When anyone asks me the most difficult part of military life, I always quickly say deployment. It’s the most talked about challenge in the military lifestyle and usually causes the most problems.
Deployments are long, lonely and absolutely suck for everyone involved. All the shared responsibilities now fall on you, and no matter how much you try to prepare, it never works out quite as planned. One of the biggest responsibilities goes toward those little rug crawlers known as military brats.
During my first deployment experience I had many “woe is me” moments and often compared my struggles to those of a single parent. My current life was so hard and I didn’t understand why I had to do it all alone. I loved my kids but I got tired of playing both mommy and daddy. I didn’t have many friends and there were never any breaks. My husband was thousands of miles away and, according to me, there was no way he could possibly parent. What I didn’t realize until he and I had a discussion one evening was that he was parenting. In fact, he was doing the best he could from a combat zone across the world.
It was at that point I realized that I needed to drop the pity party act. I was in no way a single parent. My husband still disciplined the kids, he still looked at report cards and he still instilled his wisdom and shared his thoughts with our kids. Physically he wasn’t there but he was parenting from a distance.
I began to get somewhat offended when civilians outside the military community (and even those within) referred to military spouses as single parents. Sure we were alone and raising kids and doing a lot of the things single mothers and fathers did. Heck, there are times when our situations may be even more complicated because in many cases we lived in other countries without family nearby to help. However, when it comes down to it, we do have husbands and wives who are helping out as much as they can — even if from thousands of miles away.
Single parents are sometimes the sole supporter for their household and in most cases there is no spouse that comes home to a happy homecoming after nine months. They don’t get the privilege of free housing on a military base, commissary benefits and free medical care. I often tell family members who make the single parent comment that it’s almost a slap in the face to the service member. It makes it seem like the other half doesn’t exist and has no part in the parental process.
I know that when people make the single parent analogy they don’t mean any harm and are just commenting on what they see on the surface and in the physical. The contrast is there though — and people should be aware of it. I am married and my husband may be overseas at times, but we are certainly a unit. There is no single parent here.
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