‘When the military calls and takes half of your everything away, it’s never easy.’: Mom shares reality of military life, solo parenting

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“I still haven’t put the flag back after the last storm. The mulch is almost all blown away and the weeds are poking through. The yard is a mess and so is the house. There are baskets of clean laundry that haven’t gotten put away and a pile of clothes in front of the washer that are waiting for their turn. I haven’t opened mail in days because we have been up and out at dawn, only to return when the night moon peaks.

The way our normal life is set up is evident when he’s not here. We adjust, but we are wobbly. My mental health becomes wobbly too. Messes increase my anxiety and so does running two kids around when their activities overlap and I’m outnumbered. The end of year events and award ceremonies he misses cause confusing emotions for our kids, and I’m responsible for monitoring those emotions and making sure they don’t teeter from healthy and normal to unhealthy and needing help. Adolescent hormones are much different than the toddler and elementary meltdowns I was managing the last time he was gone this long.

mother stands at Disney with her two kids
Courtesy of Tia Hawkins

I was a single mom for over a decade, so I’ve been used to doing all of these things alone more of my life than not. The difference is that when I was a single parent, my home was set up as a single parent home. I was solely in charge 24/7 and I shared that responsibility with no one. I arranged my life and my daughter’s around my ability alone. It was also consistent and stable. Was it hard? Absolutely! Did I make it work? Yes!

However, now life is set up as a two parent home and there are also two more kids. When the military calls and takes half of your everything away, it’s never an easy transition for anyone. My partner is gone and so is half of life. Half of the decision making, half of the carpooling, half of the house cleaning, even half of the bed. Everything we are used to gets thrown off its axis. For the kids, it’s half of the cheering, half of the car talks, half of the hugs, and half of the memories. We get used to one way and then it changes, and changes again.

This life has blessed us, but we all sacrifice the most for its offerings. When you’re stressed beyond measure and still show up for your children with a smile, sometimes it’s hard to hug and congratulate them on an accomplishment only to hear, ‘I miss dad.’ It’s also hard to wipe tears away after a bad day, hold them close, and hear the same. Trust me when I say I love the bonded relationship my children have with my husband, and if the tables were turned I know they would say they also miss me. It’s not hard understanding their feelings because I feel them too. What’s hard is knowing no matter how hard I’m trying as a solo parent at any given time, it’s not enough to fill the gap in the meantime.

navy seal returning home with belongings in his hands
Courtesy of Tia Hawkins

It’s also hard to hear the sadness in my husband’s voice when he calls and wants a play-by-play of the baseball game or the details of the dance recital. He tells me he missed a lot of firsts only a month in and he hates that he can’t get them back. I try to encourage him and talk him up too. The constant reminder to everyone where the good in all this ‘missing’ lies, that there are so many memories left to be made, and in the big scheme of things this is a short period of time. And it is… except we all know when you add up all the ‘short’ times they become long.

He will be home soon and we will transition back to normal. Then he will leave again soon after, and we will transition back to wobbly. The next time he leaves it will be for a much longer period of time and none of us are excited about it, but we all understand it.

I had no idea what I signed up for as a military spouse, just like I had no idea what I signed up for as a single parent over 20 years ago. The unknown in both are enough to make anyone want to throw in the towel. I’d be lying to say I never thought of it… many times. This wobbly, this hard — this isn’t what anyone wants. But it’s also the driving force of strength and the evidence of love.

When he leaves again, will it be hard? Absolutely! Will I make it work? Yes!

Because this is what I do. This is what many of us do.”

Mom takes selfie with her two kids while her husband is away on deployment.
Courtesy of Tia Hawkins

This story was submitted to Love What Matters  by Tia Hawkins from Virginia Beach, VA. You can follow her journey on Facebook,  Instagram and her blog. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more from Tia here:

‘This life is not for the faint of heart, but for those full of love.’: Military wife shares whirlwind love story, motherhood journey through husband’s 13 deployments

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