I’m going to draw attention to something that most of us would never want attention to in the first place because 1) It’s doing what we have to do just like anyone else in this world, and 2) Single parenting is generally, probably, harder and we hate to even imply that we’re comparing.
So, full disclaimer: this is not whining or in search of praise, nor is it comparable to other difficult family dynamics out there. We all look different and have our own unique challenges at the end of the day, and all of that is worth recognition. Parenting is just hard, period.
But damn, solo parenting in the military is one of the most underrated, difficult things I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing, and now experiencing firsthand.
And yes, solo and single parenting are different terms because they are different life experiences. Solo parenting is taking on parenting not by choice or due to the end of a relationship, but because of life circumstances that separate you from your partner; circumstances that will either better your family or, in the military, better your country. It’s wanting to be together with every fiber in your being but not being able to because of external factors.
This comes with unique challenges. Deciding to go separate ways allows room for a new chapter. It opens the door to, hopefully, growth and needed change because it is a decision – difficult nonetheless – that you are somewhat in control of. Waiting on someone to come home feels like one giant pause button, on the other hand. There’s no mending your heart and healing as an individual, because half your heart is currently gone. There’s no building a new norm, because just as you get used to doing it all, they come home and life suddenly starts over again. There’s no control over it because it’s not a decision you own. That’s hard. For different reasons and in different ways, it’s hard.
And it translates to your kids, and it feels so unfair. Everyone wants daddy home, but he’s just not because of things that are far bigger than your family.
So you wait. And you deal. Generally, far, far away from family because you also don’t have control over where you live. So you build a village and you hand select your family, but then you have to start over because a few years is far too long to be in any one place.
And it’s not talked about because we’re not the ones in uniform. Or, those who do notice you focus on it as if it was your choice. “I could never do what you do!” “I could never be a military spouse!”
We fell in love and we exchanged vows entirely because of our love, not because of any sort of clue what our future would entail. This isn’t the life we chose. It’s the love we chose. Nobody gets to choose their life, unless they’re willing to pass up love out of fear of life.
Because when you love someone, you’ll wait, even if it’s not by choice. You’ll have children with them even if they can’t always be with you to raise them. You’ll find home in random corners of the country, world, that a recruiter picks for you because being with the person you love will always trump being in the place you love.
But this thinking that we choose it persists, and it leads to the thought that we are stronger because of it. We’re not doing it because we’re stronger, we’re just doing it because we have to. When people label us stronger, suddenly we’re praised more than we are supported.
We don’t want praise. We just want community, understanding and support.
Don’t admire a military spouse. If you’re able, see how you can help them, instead.