In the words of Beyoncé, “All the single ladies, all the single ladies, now put your hands up!”

Except in our case, he liked it, he put a ring on it, and he reproduced it.

Then duty called. And he was gone for a month, three months, six months, nine months, a year. And we were left because it’s our duty to raise the kids and hold down the homefront.

Most of us have never-married or divorced single mom friends. I’ve seen and heard their struggles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say my situation is like theirs, but so many times do I feel like a single mom. One major difference is the financial difficulties that single moms face. I’m very thankful that we have a steady check that comes in, and we always know how much to expect. Another difference is the issue with custody. No, we don’t battle that. When he’s home, we are all together at the same time. We also have our partner’s love.

For those of us who are married to our best friend but only get to see him three months out of the year, it’s tough.

For those of us who have the kids and family we planned to have together except we are rarely actually together, it’s tough. For our firstborn, my husband was around for less than one year of his first three years of life. I can’t say I was prepared for that.

Before I married my military man, he had me talk to his sister-in-law. His brother had been in the military for quite some time, and she had her experiences as a Navy wife to share with me. So yes, I somewhat knew what I was getting myself into when I married a military man. I understood that he would be gone a lot.

But here’s the thing, by the time I spoke with her, I was already in love with this guy and knew we were meant to be. The military life was not going to scare me away. I was in too deep.

The other thing is that I was still in college when I got married, and all I saw was the two of us.

I knew at some point in the future I would want kids, but that was nowhere on my radar. So, although, I knew he would be gone a lot, I only considered how he would be gone from me. I figured I could handle that. However, 13 years and three kids later, him being gone from the four of us has proven a lot harder to handle.

The great thing about being married to my best friend is that I always have him to talk to. When the kids are being extremely difficult, I have his support. I am thankful that email exists on Naval ships and that communication is much faster than it used to be. (Well, at least when email isn’t deliberately shut off because of someone’s failure to follow OPSEC.) But even with email communication, when my husband already has a highly stressful job — a job that needs his absolute focus — there’s only so much I can say. When the homefront is a mess and my stress levels have peaked, I refrain from communicating the level of “hot mess” I’m in because I don’t want to cause any extra worry for him. 

What are the most difficult things about single parenting while married?

You have a teammate who isn’t physically around, and most times emotional support is at a minimum. Yes, many of us have fellow military spouses and moms around who offer support, and I don’t think I could survive without them. But there are some things that only our spouse can make better.

You make parenting decisions on your own. While dad is gone, you figure out what is best for you and the kids to make the days run as smoothly as possible.

You are always bad cop and always good cop. 

You have to deal with your own emotions that come with being away from your love, and you have to deal with the kids emotions that come with being away from dad. And their emotional responses are so random at times and don’t make any sense and are almost always horribly communicated. You are alone to figure it all out.  

When you start feeling like you’ve got it figured out and your home has a good routine going, dad comes back home. You have to figure out the co-parenting routine again. Everything changes for a short time. Duty calls, and then you do it all over again.

The physical and emotional difficulty of parenting ebbs and flows. I think parenting at any stage is definitely like a roller coaster ride. The easy breezy downhill ride is over much quicker than the uphill climb. Like true single parents, sometimes we get discouraged and feel alone.

We may have signed up for this, but I absolutely didn’t read the fine print.

But if I did, would I have done anything differently? Nope.

I still would’ve married my military guy. We do what needs to be done to survive those times of single parenting, and we figure out how to cherish all the moments we have as a complete family. Because after all, we are blessed to have a complete family.