When your service member leaves you behind, these resources are here to help
Separation is all too frequent for military families, and Solo Moms have so much more on their plate when that time comes around. Whether your family is facing a deployment, a training exercise, or an unaccompanied tour, the challenges and stressors are the same; our children rely on us for everything—and there is no easy way to balance it all. Sometimes things fall through the cracks, but, thankfully, there are resources available that can help. Whether your spouse will be gone a week, month, or year, we Solo Moms need help—and listed below are a few of my favorite ways to get it.
Each branch of the military has its own child-care program, but all of them offer free and reduced options for Solo Moms. Ranging from free respite care for children with special needs to parents’ night outs during deployments, there are several options to help you catch a break.
In Germany, I was able to get 16 free child-care hours per month while my husband was deployed, and anything over that was half price. The cost of the programs offered, such as sports and arts programs, were also discounted. Check with your local military installation’s child and youth resources for details.
The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) is a network comprising more than 850 agencies that help military families find affordable, quality civilian child-care options wherever they may be living. NACCRRA also provides a subsidy for Solo Moms and families with a spouse who is working or enrolled in school.
Subsidy amounts vary by branch, but they are paid directly to the child-care program, and the family pays the reduced amount. Through this program, a friend of mine in the Washington, DC, area, for example, saves more than $1,000 per month on a quality, respectable, and accredited child-care program. This program also provides subsidies for up to 60 days while you are looking for a full-time job, even for nonmilitary families, so this program benefits all Solo Moms, not just military Solo Moms.
To help the kids
The nonprofit organization ZERO TO THREE is there for Solo Moms with toddlers. This program is not just for military families, and it focuses on teaching resiliency from an early age. With DVDs, books, mobile apps, and articles, ZERO TO THREE helps Solo Moms engage their young children through separation in a way that is beneficial to the child.
Sesame Workshop’s initiative Talk, Listen, Connect has been supporting military families for years with four separate programs that help children deal with the ups and downs of military life through videos, activity books, and tool kits. Solo Moms can gain access to these programs through their local military installation or by visiting the Sesame Street website. There are also live Sesame Street shows that travel with the United Service Organization to help educate and entertain children.
Another great organization that supports Solo Moms and military kids is Blue Star Families. It focuses on five areas: family life, careers, moves, deployments, and communities. One of my favorite things about Blue Star Families is the Books on Bases program. Each time I see a Blue Star Families table, it has loads of books, and every child can pick one to take home! It also coordinates the Blue Star Museums each summer, which authorizes free admission for military families to most museums around the country.
Sense of community
One of the best resources that solo military moms have is one another. The combination of understanding, sympathy, and motivation that comes from someone who has been through a separation before is invaluable. The friendships that develop in those first few weeks of a separation are amazing. Often, these Solo Moms don’t even need to explain what they are feeling, they can just sense it in one another. It truly takes a village to raise a child, and the military community is the best village out there!
Spouses’ Clubs are a great place to find new friends and enjoy some social activities. They often have volunteer opportunities, fundraisers, and smaller groups for specific interests. I really enjoyed spending time exploring Germany with the Spouses’ Club there. The military moms were so welcoming to this new Solo Mom, and I wanted to spend all my time with them. We had a monthly Bunco group, book club, outings, and loads of fun trying new restaurants.
The resources available to Solo Moms are endless in the military community. The hardest part is discovering where, within each locale, these resources are. Not all installations are created the same, and some will not have all of the same resources available. They also can be hard to find; however, with social media and Facebook, particularly, Solo Moms can research these resources before arriving at their next home.
Most of the resources focus on children, but it is important to find things specifically for you, too. We’re not just Solo Moms, we’re women who need support and friendships. These organizations and resources are a great way to meet other Solo Moms who are in similar circumstances and form friendships that will make the separation from your loved one easier for you and your kids. The resources are available for you, when you are ready. Make the most of them!
For additional support and honest conversation, join our confidential Military Sister Chat.
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.