This post is for anyone who has ever found themselves in a solo parenting situation, especially a short term one due to deployment. I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be a full-time single parent; you all are real-life superheroes. But I do know how it feels to have your spouse gone for months at a time, to have your relationship relegated to a voice on the phone and the occasional Facetime call, to watch your child miss their other parent and not understand why dad has to stay away for so long. I know the loneliness of running a household by myself; of grocery shopping and cooking for one adult (cooking for a kid is just not the same!); of being the primary caretaker, comforter, disciplinarian, and playmate of a toddler; of having to make quick parenting decisions without a partner’s input. I know what it’s like to solo parent for extended periods of time. And that’s why I can recognize the building anxiety as I anticipate what’s coming for our family in the next year.
Cort is in the military. Part of what that means is that when he’s deployed, he’s gone for up to ten months at a time. He’ll occasionally get leave to come home for brief periods, but we really get no say in the matter. Cort is away at training right now, will be home for a brief month and then deploy for an untold period of time. We are really hoping he’ll be home for the holidays, but there are no guarantees. Pre-deployment is tough too because there are a lot of meetings leading up to his departure. He’s in and out of the house all the time. I know it’s all important stuff, but I can’t help feeling like our family life is like a fly on the end of a string during this period, constantly jerked around without knowing when or where we’ll get pulled. Once Cort leaves initially, then I’ll really start my countdown for the big stretch of his absence.
I’m not gonna lie—deployment sucks. But since I’ve done this before, I’m approaching this time around with some intentionality and purpose. I don’t want to spend the next 10+ months wallowing. I don’t want to spend every day wishing the time would pass. That’s no way to live. Of course Lucy and I will count down the days until Cort comes home. We’ll miss him like crazy. But instead of feeling miserable and sorry for myself, I am currently reminding myself that I am a strong and capable woman, and while lots of things are outside my control, one thing I can control is the choice I make to define what Cort’s deployment looks like for Lucy and me. And so I’m writing this post in case any of you have ever been or will be in a similar boat to me. Here are some of the things I’m planning to do to view this time as an opportunity to become my best self in the coming months.
- Organized home – I’m making it a point to put our house in order before Cort leaves. What I mean by that is that I’m implementing systems and rhythms that I can sustain by myself. Organized shelving everywhere I can, meal plans and plans for making meal plans in place, calendar set up for both Lucy and me… everywhere I can make a plan in advance, I will.
- Projects to keep myself busy – I’m lining up some passion projects and busy work for myself to keep myself occupied and help me feel fulfilled and like I’m accomplishing something. Some of those include:
- Diamond Painting (you’ll need an easel stand, brushes and a simple kit like this… and these great containers for storage!)
- Jewelry Making (LOVE this turquoise studded jacket project and these beading tools when I’m feeling extra creative).
- Paint by Number — such an easy, relaxing and fun hobby. Here’s everything you’ll need.
- Puzzles… I’m obsessed with these. They’re so pretty that they’re frame-able!
- Exercise – I am happier when I’m moving my body! So I’m going to establish myself in a gym for consistency and accountability.
- Eating clean – I also know that I can handle a lot more mentally and emotionally when I am physically healthy. Making sure that I’m not feeding my body a lot of processed food and sugar but instead real food that will truly nourish me is my goal. As with all things in life, a healthy balance will be the key here!
These long periods without Cort home are equally hard for Lucy, who adores her dad. To help keep her in a good rhythm while he’s gone, we signed her up for summer school, so that part of her life won’t be interrupted. I’ll keep her routines as consistent as I can. And as often as he’s able, Cort will Facetime Lucy. It’s never going to be enough though. I expect that her emotions will be out of whack for a while as she adjusts to missing him. She’s getting to the age where we can actually talk about her feelings, and I want to create an environment where she is allowed to feel all the feels.
One of the very few silver linings of having Cort gone, however, is that it allows Lucy and me to bond in an extra sweet way, so in addition to keeping Lucy’s routines in place, I’m going to take all the chances I can to make special mommy/daughter memories with her!
Cort and I also have some tried and true tricks for keeping the wheels of a relationship turning despite the physical distance between us. In the past, we’ve found that when your whole relationship is over the phone, you have a really hard time knowing what to talk about because you’re living completely different lives. Stumbling across these conversation cards as a game changer for us. The cards help us get beyond the “so what did you do today” stuff and talk about deeper things; they’re like a little long distance relationship grease to keep things from drying out. 😂 Can’t recommend them enough! We also set up Facetime date nights whenever we can.
These really long stretches of deployment are incredibly difficult, but I know that wallowing in the hard isn’t going to making it any easier. Instead, I’m going to try to embrace these months as an opportunity to become the best version of myself and to spend tons of quality time with my daughter. I won’t do it perfectly, but honestly, perfection is kinda boring!