I'm Not a Single Parent

Tonight, I looked at my beautiful children–a sight that normally fills me with love and joy–and felt dread. I felt the dread of the solo bedtime routine. Trying to balance the needs and desires of two very young kids while still leaving myself enough time to do work and straighten up can be exhausting.

But I am not a single parent.

My husband is just on drill. He’ll be home tomorrow and I’ll have my parenting and life partner back.

Even when he was deployed, he was still my husband. Although I miss him when he is gone, that is a very different type of absence than that felt by someone who is widowed or separated.

We still have our love and our mutual support and our commitment to working together on our relationship and our parenting.

I’ve heard some military spouses…and even some moms whose husbands are on business trips…joke that they are “single parents”. I think we are allowed our little jokes and I hope the real single moms don’t take offense. Really, though, we aren’t single parents at all. We have our own challenges, of course. Personally, though, I’ll take my own set of challenges over those of the single parent, any day.

Geographical separation is not the same as separation by divorce or death.

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  1. Mrs. K says:

    Good point. I very much agree.

  2. You’re absolutely right, we still have emotional support from them from a distance, even if they can’t wrap their arms around us or be the second set of hands we need to make sippy cups or change diapers.

  3. Tonya says:

    You are right. Our situation, prayerfully, is just temporary. When my husband left for his deployment last year, I developed a new respect for single parents that handle all the parenting responsibilities alone day in and day out.

  4. [...] I didn’t realize what the third loss was that I was mourning until I read this article online. [...]

  5. I’m not sure if I should be offended by this article or what. While I, and every other military spouse, may not technically be single but when there is basically zero support where we’re stationed (which happens to be overseas), husband is gone much more often then he’s home and I’m doing *everything* for much longer then a “drill weekend”, i absolutely feel as though I’m a single parent.

  6. An Army Wife says:

    I have to agree with this article. Never once have I felt like a single parent this entire deployment. I have an amazing email/chat/phone support system that I get from my husband. Never once has he made me feel like I am doing this on my own. Ever.

    I think that a single parent would take offense to any military spouse who jokes that they are a “single parent”. At least we only have to do this for 12 months or so at a time. They have to do it without the emotional and most of the time, financial support of their parent of their child.

    You don’t like it when people compare business trips to deployments, so don’t compare your life to that of a single parent. You have it so much better than they do.

    Just saying.

  7. Roxy says:

    @the sometimes single mom: If you’ve ever actually been a REAL single mom you’d know that you don’t feel like a single mom. You might have no support, but until you’ve been the breadwinner who has to decide between going to work to pay the bills or taking your kid to the doctor, you have no idea. Believe me, I have been on both sides of this fence. Even with little support at your base (which would be more from your not reaching out cause every base especially overseas offer support to deployed spouses) you still have a husband who supports your family.

  8. Candace says:

    @the sometimes single mom

    Really no offense is intended. It is a point if view, and one with which you are free to disagree.

    And if you’d like to guest post or submit an interview to be featured, I would welcome your voice here!

    I can’t speak to anyone else’s life, only my own.

    You mentioned “drill weekends” although I said my husband has been deployed for 12 months … and whether he is gone two nights, two weeks, a month, or a year, I miss him all the same.

    Our daughter was born with a heart defect and so I couldn’t take her out in large gatherings and the friends I had made were fearful of giving her a cold. In many ways, it was a nightmare to do this without my husband near. But it was a far different nightmare than the one in which two solemn men in uniform knock on my door.

    My point is not that we aren’t allowed to joke. Or that we don’t face many challenges. My point is just that there is a difference between feeling lonely and being alone. And to remember that too many of our sisters (and brothers) in the military spouse club have known the latter. My heart goes out to them in their journeys, as it does to all military spouses.

  9. SKC says:

    I agree…except with the gentle hint that single mothers have it harder and should be lauded. I can’t agree with that.

    Exclude widows from this. They are not single mothers by choice. They indisputably have it worse than everyone. Not only must they deal with day-to-day life, but they also fall under the burden of grief. Exclude single mothers who tried their best to work out a relationship with an impossible spouse who abused them, drugs & alcohol, etc. and after years of trying, had to call the time of death on their marriage. What are you left with? Single mothers who did not use birth control, single mothers who chose not to marry the baby’s father, single mothers who chose to get knocked up because babies are cute, single mothers who threw away an “average” spouse because he wasn’t romantic enough, good looking enough, smart enough, etc. and they got the notion from chick lit, romantic comedies, etc. that this lofty notion of L-O-V-E was a clarion call to end their marriages in some quest to “find themselves” In fact, this seems to be the biggest group of single mothers. 78% of prison inmates were raised in a fatherless household. I think there is something to be said for those who make this way of life a “choice”…but it’s not something all that nice.

    Why should single motherhood NOT be trumped above military marriage?

    - Single mothers don’t have someone they desperately love whom they are forced to be separated from.
    - Single mothers go through the divorce process and it’s over. Military spouses go through hardships of hellos and goodbyes for many, many years.
    - Single mothers usually can live right next to friends, family, etc. who can help them out. Tell that to a mil spouse stationed overseas in a foreign language setting with no family or friends and her husband leaving on a deployment.
    - Any spouse who has gone through the cycle of emotions when their husband is told he’s leaving, leaves, comes back on furlough, leaves again, comes back again, is home for a month, hears he’s deploying again…would definitely agree this makes the situation MUCH different than ending a relationship.
    - The stress of military children going through this endless cycle is another thing.
    - It is EXTREMELY difficult to hold a marriage together in the military, despite all the separations, but military spouses do it. Sometimes divorcing and living separate would be much easier than keeping the marriage together for a stressed couple who are separated so much that they aren’t even sure they have a true marriage anymore.

