Going Solo Instead of Moving with a Service Member
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Why a military mom might choose to parent alone
When military wives parent alone, sometimes it’s for a weekend, sometimes a few weeks, and oftentimes it’s for months on end. The question really isn’t why we do it, or even how we do it, both answers being because that’s what we have to do. The real discussion comes from the way we do it. Solo parenting while being married is a completely different ball game than single parenting because there is no one else.
Sometimes the military forces you to be a solo parent, and sometimes it is a choice. I have always been curious about those who choose the solo-parenting life as a military spouse when faced with the option of moving with a service member and maintaining, or at least establishing, a new status quo.
The reasons families decide to be separated for a year, or even more, are completely legitimate and rational. But they still confuse me. It could be because I haven’t had to make that decision yet or because I’m scared I will one day have to. Or just because.
For the kids
This reason for separation is really hard for me to comprehend. Yes, kids need stability, they need to feel comfortable, and they need to be happy. But I think that means living with both parents, if at all possible. We know military kids are resilient, but with what we already put them through, why separate them from their parent?
Because, as it has been explained to me, sometimes kids don’t know what they want and that’s why they have parents. Because school is important, friends are important, extracurricular activities are important. And when you’re 14, you don’t always know what is important.
My friend moved herself, her teenager, and her toddler across the country to live a year apart from her husband. Why? So her daughter could attend one high school for all four years. So that her daughter could have an opportunity to be on the same level as her classmates for marching band. So that her daughter would have the best chance at happiness. Worth it? Yup.
For a job
It is really hard to have a career as a military spouse. So I can absolutely understand the hesitation to quit a good, career-enhancing job to follow your service member to the next place. I mean, they wouldn’t do it, why should we?
For some reason, when a military spouse says she is going to move for a job, or stay for a job, she is blasted for not supporting her husband. Really? No one can ever tell a wife that she is supporting her husband the wrong way. Never.
For example, if your husband is in the Navy and you know the next duty station will have him gone for at least six months each year, and on a rapid recall the times he is home and you have a good job at your current location, the odds are really in your favor to stay. Stay there, work hard, then take time off to spend with your husband when he is home.
When you don’t have a choice
Of course, there are plenty of times a family just cannot move with their service member. I tried to follow my husband to Afghanistan, but that didn’t work. So I went home for a prolonged visit. I had two children under two, I lived overseas, and I just wanted to be close to family. I left my support system behind. I moved to a place where I had help with the kids, but no one that actually understood what I was going through. That was the hardest part.
I’ve always said that the next time I was faced with the decision to stay or go, I’d stay. I like to have my house, my own bed, and my things. I want my kids to feel settled, to have their friends around, and to have their own things. I will absolutely visit, but my support system here is really important.
If the time comes when my husband must move without me, I’m not sure what I will do. I think at that point I’d do what works best for my children. If we are talking about moving during the school year, I think I’d wait and move over the summer. I’d like to think I’d move to the next place, set up the house and wait. But it would be very tempting to go live close to family, to experience that for a short time.
Why choose it?
For me, the question has always come down to this. Choosing to be apart is choosing to be apart. It is a big deal. One that should not be taken lightly, and one that is really hard to sit back, watch someone do, and not judge them for it.
I’ll admit, every time I see someone chose to not move with their husband I judge them. I’m not proud of it, but I think to myself, I’m apart from my husband enough, why would I choose it?
But there are legitimate reasons to consider it, and until I’m placed in that position, I need to tamper down the judgement, learn from their choices, and be supportive. Feel free to remind me of that last part.
Rebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. Her writing experience includes military-family topics, research pieces, guest blogging, and much more. She’s a contributing writer for ARMY magazine and a regular contributor to several online publications, including the Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, and ESME. She also has been published in Ms. magazine and the Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com and on Twitter and Instagram.