Single parenting requires community support

  • Published
  • By Paula Spooner
  • Family advocacy outreach manager
Like many Keesler Airmen, I have experienced the joys and stresses of single parenting.

When my 18-year-old daughter was 2 years old, her father and I divorced. For the next 16 years, I held two jobs while daily struggling to maintain that precarious balance between the non-negotiable demands on my time and meeting all three of my kids' needs.

As often happens, I was suddenly thrust into the roles of both mom and dad. It wasn't easy. Through those years, our little family experienced moves, holidays, rituals, new schools, exciting rites of passage, teenage romances and broken hearts, volunteering together and significant loss.

Now that they are older, I am better able to appreciate the glue that held us together and continues to connect us still. Certainly we loved each other, but it was more than that -- a firm and undeniable responsibility to keep going when things got tough, to defend and protect siblings (I can tease my sister but don't even think about you doing it), to sacrifice when necessary. I am proud of those years, especially because they were so challenging.

The 2012 Community Action Plan for Keesler reflects 353 active-duty single parents on Keesler. While not certain of the exact number of single parents within Keesler's civilian workforce, I suspect there are more than a few. Many of these folks provided candid input to the 2011 and 2012 single parent focus groups; this feedback led to the identification of specific issues which were then elevated to the Air Force Caring for People Forum.

Knowing firsthand the challenges of raising children solo, I am invested in identifying and establishing avenues to support our Keesler single parents. Recently I came across an article titled, "7 Habits of Highly Successful Single Parents" by Jennifer Wolf. It lists seven practices that, when applied, significantly improve both the home and personal lives of single parents.
They were:

1. Create a community of support
2. Schedule time for yourself
3. Learn to say "no"
4. Play with your kids
5. Maintain a positive attitude
6. Live within your means
7. Feed your brain

I like these and happen to agree. It's no coincidence that "Create a community of support" is ranked No. 1. Supportive, caring relationships are, in fact, the single most powerful protective factor we have available. And while it sounds great in theory, it's just not so easy in real life -- not when regular PCS moves, deployments and TDYs interfere with opportunities to become well-connected within a community.

Keesler single Airmen want to change this. They envision a vital, dynamic network of kindred parents that will provide that community of support -- via friendship, commonality, skill exchange and true understanding. In fact, the first meeting of the Keesler Single Parent Information Network has already occurred and plans are underway for future meetings and events. The ideas brought forth at this meeting were fresh, exciting and very do-able.

If you are a single parent at Keesler (separated, divorced, widowed, never married, geographically-single military and civilians), strongly consider attending the next meeting. Pass this information along to a single parent in your workplace. Very relaxed, often humorous (single parents HAVE to know how to laugh!) and accepting, this group knows what is needed and plans to accomplish it.The next daytime meeting for the single parents support group is 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 14 in the Arnold Annex conference room. Plans and goals for future growth will be discussed at this meeting, so bring your lunch and creative ideas. Meetings are relaxed, with no concern for rank. And if you prefer, come in civilian clothes.