    In conclusion, I think comparing military spouses to single mothers is apples to oranges, but I DEFINITELY would not talk about how a single mother should be given martyr status over a military wife. I think the stress of adapting your family to “just you and the kids” and having to expand the family to “Me, my husband, and the kids” is equally as stressful as most wives can attest. Most military marriages break up after the deployment is over because couples aren’t used to being around each other anymore. The two situations cannot and SHOULD not be compared. Nobody is saying military wives are saints, but the case can be made even more that most single mothers usually aren’t saints, either. It’s not about one-upping another group of people, but should be taken into account on a case-by-case basis. The fact is, when your spouse is not around, you ARE ascribed to the duties of single parent…except for that dating part, because there might be some problems there. ; )

    • Candace says:

      I think you are missing the point, entirely. This has nothing to do with praising single mothers or martyr Olympics or getting into the underpinnings of societal issues. The point is, quite simply, that having a husband who is deployed or on an extended training is far different than having a husband who is dead or who has walked out on the family. And I do think it is important, in our military spouse community, to note there are far too many widows among us.

      You speak of choices…some are fond of reminding us our own lifestyle in the military is a choice in these days of an all volunteer force, as well. Does that make the challenges we face any less difficult?

      In the end though, it boils down to this: my husband is still my partner and a darn good father, even when he is away. It is tough, and I am lonely, but as long as he is alive and loves me, I am never “alone”. And all I have to do is think of which “option” I prefer–and it is clear I am not a single parent.

  10. Rachael says:

    I was just thinking about this today. My husband left in Jan and he wont get back till July. I have a 2 year old baby boy. And everytime I look at him I see his father. Its hard sometimes dragging yourself out of bed before everyone is up becuase you know you have alot of things to do and very little time to do it. And at times I do feel like a single mom. I must admit. But I konw at the end of the day I am not. And I am happy for that. Its just a differnt feeling then what is normal. I have a husband, but I still have to do everything alone.
    Its funny today is Easter and I got my son everything Army. Its really cute. But all this Army stuff aroung me makes me miss him more.

  11. Armylady says:

    Its kinda like being a single mom but who has a boyfriend.

  12. Frankie-Marie says:

    I totally agree with this article!
    It’s so much harder being a single parent, as I once was. We now have the support of my husband and not having to work my butt double sure does help! We don’t have to worry too much about housing, or money! It’s very different then having to worry while being a single parent if your gonna have enough for the month! Because I know my husband will do everything to not have us worry about money again. His job is to be army strong and do everything they ask for and my job, as I choosed and I like it , is to take care of the house and watch our daughter pretty soon it will also be college!

  13. Mrs. Bam says:

    My husband and I got married 7 months ago, and due to his job (he’s in the Army National Guard, but works a full time job as well) we have also been living seperate (4 hours distance) for 7 months. We had a baby almost 5 months ago and I did not move with him due to complications in my pregnancy and we did not want to leave our hospital or midwife. We had hopes of him transferring back here, so we waited on moving together until we knew for sure. It has been the hardest thing for me to deal with. I have my family here, which is helpful beings I am a new mother. However, I will be moving with him in a week and a half. He just informed me that he is reenlisting again and it’s not up for discussion and my opinion doesn’t matter. (he already resigned for a year without discussing it with me first) Now it’s a matter of time that he will deploy. And this has been my biggest fear. I already feel like a single parent. One that doesn’t have to be a bread winner…but still. I am raising our daughter alone. He visits most weekends, but that is not the same. He can’t give me a break for long, or put her to bed, or feed her since I am breastfeeding…or many other things. When he does try to help it isn’t very helpful since he isn’t here and isn’t familiar with our routine and the things that our daughter prefers. It is hard. VERY HARD! I guess if it is offensive I will not refer to it as single parenting…but as being the primary caretaker. I have been the primary caretaker. And since I am breastfeeding I do not get breaks. I am “working” 24-7 with no breaks, no days off, no vacation time. He does not understand that very well. And he, from time to time, will use the little time we get together to go have fun, play video games, hang out with friends, do his own thing. It has been very hard. And the first year of marriage, and the first child are supposed to be hard enough! And seperate. Not all of these circumstance all at once! And to think of deployment! I am overwelmed just thinking about it. And I am afraid. Very afraid! Since he has this wonderful full time job with wonderful benefits, and since we have already been apart for the first 7 months of our marriage…I have tried discussing this reenlistment with him. He won’t hear it. Our marriage has been through the wringer already. And frankly living together again is going to be harder than adjusting to us moving in together when we were just dating. And I think about the many women that had to adjust again after a deployment. Where you don’t get the luxury of just waiting until his 8 hour shift is over to call him and hear his voice, or to discuss things with him. What we have experienced the past 7 months seems like we have luxuries compared to what I can imagine going through a deployment will be. Hats off to the military families!!! I don’t know how to digest what the families go through. It isn’t exactly comparable to single parenting…it is a whole different thing in itself.