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Single Parenting: When You’re Not Really Single

Active duty military spouses may not be single, but they definitely know how it feels to be a single parent. Every time their spouses leave on a deployment, or for shorter stints (i.e. the Navy’s ‘underways’), they have to act as though they are single parenting. Most decisions will have to be made on their own, without the input from the other parent. All aspects of parenting will fall on their shoulders, such as housekeeping, homework help, meal preparation, and so much more.

Having a set of tricks up their sleeves is the only way many of these spouses get by. One highly recommended technique is allowing the kids to share in the responsibilities of the home. With each child having their own chores to complete, the kids have a way to earn special rewards while also reducing the strain felt by the spouse who is doing the not-quite-single parenting. Even if the kids are still pretty young, give them tasks that are age appropriate. For example, you might not want to trust your 4 year old with doing the dishes, but they can be coached into putting their dirty clothes in the washing machine. Also, put an old tube sock in their hands (and even draw a face on it!), then spray furniture polish all over the surfaces that need dusting. Tell the little ones that their sock monster needs to eat up all the dust!

Single ParentingAnother common dilemma when the spouse is deployed is what to do in case of an emergency. While not always the case, most commands will have an FRG, or Family Readiness Group; a luxury most people who are single parenting don’t have. This group can be there for you in so many ways. You just have to learn what they are capable of! If the military has stationed your family hundreds of miles from the closest friends or relatives, make sure you list your ombudsman (or FRG leader) as a person to contact if something were to happen. The ombudsman (or family representative for the command) will know how to contact the absent parent, as well as have next of kin records available to them in order to help you make sure the kids are taken care of.

Anyone who knows what single parenting is like is all too familiar with the long evenings after the kids go to bed, when the house is too quiet. The best ways to cope with the feeling of being all alone are to stay busy, and to incorporate the absent parent as much as possible. Take lots of pictures, as often as possible. If you can work it into the budget, invest in a video camera. Talk to the other parent as if they were right there as you record the special moments they are missing with the family. As silly as it might feel at first, this will prove invaluable to both you and the other parent upon their return home. Also, remember that when all is said and done, you are NOT alone. The other parent, while not in the single parenting role, misses you and the family just as badly, and would jump at the chance to come home if it were given to them.

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