Saturday, December 3, 2011

I Haven't Been a Single Mother

I'm a Navy wife but I'm not a single mom.  My husband has been gone for almost seven months, but he has been here in every way he knows how.  I might not have his hands to help, but every ounce of energy that he can put towards our family, he does.

I know that when people tell me how they could never do what military spouses do, or could never handle two kids so small alone, that they mean it as a compliment.  That when they ask how "single motherhood" has been, that they are trying to acknowledge my efforts as an accomplishment.  Not insult me.  And definitely not insult my husband.  But I know that when John thinks of our family and hears me described as a single mother that it breaks his heart, fills his mind with guilt, and certainly doesn't help him feel like what he has been doing the past seven months is noble.

Don't get me wrong, single mothers are amazing.  In my opinion, they have it much harder than I do.  They don't have a husband to lean on in hard times (even if it is just over email), they don't have flowers sent to them on bad days, they usually don't have the luxury of staying home with their children, and they don't have a loving partner who tries to be present in spite of his absence.  While I am physically a solo parent, financially and emotionally I have an unbelievable husband and father as a partner.

Solo parent.  This has become my little catch phrase over the past 7 months to describe the fact that I might be changing every.single.diaper. but I have a sweet husband supporting me in every other way possible.  He writes, sends packages, reads books to our kids on DVDs so that they can "watch daddy" whenever they want.  He has been amazing, and I am so lucky to have him.  Deployment is hard, but it is not divorce or death.

Recently my good friend Julie wrote a Facebook status saying that she was about to embark upon a long journey of single motherhood.  She was referring to her husbands upcoming training and deployment.  Within a few days the rumor mill in her family was buzzing about how she was getting divorced and she received a few confused phone calls asking what had happened with her marriage.  It was funny in a way, but solidified my feelings on the verbiage we use to describe ourselves as military spouses.  Our husband's deserve to be acknowledged in our family when they are deployed.  Saying we are single moms is not fair to them.

I know that some of you probably feel like what I am preaching about is semantics, not a big deal, or that I making a big deal out of nothing.  I disagree.  I see the guilt and anguish that lies just beneath the surface with my husband.  While he is proud of his service to the country, he needs to be encouraged about his contributions to the family.  The military lifestyle really does challenge his ability to "be there" for everything that most fathers and husbands can count on (holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, the birth of children, graduations, recitals, etc).  It takes it's toll on even the strongest and most stoic men and women.  By accepting the label as "single mother" I am agreeing that my husband isn't here.  And he is here. 

As we finish up the final days of this deployment, I want the world to know that most military parents do every.single.thing they possibly can for their families while they are deployed.  They leave a big part of themselves with their spouses and children.  John has made every effort this deployment to help me be a good mom and to help our children live a happy life.  So while solo parenting has been hard, I have never been a single mother.


Kim@DaisyFayeDesigns said...

I recently came across your blog and have loved your perspective on things. I am a Marine wife, and with a deployment looming in the spring (our 4th as a married couple, but first as parents), we are both anxious about how it will go. I have heard many friends refer to themselves as "single moms" and after reading this, I will never do that, as it would be disrespectful to my sweet husband who is already wanting me to record him reading books months in advance. I know he will do everything in his power to be "here" and that I will not be "single". Thanks for a wonderful post!

Angie said...

I agree. You said everything I have always thought perfectly. I may start using the solo parent phrase when it comes time for my husband to leave.

Lori said...

Amen. Beautifully spoken and honorably devoted! You are so right! Xoxoxo

Amy said...

Thank you for this post. You put into words what I have always felt. I was raised by a single mother and every time I hear a military spouse dealing with a deployment or TDY talk about being a single parent I cringe. As you said we are not single parents we are solo parenting. I believe there is a tremendous difference and we do a great disservice to our spouses and children when we refer to ourselves as single parents. Again thank you for putting my feelings into words.

Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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