Parenting During Deployment: Doing What's Right for You
By Angela Caban
As a military spouse, independence is something that we are forced to learn without choice early on in our relationship. Military life drops you into a whole new world, one where independence is never same as it once was. As we take on the many tasks of independence, we may not be ready or even want to, but we know that our service member will have the peace of mind and the clarity to focus on their mission.
What comes along with this independence? Flat tire, dishwasher leak, kids get sick… the list goes on! We call it the deployment gremlins and they almost always come out as soon as our service member is out the door.
The deployment gremlins also tend to creep into an area where many military spouses struggle during deployment.
Parenting with your spouse is daunting enough, but when doing it alone – the stakes are higher. We may feel helpless, as if we can’t possibly do it alone. Long days that never seem to end, and it surely doesn’t help when we come across parenting scrutiny online and on social media. This leaves us to second guess whether or not we are doing things right. These “Parenting Wars” are disheartening, especially for those who are solo parenting with a loved one away for months.
What can we do to survive parenting during a deployment?
Everyone has their own style.
Keep in mind that no matter how many children you have, their age or gender, there will be many different ways to parent them. What works for one child may not work for the other. There isn’t a special formula; you have to do what works for you and the child. Deployment puts a lot of stress on the family unit; take some of that stress off by remembering this.
Don’t compare your parenting to anyone else.
Don’t let what you see online make you second guess your choices. Parenting is a humbling and rewarding experience, so focus on your strengths and don’t compare yourself to others just because they succeed in areas where perhaps you have not. Appreciate the abilities you have and grow in the areas where you struggle. (see below)
Take advice with grace.
As mentioned above, appreciate your abilities in the areas you prosper, but also accept that we aren’t perfect. Whether it is solicited or unsolicited parenting advice, try not to take it to heart. I always thank the person, then think if their advice would be of help. We aren’t all going to be good at the same thing, so appreciate help along the way.
Don’t let judgment build anxiety.
I know not all advice is meant to be helpful, but don’t let this build anxiety. Focus on your child and the bonds you make daily. As a National Guard family living in a civilian community, many aren’t aware of the extra parenting I have to take on while my husband is away. So instead of piling on the anxiety, I let my community know that while I am not a perfect parent, and I do the best I can for my children, especially when my husband is away.