I know I’ve mentioned the Monsters. Their father and I are no longer together. I’m not yet remarried, though we’re working on it. The man I plan to marry travels a lot for work. He’s gone far more time than he is home. The 4 of us have found a comfortable routine, and it works for us.
Today though, I want to write about the term “single parent”. I suppose, technically, I am one. I know I was for a few years, where I wasn’t seeing anyone seriously.
But, I really dislike this term applied to me now. I also really dislike women married to men who travel or who are in the military saying things like “Oh, now I know how you single moms feel!”
No, you really don’t. You don’t know what it is like to have the parent of your children just leave.
Those women, and myself, aren’t crying at night wondering why they weren’t good enough for the dad to stick around. You may have to spend a lot of time raising the kids alone, but, you can be pretty certain that there will be money in the bank to buy groceries at the end of the week. You aren’t the only adult in the kids lives and don’t have to be everything all the time. You aren’t trying to explain to the 4 yr old that daddy isn’t coming home tonight, actually, he isn’t coming home ever. Your meager income, if you have to work, doesn’t have to cover the babysitter, and school for you, and groceries and gas in the car, and the dr appointment, and the rent, and the car insurance, and…and…and. I wish all these faux single moms would think about it, when their husbands are gone, they aren’t “single moms”. For them to be single moms, all the expenses need to stay the same, while the income drops by 3/4ths. You have to fit all the same things in your day, except also add in a couple court dates because the dad wants to claim he can’t pay child support. You don’t have someone to complain to at the end of the day, and every other Sunday the kids are absolute terrors while they readjust to being home. Very rarely does anyone jump in and say “wow, you have a lot on your hands, why don’t I watch the kids while you go out for lunch?”, but I see this happen ALL the time with the military wives. I have a divorced friend right now, with a chronic condition that makes it almost a necessity to go to the ER when she has a flare up, but, with kids at home and nobody willing to help, she can’t. It’s making the situation worse. (Yes, I know, “Why aren’t you helping?” Because, in an emergency, me 4-5 hrs away doesn’t do anyone much good.) Also, generally, the parents who spend a lot of time parenting alone are almost regarded as heroes, as long as they are in a relationship. Once that relationship doesn’t work out, and you are alone, well…you should have made better choices. Yes, because I’m sure all single parents threw caution to the wind and had a baby with the first person around who had working parts. The “I know how you single moms feel now” crowd isn’t getting judged. It’s “unpatriotic” to say “You knew he was in the military when you met him, now suck it up.”
I’m not saying anyone SHOULD say that (though, I have thought it a time or two); especially when the people complaining are doing so when their spouse has never left the US, never been in any danger, and they complain nonstop for those 6 weeks he’s gone for training. Again though, I’m not saying “suck it up” is the right attitude to have, but it isn’t the right attitude to have towards almost anyone. Not just people you feel are noble enough.
In my opinion, every time someone says to me “Oh, he’s gone that much? So, you’re a single mom then?” It’s discounting how hard it really is. Things are probably 150 times easier now, with this version of single motherhood than they were when I actually was one. There was a point for awhile I was working 3 jobs. And, going to school. Plus, trying to take care of my kids and the house and do my homework. Nights where I’d sit at my desk in the dark, reading the homework assignment, with a sleeping 4 yr old on my lap because that was the only time I go to spend with him. There were lots of days where I was trying to read a textbook at work and praying nobody noticed, because I promised the kids we’d play uno that night when I got home. There was the time my youngest almost cut off part of his ear, and while I cleaned up his blood, and headed out to go to the emergency room, his brother puked. Or the time all three of us had a complete break down in the Dollar Store because I couldn’t afford to buy them a toy. Now? Yes, I may still end up with the ear/puke issue, and I still keep myself pretty busy. But, there is some balance. Maybe I do skip homework to play Uno for the 13th time today, but this weekend, I’ll tell Aussie, and he’ll run a couple errands with the kids, and give me some time to catch up on Civil Litigation. And, yes, sometimes I still have to tell them I can’t buy a toy, it costs to much. But, I never have to say it about $1 toy anymore. Working 20 hrs a week at the school bookstore isn’t near as hard when I don’t have to think about the fact my pay barely covers gas and the babysitter. Homeschooling the kids is so much easier when I can hand Aussie the multiplication flash cards to have him practice with the 8 yr old Monster who refuses to sit still for 1/8th of a second. Parenting isn’t as discouraging after hearing nonstop reports about how children without a positive male influence are going to be sociopath, when there IS a positive male role model.
Yes, I have my bad days. I have Wednesdays where I have to call Aussie crying and say “I need you home! And please, just tell them to do their homework! Just for 20 minutes, that’s all!” But, I have that option, that option wasn’t there 3 years ago.
Please also, I don’t need people jumping all over this saying “Well, I am a military wife and it is hard, you never have to worry about your boyfriend going to war.” No, I don’t. And, I never said it isn’t hard. But, that doesn’t make you a single mom. And, yes, your husband is going away to defend our country, my boyfriend is going away to put in the equipment that will save your husband’s life if he gets hurt. But that doesn’t make you or me a “single parent”. It has put us in possibly a more challenging position, by CHOICE, but, it is not the same as going about it on your own.
I won’t pretend I know how hard it is when your spouse leaves for work, but please don’t pretend you finally understand how hard it is to not have that spouse.