Here are the 5 hardest things about being a good parent.
*Disclaimer- I wrote this from the point of view of a wife/mother. I am very aware and acknowledge that men are in the same boat as us when they are the civilian spouse, but all of my experience comes from being a wife/mother surrounded by wives/mothers as that my husband is in an all male MOS. For the purpose of this article, when I use “single mom” I am also referring to the single dads.*
It was early 2005, around the middle of February. My infant daughter was running a fever, and I’d had to drive the hour and a half home from work in the middle of the day to pick her up from the sitter early. After some rocking and singing (and a popsicle because, as it turned out, she was only teething), she finally fell asleep. I called my dad while she slept on a blanket on the living room floor. We chatted for a time, talked about the weather (because even though 65 degrees is freezing cold in Twenty Nine Palms, apparently it gets colder in North Carolina) and then we discussed my husband’s deployment and how I was coping alone with the baby.
“I just feel like a single parent, ya know?” I’d said to him.
“Except that whole part about where you have a husband?” my dad flippantly asked. End of discussion.
A few years later, a few permanent duty stations later, a few kids later and in the beginning stages of my husband’s fourth combat deployment, I heard a wife address the concept of being a “single mom” during deployment.
“I am not a single mom, and neither are any of you,” she’d insisted rather emphatically. “Our husbands provide for us; we don’t have to go out and work twelve, sixteen hour days in order to afford insurance and food for our kids. That’s what single mom’s do.” That brief declaration stuck with me, and I spent a lot of time thinking about the differences.
As several women pointed out on a recent Facebook post I made, one of the biggest things that separate an actual single mom from the spouse of a deployed military member is the lack of supporting income. Generally speaking, a single parent has to completely provide for their children financially. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, and, in the case of child support, perhaps the responsibility isn’t as great. Another option is working from home by starting your own business.
But for the sake of simplicity, we will address the single parents who are fully responsible for the financial support of their children. Leigh Thoman, a family readiness assistant for a grunt battalion in the Marine Corps and a former Army soldier herself, notes, “Aside from child support or alimony, steady employment is required [for a single mom].” Author C.C. Brown, a Marine spouse and the daughter of a single mother, adds,
“When you get the luxury of being home with your children, not missing out on things, spending precious time with them because your husband is the breadwinner, you aren’t working hellish hours to make sure you and your kids have a roof over your heads, clothes on your backs, and food on the table, you are not a single parent.”
Suffice it to say that, even though our husband’s don’t make crazy money, they do manage to provide food for our tables, roofs over our heads, and insurance for our sniffles. Single parents don’t get those things provided for them.