I see you over there at every significant event with your spouse and kids and parents and in-laws, siblings and their kids, grandparents, and extended family, friends even.
You’re loud with inside jokes and almost obnoxious laughter within your safety net of family and close friends, whom you’ve known forever, in a place where you’ve always lived, surrounded by people who love you and whom you love, despite the mistakes of your past, your gawky teen years, going away to college and returning to marry and start your own family.
I don’t know what it’s like to be surrounded by friends and family.
Your eyes cut to me more than once.
Do you look uncomfortable or curious?
I’m the mom at her kids’ events, alone.
You might wonder if I’m a single mom.
Am I separated, divorced, or widowed?
You might wonder where my people are – parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, whoever.
I try to take lots of pictures for memories.
I go home after events and practices to email or text a summary and all the photos that turn out.
My husband is deployed.
Or working late, weekends, doubles.
His parents passed the first year we married. His sisters choose not to have a relationship with us.
My parents live far away and we’re not close. Almost all my extended family have passed since I’m the youngest grandbaby.
Many people ask, “How do you do it?”
I just do.
This is my life.
I’ve had some scoff that this is my choice and I could make changes if I really wanted to.
I wonder: what could they possibly mean? Separation from the military before retirement (maybe in two more years!) and lose all those benefits? Geobaching? Divorce? What?
Of course it’s my choice. I knew what I was doing when I married my military man. It doesn’t make life any easier when the going gets rough.
I didn’t realize I can’t ever express sorrow, regret, loneliness, heartache – or any emotion that isn’t overwhelmingly patriotic and positive – over certain life circumstances like others so often do for shallow sympathy.
I do what I have to do to raise my children well, often with an absent father who travels or deploys for work. I sometimes struggle to be everything to my kids – mother and father. They know to rely on themselves and each other and me. I’m the constant. I’m consistent.
Sometimes, it’s just really hard and lonely.
Solo Parenting Tips
- Stricter schedule
- Earlier bedtimes for kids so I have alone time
- Nature/outdoor time daily for at least 30 minutes
- Healthy eating and plenty of water
- Hire or borrow help when needed
- Take lots of pictures
- Video chat
- Have kids draw pictures, write letters, make treats to mail
- Have kids help create and deliver care packages to USPS
- Scrapbook or photo book of time missed