are always in mine and always on my mind. I love you very very much.
Aunt Laura

Thank you Aunt Laura. I love you and Zack very much also!

Sounds like really hard work. I think the recompensation comes when you find that you have a much closer bond with your child than most parents. Anyway, I admire mothers who manage to handle that.

Thanks. It is nice having a close bond with my son as a result. Still, hard to go through.

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