When your spouse deploys, do you consider yourself a “single parent?” I recently had a discussion with three women about the difference in the status of single motherhood, with all that it entails, and temporary “single parenthood.” Two of the women are married; one is a single parent, and I have a deployed spouse. I have also been a single parent. Now I am married with a husband who deploys. Am I “single?” No. We’re just experiencing a geo-separated relationship. I’m not free to date or marry someone else.
My initial thought would be to describe myself as a single parent when my husband is away, but as the single mother pointed out, not so fast sister. And she’s absolutely right. I just had to hearken back to my own experience to see it’s not just the absence of the other parent that makes one a single parent. Absence just scratches the surface. The biggest difference is financial. Some receive child support, and some don’t. Depending on the non-custodial, support may be something the custodial parent can’t ever count on. With a deployed spouse, the pay is still there, and it can even increase. This is a major hurdle in a single parent household, and a constant worry. There can be legal fees, court dates, chasing child support, visitation issues, never having that reappearance of the other parent into the home ‘permanently’ to reintegrate and parent full-time.
Deployed families deal with time loss and the possibility of life loss. We have life insurance and SGLI to help support the family, as well as other benefits. A single mother doesn’t always have this. One of the married mothers piped in with a great term that could define the situation for the military set: Solo Parent. I personally like this term and find it perfect! I’m using it from now on to describe by own situation.
The conversation ended with us agreeing that we’re all parents doing the best we can with what we have. We should have the confidence in ourselves to do this alone, solo, with a partner or a community of family and friends. Just as a military spouse may roll their eyes at a civilian friend who compares their spouse being away on a one-week business trip to a deployment, a true single parent may not appreciate us hopping into their boat, either. Semantics can make a difference in perception. I loved that the conversation was had.
The more people understand our experiences and the more we understand theirs, the better.