I am the proud wife of a man that wears a uniform and in some fashion that makes my life unique however, given the emotional roller coaster I’ve endured over the last 72 hours I am certain this does not just happen to military spouses. Sometimes when I find myself swimming in the pool party of pity I have created for myself I’m quickly reminded that there are plenty of single parents out there that are in the same position as me. The only difference between us is that this was a choice I made. I know my fellow spouses could argue the “its my choice” statement until the ships come home, but thats not what this is about so lets not!
I’ve been through my fair share of rotational deployments and TDY’s (English/Civilian Translation = business trip) so I’m the first to admit that when my husband – I call him Red, tells me he’s leaving he should definitely specify if it will be for more than 30 days or chances are I’m not going to think twice about it. In addition to that, he should also specify “over seas” or “state side” because the chances are just as likely as the latter that I’m not going to think twice about where he’s going either if he doesn’t make that clear. I know to some of you I sound demented, but I’m no novice. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that 30 days or less is a walk in the park. He’s going to leave and I’m going to get the remote to myself. I’m going to make crappy dinner’s, sit on my iPad and use Pinterest in bed until the sun comes up and not put make-up on every Saturday. I’m going to handle ALL of the responsibilities like a boss! I’ll keep the kids fed and clean while I make their bed time routines my bitch. I’m going to pick up dog poop, water plants, take out the trash (on time) and I’ll paint my nails twice a week. Like I said ya’ll, I’m no amateur.
Or so I thought…
Little did I know, this (temporary) single-mom life was about to throw me the biggest and baddest curve ball I’ve ever seen. So, batter up.
One thing I’ve learned with my kids is that routine is essential. It’s the most important thing in our house when my husband is gone because it’s one of the very few things in this lifestyle that I can control and keep constant for them. The first part of the spin on this curveball, delivered a change in our routine. It use to go something like this:
Red: Oh, forgot to tell you. I’m probably going to be leaving again soon.
Me: When? Where? How long? With who? When? When? When?
Red: Couple months. I’m not sure yet, I’ll let you know when I know.
This year has been different. Fortunately for me – the adult that has a well rounded perception of time and distance – when my husband said he was going TDY (only four hours away) and could come home on some weekends I was thrilled. Unfortunately, this is the very thing that ruined said routine. Red would come home on Friday, and leave on Sunday. On Sunday night I knew that nine times out of ten I would encounter a bed time meltdown that included stalling, tears, attitude and a lot of “I miss my daddy.”At first, it was ok. Then it wasn’t and we contemplated him even coming home anymore. But before we knew it the trip was over (four months later). Then another trip came up. Even better this time. He’ll only be two hours from home. We’ll see him all the time! Fantastic!!! No. Not fantastic.
Red, came home for the weekend and as usual I experienced an emotional breakdown with my daughter A, on Sunday night. It was different though. This time she wasn’t just missing her daddy. She was pissed that she was missing her daddy. I held her, I rocked her, I talked to her, I did everything I could think of before we got to the point where I had to tell her enough is enough. This precious, soft-hearted little girl cried herself to sleep for the first time in four and a half years. It killed me.
This kind of havoc mentally drains you. It emotionally dominates your life and you begin to question your every move. I did, at least. Fast forward 19 hours. We’re home on Monday evening and I’m trying to keep my son H, happy with cheeze-its long enough to cook the ground turkey all the way through when A, comes into the kitchen with a face full of tears, looks me in the eye and asks “do you and daddy love H more than you love me?” Insert knife into heart <<here>>.
Again, as I held back my own tears we talked. I held her, I hugged her. I reassured her in every possible way I could that this is not how it’s going to be forever. I explained that H, takes a lot of my attention because he is still a baby and it’s a lot harder when your daddy is gone. I apologized. I made her a promise to try harder. I hugged her some more, and I thanked her for being so honest with me. I (think) we both felt a lot better after.
Jump ahead another 19 hours, bringing us to the present time. My bedtime routine with A, almost always includes a FaceTime call to Red, so we can all read the bed time story together. Tonight’s chosen book was… dun dun dun… Over There , a book to help kids cope with deployed parents. On the last page, there is a picture of A, and her daddy. We made it about four pages in before the water works started. And you can probably figure it out by now what happens next.
This has been a really hard couple of days. I have zero control over most of this situation right now and as a parent, it leaves me feeling thoroughly defeated. However, the days have afforded me the opportunity to reevaluate my parenting habits, my coping skills and my overall self-regard. Thanks, life! I have questioned my ability to be a good mother, to make them both my highest priority, to love them fully and care for them entirely. There is something overwhelmingly striking about listening to your child express their emotions and hoping to god you’re doing everything you can to make it right.
Moving forward, I’ve made a promise to my daughter and to myself to spend more one-on-one time with her, to hug more, to tell her I love her 200 times a day instead of the usual 100 and most importantly laugh with her more.
I may not be an newbie in the military spouse department but I am in the ‘raising two kids (semi) alone’ department. This shit is hard! I applaud and appreciate the single parent that has this down to a science. If you are successfully raising kids that aren’t assholes and your doing it primarily alone then, Hell Yeah! Good for you! Give yourself a pat on the back, have a glass of wine or a beer or whatever, buy that thing you’ve had in your amazon wish list for months! You deserve it. That, and so much more!
Here’s to hoping we all wake up tomorrow and have a successful day of parenting and living.