Parenting — a rewarding, yet challenging task. More often than not, MilSpouse mamas find that life with kids is chaotic. Toys are flying everywhere, mud is being tracked into the house, dinner needs to be made — and the list goes on. In the end, you’re just trying to make it through one day at a time, especially if your servicemember is deployed.
No one ever teaches you how to be a single parent, but we’ve outlined a few tactics that might help you parent while your spouse is deployed. Just check out our tips below on how to be a single parent when your servicemember is deployed.
1. Set up a communication plan.
There is no better time to set up a communication plan than before deployment. Not only is the stress of parenting tough, but so is the stress of separation from your partner. A plan offers some stability and guidance with navigating how to be a single parent.
It’s important to talk about the difference between your ideal communication versus realistic communication. While talking every day would be great for you, your spouse, and your child, that isn’t always a feasible option. Set a realistic plan, whether you email each other every day and FaceTime once a week or send handwritten letters, etc. Having the support of your servicemember while they are deployed provides reassurance that you’re not alone in caring for your child.
2. Find MilSpouse support.
Finding the right support to get you through both the good and the tough times is imperative. You can reach out to the Military and Family Support Center to learn about some of the local resources and opportunities offered for the families of deployed servicemembers.
There are a variety of ways to connect with fellow MilSpouses, such as finding Facebook groups or joining MilSpouse chat forums. You can also use websites like meetup.com to join mom groups in your area to make friends after a new move. You never know — you could find another mother or father who is learning how to be a single parent for the first time, too!
3. Implement stress and anxiety management techniques.
Stress comes in many forms and is completely normal. Rather than worry even more about how to handle it, rest assured that you can find the assistance you need. Military OneSource offers confidential sessions with licensed professionals at no cost to servicemembers and their families. You can learn more about their non-medical counseling here or call 800-342-9647.
If talking to someone isn’t something you are interested in, there are many online resources to help you guide yourself through stressful times, such as these:
- 5 Ways Military Spouses Can Curb Anxiety While Their Servicemembers Are Deployed
- 10 Scientific Ways to De-Stress
- Mindful Monday: The Physical Benefits of Meditation
Remember, one method that might work for a friend may not work for you. The best thing you can do for yourself and your family if you are struggling with stress and anxiety is finding what works for you.
4. Hire dependable childcare if you can.
If you work full or part-time, go to school, or simply need a break from the stress of parenting, there are affordable childcare options that can help. The Department of Defense currently oversees more than 800 Child Development Centers (CDCs) on Military installations worldwide. Typically, childcare is offered for children from 6 weeks to 12 years old. You can find out if a CDC is available in your area on their website. Their fees vary by service and year, so be sure to check with your base for the most up-to-date fee charts.
If you’re looking for a babysitter or a nanny, you can look at websites such as SitterCity.com and Care.com. Both websites offer Military discounts and help you find credible, vetted babysitters in your area. You can also use tools like Child Care Aware of America to find programs that can potentially help you pay for childcare.
5. Take care of yourself.
Make sure your health and well-being are top priorities. Are you eating well or getting enough sleep? You don’t need to be a crazy workout addict, but exercising makes you a happier person. Running around with your kids outside or even just going for a 30-minute walk triggers endorphins. Caring for your physical health, in the end, helps care for your mental health.
If you really need some self-love, channel your inner Tom and Donna from Parks and Recreation and “treat yourself.” Hire a babysitter so you can go get a manicure or enjoy a glass of wine with friends!
Whether you’re learning how to be a single parent for the very first time or this is one of your servicemember’s many deployments, parenting without a partner requires patience, planning, and persistence. With a little support and preparation, though, you can and will succeed!
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