Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Single Military Mom Dilema

Being a single mom is tough enough when it comes to dating.  First, you gotta keep the guy outta your family until your relationship with him has proven to be solid after time.  Second, your choice in men might not only have changed for you but you have to realize that you have baggage that not many men are up to accepting.  Kids are frightening to single men!  Stepping into a family is a huge deal and it takes a special kind of guy to want to do it.  With both those obvious dating challenges being mentioned, think about the single mom who's in the military.  That's another huge chunk of baggage.

Being a single military mom doesn't only involve dragging kids to the base daycare at 4am for an exercise or bringing them to work with you when you get called in on a day off and you don't have a sitter.  There are deployments, short tour assignments to overseas bases and long assignments that can keep you at the next place for at least 4 years.  So dating comes with the understanding that you may not be at that particular location for as long as you might like.  It means that if you're deeply into the person you're dating and you get orders to another base, you are faced with a dilema.

I leave for my new assignment in two months.  I will be leaving behind Patrick.  We've been dating for quite some time; long enough for him to be there during all the cool and not-so-cool changes in my kids.  Long enough to learn what irritates us about each other and what completely woos us about each other.  We're currently friggin heartbroken about my departure. 

Although I am excited about the new assignment and being near my brothers, I am really really sad about leaving Patrick.  I've come up with all these ideas like leaving the kids with my brothers every other month for a week and flying to visit him.  Or Skyping with him.  Or writing (not emailing but handwriting) letters for some old fashioned romantic fun.  I've dreamt up all sorts of cool ideas that'll help make our distance tolerable.  But at the end of the day when the kids are asleep and it's just the two of us on the phone, I can't help but hang up with him because I don't want him to hear me cry.  I'm sad.  I don't want to leave him. 

I knew from the beginning that this time would eventually come.  We both knew.  We've talked about it and sometimes one of us would randomly bring up the "what if" question.  So it wasn't a surprise.  But the knowledge and understanding of him dating a military girl and me dating as a military girl didn't stop us from actually falling in a little too deep for military comfort.  The military doesn't stop people from dating.  Jeez, in fact people in the military date more than anything with the size of our population and constant opportunities to meet new people.  But it does have the expectation of commitment.

I've served my country for 10.5 years.  That's a long time and I've grown to love it.  The military and I have had a relationship that has been through so many changes and over time those changes only feed my commitment to it.  In the beginning, I swore I wouldn't reenlist.  I've gone from being a know-it-all young girl to a salty supervisor who's seen enough to know a lot but not enough to claim anything but experience.  Through my years I've learned that of all the things that are pounded into us, commitment is the one solid thing that is expected and with it I will succeed not only as a military member but as a woman, a mom and one day a wife.  That's because commitment isn't just about the military, it's about us individually.

When we deploy, we rely on commitment to keep our families strong and full of integrity.  Spouses that cheat on each other are good examples of that lack of commitment to each other.  When we date, we understand that because we are in the military our relationship isn't going to be in the lead.  The military will move you to another location one day.  Or maybe your work days will change to midshift while your girlfriend is a 9-5 worker.  You'll have to go on a temporary duty for a couple of weeks to another state.  There are tons of things that call us to duty and it makes dating challenging.  All the time.

So Patrick and I are currently sitting in this challenge.  I don't know how it's going to pan out.  If I could lead our relationship, I'd do it with the "We can do it" mentality.  I'm all for making it work.  Our relationship has been pretty darn solid and I believe it has great potential to turn into more.  I truly would grab Patrick by the hand and drag him (not literally or anything) through this relationship saying, "Babe we can do it.  This ain't a thing."  But I can't.  There are two of us in the relationship.  I can certainly display that optimistic attitude about it but if there's a fraction of doubt in his mind, it'll totally just kill our chances.  So I don't know what will happen. 

This is definitely not a fun Single Military Mom challenge.


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