If someone, today, asked me to define myself using a single word, I’d probably respond with a blistering string of profanity. In part, this is because it’s no one’s fucking business how I define myself, and in part it’s because I believe that all people have infinite facets to their character and personality. So how in the world is someone supposed to distill that down to one word?
Take me, for example. If pressed to answer this asinine query, my gut instinct is to go with the word “mom”. This is because I believe, wholeheartedly, that the moment I gave birth, my purpose in life shifted toward a new center of gravity: namely, my daughter.
Which is why eleven months ago, packing up my uniforms and weapons and getting on a plane was such a pivotal moment for me. I was and am a mom, first and foremost. Yet there I was, preparing to leave my daughter for a year to come to Iraq. WTF?
To that I can only say: I have my reasons. I believe in our mission over here, and I believe that in the end, my year here will benefit my child immensely. And, in truth, I’ve already begun to see that happen.
As a single mom, I’m incredibly blessed to have an amazing family network. When I got my orders, my father volunteered to care for my daughter while I was deployed. This was ideal for so many reasons. We already shared a house with my dad, so this meant that my daughter didn’t have to move or change schools. Her routine changed, certainly, but we were able to minimize that as much as possible, thanks to my father and his own amazing network of friends and co-workers. His job normally entails quite a bit of travel, but his boss was able to keep him local for the most part. He is dating a wonderful woman, who loves to spend time playing with my child. My sister and her husband and kids live nearby, too. They are also always more than happy to bring my daughter into their family circle, surrounding her with love while Mommy is far away.
When I talk to my daughter (which I’m fortunate to be able to do every weekend), I’m amazed at how happy and resilient she sounds. She misses me, sure, but she’s super excited about me coming home. She’s gotten extremely close to my dad and his girlfriend. They take road trips together to New York City, and she chatters on and on about the Statue of Liberty. She tells me about her school and her friends and her life, and I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with gratitude that I have such an amazing kid, and such an amazing family to help me raise her.
I’m no one’s typical Mommy (if such a thing even exists). I fly helicopters, and I shoot guns. I swear a blue streak, and I’ve been deployed to a combat zone for almost a year. But I’m not the only one. Almost every single one of my friends over here has children that they’ve left behind. Some, like my friend Mike, have newborn kids that they’ve yet to meet. Yet every single one of us is proud to be here, because every single one of us believes deeply that being here will in some way make things better for our offspring. And every single one of us is incredibly grateful to the network of fathers, sisters, mothers, awesome ex-wives and ex-husbands, awesome current wives and husbands, stepparents and grandparents who make our service to our children and our nation possible. Without that support system, none of us would be able to define ourselves as both parents and servicemembers.