I, personally, experienced deployment differently then some women, it would appear. During my husband’s deployments, I did not have his emotional support at all, and I even sometimes envied my sister, who actually was a single mom. She was able to find that emotional shoulder if she wanted. A “parenting for two” parent cannot. When the wife of a deployed military man needs a shoulder to cry on, she is expected to stuff her face in her pillow and cry. When she is an emotional wreck, who can she turn to? No one. Some will disagree and say “she turns to her fellow wives!” And you’re absolutely right. That’s the way it goes and it should go. Unless she is in a position where the people she is comfortable enough to turn to are experiencing their own grief or tragedy or difficult times. In my case, there were circumstances each time where the only thing I could do was suck it up and move along. Finding a strong friendship in the military community is vital.
This is not to say that my husband would not emotionally support me. But, to be honest, I heard from him a total of three times his second deployment, seventeen times his third deployment, and every three weeks his fourth deployment, with each phone call never exceeding five minutes each. His job is stressful and requires his undivided attention, so telling him how difficult I was finding parenting for two was out of the question. We spent a majority of our time on the phone filling him in on how the kids were progressing in school and how the wives of his various men were. As a unit, he and I took a great interest in the welfare of his platoon’s families because it greatly impacted their combat readiness. I wasn’t able to tell him how hard things were because it might affect his success on the battlefield, and I couldn’t tell my wives because they were having a hard time, too.
A lot of the women who commented on my post about single parenting suggested that a single mom has a much harder life, but I can’t help but disagree, based solely on my experiences during deployment.
I don’t believe one is harder than the other, but rather that the individual experience of each woman reflects unique challenges to each life. Where I, the woman who is parenting for two, have to shove my head under my pillow to cry all alone for seven to eighteen straight months, the single mom might not get two days off in a row for seven to eighteen straight months. Where I had to haul three tired, cranky children (two of whom were potty training and one of whom was finding her inner pre-teen obnoxiousness) to my doctor’s appointments where they were expected to sit quietly next to the neurologist’s desk for 45 minutes so mommy could talk to the “brain doctor” without any assistance from my absent spouse, a single mom might work three jobs just to afford the same appointment for herself.
Basically, a single parent has to provide solely for her children financially, and a “parenting for two” parent has to provide solely for her children in every other aspect during a deployment. The upside (if we can call it that) to being a single parent is having the freedom to seek out that mate that will never leave them or their children. The upside to parenting for two is that it is usually not permanent. And, you will get stronger; we can help!
Regardless of all of this, being a single parent and parenting for two are outrageously demanding and shockingly rewarding. Single moms and military wives are some of the only women who can change a flat tire as efficiently as they put on their makeup, fix a clogged sink like a pro in the same amount of time it takes them to make dinner, and change a lawn mower blade while simultaneously teaching her three curious children how a motor works.
They are some of the only women who might sit down and cry when their washing machine explodes and then roll up their jeans legs and get to work fixing it before it ever occurs to them to call a man to do it for them. They know what it’s like to scrape hot dog chunks off the ceiling in the middle of the night while balancing precariously over the edge of their counter because they either can’t carry the stupid heavy ladder in from the garage or they don’t have one and there isn’t anyone else to remove the dried yet sticky ketchup covered globs from the white surface. They are some of the only women who, for a moment in time at least, have the undivided love and adoration of their children. Not that they would ever mind sharing that love with their mate, but sometimes…it is what it is.