Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Please don't call me a single mom.

As many of you know, my husband has joined the military.  Right now he is away at basic training and the kids and I are hanging at grandma and gramdpas house.  It's been a big adjustment for all of us but I'm feeling pretty good about it all so far.  I've paid bills AND taken the garbage out by myself.  That, my friends, is what I call winning.

Here's something interesting though.  When people hear that Ryan has gone and how long he'll be away for I get responses like, "How does it feel to be a single mom?" or "It must be a big change to be doing the single mom thing".

But let me tell you something.  I am not a single mom. 

My dad was raised by a single mom.  I have some wonderful friends who are single moms.  And here's the thing about these women.  They have the hardest job in the world.  When it's two hours past bedtime and the kids are still awake, there is no one to take a shift so they can relax.  When the toddler is having his fifth meltdown of the day and its only 2 o'clock, they don't get to call their partner to complain.  They do all of the wake ups, bed times, meal prep and clean up.  They kiss all the booboos, wipe all the tears and pick up all the messes.  I've watched single moms in action and I am in awe of all that they do.  I don't think I could do it.

Before Ryan left for basic training, I called him at least once a day to complain about some trivial part of my day.  Before he left, I shoved a baby in his arms the minute he walked in the door after work.  Before he left, I let him handle bed times and as many diaper changes as I could get him to do.  And even though he's gone right now and I can't convince him to get up with the kids so I can sleep in on Saturdays, I know that this is only temporary.  And that's what is getting me through. The knowledge that Ryan will be home to take some of the responsibilities off of my back is what motivates me when A wants me to read the same book for the 57th time or when W splashes water all over me during bath time.  It's not always going to be this way and knowing that helps me remain calm.

Just because Ryan isn't here right now, doesn't mean that he isn't an active player in our marriage and this parenting team.  I still run decisions by him.  We still discuss issues the kids are having.  He is still there to commiserate after a very bad day (or at least he would be if he was allowed to use the phone).

I can only imagine how he would feel if he heard someone call me a single mom.  Being away from us has been hard for him.  He missed Ruby's first word.  He didn't get to see B's face light up as she realized that she can read "big" words now.  He's had to listen to A cry over the phone because she misses him, knowing that he can't come wipe her tears.  All of this has probably been harder for him than it has been for me.  I'm sure he feels guilty about missing things.  To completely write him out of the picture by saying I'm doing this alone will only make it harder for him.

We chose this together.  We know it will be hard.  There will be times when we are apart and times when he will miss things.  That's the nature of this job and we knew what we were getting into.  Giving up his spot in this parental duo was not part of that.  He's just doing it by correspondence sometimes.

I know that people don't mean to be hurtful when they say these things.  It's just something that people say and I get that. And I appreciate, more than I can say, that they are acknowledging how hard this is for me because it is hard.  But words are powerful.  I don't want the work that single moms do to be downplayed and I don't want husbands who have to be separated from their families to feel any more shut out than they already do.

So please, don't call me a single mom.

***This post has generated some very interesting discussion and I'm left feeling the to clarify a few things. ***

I, in no way, am trying to downplay the experiences of military spouses.  I'm quite sure (though can't say with certainty since I haven't yet experienced it myself) that being left behind during deployments is incredibly difficult.  Even just this 13 weeks with my parents helping me has made me a little bit crazy and that's nothing in comparison, I'm sure.  I've watched a few wonderful women while their husbands were away and they have my utmost respect.  Just like single moms, they've got a difficult role to play and neither one is better or worse than the other.  Just different. 

I never wanted this to become a part of the "who has it harder" game because that's a game that nobody wins.

I'm simply saying that a single mom is an unmarried mother.  I wouldn't tell people that I'm a single woman while he's away...because I'm not.  No matter how far away or how long my husband is gone, we will remain married and I will not be single.  Distance and time doesn't change my perspective as a married woman.  I will certainly look at things differently than a woman who is not married, even when we are playing the same role for a time.  

I didn't mean to point fingers at people who have called themselves single moms either.  I am a bit of a word nerd and it is easy for me to get caught up in semantics.  Not everyone will feel the same way about this and that's cool!  I'm not going to berate anyone for using the term.  I just ask that they don't use it when describing me!

I think parenting while the other spouse is away needs it's own term to avoid confusion while still acknowledging the difficulties this role comes with.  We call it solo-parenting here.

What do you think?  Are you fine with the term single mom or do you prefer another term?

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