Solo parenting on deployment isn’t easy.
Taking care of yourself and staying healthy while solo parenting feels like climbing Mount Everest while pulling a giraffe in a sled.
Not gonna happen.
Even though we aren’t “single parents” who fully provide for their kids financially, we’re on the “front lines” of the family, making decisions about their lives and futures on a day to day basis.
Care giving, shuttling kiddos around town, planning, worrying, cooking, then collapsing constitutes most of our days.
The last time Adam left for deployment we had a two-week-old baby. My mom helped me for the first few weeks (I should call her and thank her again, 3 years later).
Mom would prepare tantalizing meals, set them down in front of me, and the baby would wake up. Without fail. I couldn’t find time to eat at all unless I ate standing up, holding a crying infant.
And then the day came: Mom left.
The idea of working out, eating healthy and for goodness sakes, getting some alone time?
Forget about it.
So how can we stay healthy?
We need to take care of our own needs so we can have energy for others.
But when you startle awake at midnight on the couch, dried drool encrusted on one side of your face because you fell asleep before you even made it up the stairs… adding healthy practices into an exhausting day seems like an unreachable dream.
However, it IS possible.
Solo Parenting On Deployment: How To Stay Healthy
When mental exhaustion, eating “meals” like cereal or ice cream, and trying to “gut it out” are the norm, change is necessary.
- Prepare beforehand with these tips for legal, financial, and emergency readiness.
Foster your support system
- Family and friends can lighten your load. Take initiative to ask for help.
- Connect with your spouse’s command. They usually have resources for activities, childcare, and support services such as counseling or financial advice.
- Meet your neighbors. You may need them in a pinch.
I know it takes energy, but a few minutes of grocery planning can take your week to a new level.
- Utilize online grocery orders and outside pickup. (Let someone else roam the aisles for you while your kids are snug in their carseats.)
- Keep healthy snacks on hand so you aren’t tempted to raid the candy jar all day long. (Guilty!)
- Eat on a regular schedule. We’ve all done the cereal dinner, but don’t make it a regular habit. Your body needs a variety of nutrients to keep it going.
Little things make a gi-normous difference.
- Get a babysitter. Use a service like sittercity.com or care.com if necessary. When you’re solo parenting on deployment, your sanity is worth a small fee. Or try to get a friend’s referral (ask in a local Facebook group if you haven’t met new friends).
***When we first left our daughter with a babysitter, I felt like something ripped my heart out of my body. I heard her tearful sobs as we pulled out of the drive. Burying my face in my lap, my hands smashed my cheeks in attempt to avoid reality. Adam pulled over and asked if I wanted to go back, but I forced myself to say we could continue. But it. Was. So. Hard.
- Remember: you need this. Your child won’t die from a little crying. It seems harsh, but they’ll likely stop as soon as you leave, and your babysitter will call you if necessary. Only once in over three years has a sitter asked us to return earlier than planned.
- Trade babysitting with a friend. Watch all the kids for a couple hours one day, then she’ll do the same next time. Both of you get a break.
- Explore play dates with spouse group, church group, MOPS.org, neighbors etc. Even though you’re not child-free, the adult stimulation works wonders.
- Take a walk
- Join a gym (with childcare)
- Have dance parties or do exercise on commercial breaks– get the kids involved!
- Take the kids swimming and get in the pool with them instead of sitting by the side.
Stay connected with your partner
- Even though you’re far apart, they can be an emotional support
- Bounce parenting tactics and ideas off your partner when you get the chance
- Keep them in the loop of growth and changes with kids, so they still feel like a part of your lives.
What’s the point?
During that last deployment, I got in a groove. I started a moms’ playdate at my house every other week for some social interaction. I started walking regularly again. I ate more real fruit instead of downing several packs of gummy fruit snacks.
When you take steps to commit to your own health, you’ll be surprised at the results: You’ll feel better from the healthy food you’re eating. You’ll have more energy for your kids shenanigans, and you’ll be getting some needed breaks for mental sanity
Don’t begin every tip at once or you’ll feel like you’re pulling a monster truck tire across the burning sand. Pick out your favorite two or three and try them.
I’d love to hear how it’s going over on my Facebook page!
Check out 14 Ways Becoming A Mom Changed Deployment.