The day came quickly and it felt like any other day. By the end of it I was settling into my new role solo parenting during deployment. I knew it was going to be hard for all of us and we would stretch and grow in so many ways but that wasn’t something I could really see or even feel just yet.
There are so many things you can prepare for in your life. Then there are so many things you cannot prepare for like the mental load that you take on during a deployment.
I know most of my readers reading this aren’t military spouses and that’s okay. Perhaps by reading this you can be better equipped to help a friend out who is a military spouse.
I knew the deployment was going to be harder than anything else I had gone through yet. We had experienced extended work trips but nothing quite like this.
We had no idea what to expect even after the first month had passed us by.
But it didn’t take too long for myself and our girls to settle into this new normal. It still didn’t feel quite right but the premise was all the same. Nothing was changing and I was still solo parenting during deployment.
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Lessons Learned While Solo Parenting During Deployment
Accepting that this won’t last forever.
The first hard lesson I learned during this time was accepting that this was a season and not the rest of my life. This is why I am calling this solo parenting during deployment and not single parenting because I feel like single parents have such a huge weight to bear all of the time.
If you can accept that this is a season that will pass earlier rather than later you will be in good shape.
I had to repeat this to myself almost daily in the beginning just to make it to dinner time.
Creating routines that work for everyone so the stability isn’t lost.
If there was one thing my dear friend advised me on leading up to this deployment was this that was a game changer it was this… “Heather, it’s going to be different but you will want to create routines for you and your girls that are simple and easy.”
If that wasn’t the best piece of advice I received early on I don’t know what was.
We were floundering at first. Our entire lifestyle had been turned on its head and here I am solo parenting these girls. I don’t know how to do anything else other than routines.
So finding what worked and going with it seemed to help us all out and allowed us to have that extra layer of stability during that time.
And let me tell you something right now… stability is what everyone needs when deployment orders come down.
Spend more time as a family and have fewer commitments.
We realized from the beginning before my husband even left that the girls would need lots of family time. That meant traveling quite a lot for us.
We cut down on the commitments we had outside of our family and just spent that time together. Since I had the ability to work on the road I just took my work with me and we traveled whenever it felt right.
We went to see family at least monthly with the exception of one month where we stayed home. We filled that month with lots of friend visits and overnights.
Our military family was included in this. We had Friday night pizza and swim nights for the first half of summer and when it cooled off and that friend got busy another friend graciously opened their door to us.
We were never alone unless we truly wanted to be and that was nice. Just the sound of other human beings around that weren’t children comforted me.
Build a tribe that you can lean on.
Spending more time with family leads me right into my next point nicely. If there is anything you can do while a spouse is deployed it’s to build a tribe that is going to be there for you when you need it. Because you are going to need it.
I live in a place that is essentially all military and they get it. I wouldn’t have made it through solo parenting during deployment without them.
There were days where I took my toddler to my friend’s house and dropped her off no questions asked with nothing in return. She graciously took my daughter and allowed me time to just be alone.
It sounds counterintuitive to everything I’ve said so far but there will be times when you will want a tribe for this purpose.
Having time to just get caught up on sleep, cleaning, work or Netflix without children begging for your every glance is something you want in your arsenal.
Find special things to do with the kids.
While their other parent is away you may not want to create too many special memories for fear of feeling selfish, but do it anyways.
The way I see it is life goes on and that may sound harsh but it’s important to your kids to see their solo parent having fun too.
Being cooped up inside would have crushed me since I already work from home. So we made it a point to go to the pool, parks, movies and more.
We even took a trip to see family out of state and were gone for 2 weeks. Make the memories because the other half of your parenting team is making memories where they are at. You will want stories to swap!
Acknowledging I needed help and asking for it.
This was a big deal for me because I have always been really self-reliant. I couldn’t imagine asking for help at the beginning of deployment but by the end, I was sending out group texts taking bids on said help.
This was a hard lesson to learn but a good one. I am not weak and I cannot do it all so why not allow very willing neighbors and friends jump in and lend a hand.
Side note: Thank you to everyone who helped me during that time. You have no idea how much it means to this very prideful woman even almost a year later to admit I needed you.
To be willing to learn new skills you didn’t necessarily have before.
This not only hits the parenting side of things but also other areas of life as well. When it came to solo parenting and learning new skills I had to figure out what worked for disciplining.
My children have never been good listeners which led to a lot of yelling mom moments. I’m not proud of those but I knew during this deployment if I didn’t find techniques that worked I would be doomed.
So I learned how to be a more positive parent. I gave them choices and they had to live with those choices. We found what worked for us and when all else failed they were sent to their rooms so mom could have a timeout.
When it came to learning life skills there were quite a few new ones I had to figure out.
Like mowing, running a weed-eater and cleaning a pool. With a lot of patience and willingness to get my hands dirty I learned new skills.
I am happy to report I still help out with those things this year even though I have my man home to do them.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Because it’s almost guaranteed that this is something you will forget for a while I am going to put this out there right now.
We have to take extra care of ourselves while solo parenting during deployment. No one else is going to do it for you.
I learned this the hard way when I was burned out, sick and battling head lice for the 3rd time alone.
Sometimes work and play need to be put to the side so you and your children can relax and recoup.
Self-care is vital.
Ditch the countdown calendar.
For us the countdown calendar never existed but I am putting this out there for you in case anyone reading this is thinking of making one.
The countdown for us was always a brutal reminder of how much time we had left. The tunnel never seemed to be getting shorter and we could never see the light at the end.
We just never talked about the time and when anyone would bring it up we wouldn’t talk about it much.
This helped us a lot and I can’t imagine doing it any other way now.
This last lesson is a post-deployment lesson I learned. I didn’t listen much when my friends would mention re-integration.
Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for a rough landing and transition.
There will be a euphoric time in the beginning when your other half returns. Everyone is so excited and it feels like you’re living in a daze.
But reality will hit soon enough. When it does be prepared for a transition unlike any other you’ve experienced.
Make sure you have open communication on both sides and be willing to let go of the reins and allow your spouse to jump back into his role.
Out of all of the emotions, experiences and bad dreams, I went through during his deployment this is the one I wish I would have prepared for the most.
While this entire list of lessons learned isn’t exhaustive it’s a great start and if there is one person reading this that I can impact in some way then I will know that sharing my story has truly done it’s job.
If you’re struggling right now to get through a solo parenting season then I encourage you to grab my affirmation cards below. I created them during our deployment season and they truly helped me to get through some really tough days.
9 Practical Ways to Thrive During Seasons of Solo Parenting by Addison Reads
Affirmations for Motherhood
Breathe life into your journey through motherhood with these affirmations.