This is a guest post from an anonymous military spouse.
The day was a few months ago, but is still fresh in my mind. Our daughter took my hand after church and looked up at me as we headed to urgent care for a uncharacteristic sudden stomach pain and said, “Mom. Thanks for always taking such good care of me.” Little did I know our immediate world was about to change.
I took a deep breath, smiled and recognized the love and genuineness in which she thanked me. It confirmed for that moment, that I was doing a good job after nine months of flying mostly solo as a parent and it showed to her. We headed over to urgent care where I disagreed with the doctors most obvious diagnosis… something was wrong. Something didn’t feel right, I listened to that and headed out the door to the ER.
It was about 10pm by that time and as I went to start the car… it didn’t start. After always being the most dependable car … of all nights, it didn’t start. I had to get my daughter to the ER. My husband was literally six thousand miles away, as he had been for the last nine months. I had temporarily moved closer to family, which was spread out all across the big city I lived in. No military unit, just me and a few phone numbers in a city of four million people. Luckily my in-laws were a few miles away, came to get us, and we abandoned the car in the parking lot and were on our way.
I got to the ER by myself with our daughter, it was packed to the brim at midnight with kids. We took our seat and got in place in line. An hour later… my daughter who had never had anything of the sort occur, was an in a full grand-mal seizure in the ER waiting room. Within a minute, we were in the back trauma room of the ER, doctors and nurses surrounded us and I watched alone, our daughter having her first seizure.
It was the most terrifying experience a parent could have. I immediately rambled off her short medical history and could only think of her and my husband. How could this be happening?! How could my husband not be here? What was going on?! Shock, disbelief, panic. The medical team had me sitting in a chair in front of our daughter so I wouldn’t faint myself, all I could do was watch. She eventually came out of it and all I could think of was getting her through this and getting a hold of my husband overseas- immediately! What would I say? None of it was making sense…
Eventually, things calmed down. The Red Cross was involved, and my husband was able to come home for a short time. But there were decisions and testing and so much that occurred that I had to do on my own. My loving wonderful husband could not be there for everything. The last year of our second one year remote as a family was one of the most trying years to date. But we got through it. Here’s how:
1. You are not really a single parent.
When your spouse is overseas, TDY, ect… it may feel like it at times, but we’re just not. Single parents don’t have the love, support, input, and often financial stability that we have. We are still a family unit despite the thousands of miles. We still have house rules that the active duty member helped establish and we enforce. There is Skype, FaceTime, phone calls, emails ect. There were plenty of times that this did not suffice this year, but in a pinch- utilize all of the above and it can help.
2. Keep Schedules and Rules.
Is there a tradition like regular family dinners that you would always do when your loved one is home? Try to stick to those as much as possible. I lost sight of it at times this last year and it affected us. We also made new traditions that were temporary and helped us make light of the year we were doing.
3. Take Care of Yourself.
I’ve said this so many times over the years, but if you don’t take time for yourself… you’ll run out of fuel to take care of everyone else. This means different things for different people. For me it is making sure I have a faith and creative outlet, treating myself occasionally, and taking care of my appearances. It also means socially getting out once in a while without kids.
4. Stay engaged and reach out for help.
Even though we weren’t connected to a local military unit, I still plugged into the Family Support & Readiness near us. We found out about events and opportunities for other military families. As difficult as it was sometimes, I told family and friends when I really needed help. I also hired out things I normally wouldn’t have because I knew… we needed it.
5. Listen to your intuition.
If something is amiss, whether it is health, school, or a new friend. Listen to that instinct you have as a parent. Ask questions, stay involved. Your kids cannot afford for you to mentally check out because you’re missing the other half. Look for the positive and good can come out of really bad situations. You just have to keep doing the next right thing that is in front of you. The best news is, single parenting as a military spouse is in most cases: not forever. A moment or day at a time… you will get through it.
While it was a terrible trying year apart, we did grow stronger. Our daughter is mostly stable and doing much better. It doesn’t mean there won’t be more tough years ahead, but we did share in joy, humor, and grace… even in a really challenging time.
“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
― A.A. Milne from Winnie the Pooh