Even though he was still a military officer, I was completely disconnected from the base. And as many military wives know, Guard and Reserves can be the bottom of the barrel when it comes to family support anyway.
There was no pilot widow’s club, no one I could really talk to about the challenges of parenting and running a household completely alone for weeks at a time, especially with friends and neighbors whose husbands came home at dinnertime each night, were off on the weekends, and could take off from work with a simple request.
For all intents and purposes, I was a single parent when he was gone.
So I started describing myself as a sometimes single mom.
Of course, the moniker pissed a lot of people off, mostly by single parents themselves who were offended by my “flippant” use of the term. Then there were other single parents, who actually thought I had it harder than they did, because they got financial support and the ability to pass their kids off every weekend (or more).
We all know that a woman who calls herself a “chef’s widow” or “medical school widow” doesn’t have a spouse who has passed away. And we know she’s not trying to take away the experience of an actual widow.
You get the sense that she’s left alone for many long days and nights because the life of a chef, or doctor, or pilot (in my case) requires extra work, many times solo work on behalf of the other partner and co-parent.
And the same goes for Michelle Obama calling herself a single mom.
We’re all fooling ourselves if we somehow think that the Obamas split their parenting duties 50/50. And we’re also not helping any parent out there if we criticize the First Lady for accidentally calling herself what I can only imagine she feels like on a daily basis.
Instead, we should, or at least, those of us who have carried the brunt of parenting and house management, pat her on the back and say “We totally get it.”
Actually, I don’t totally get it, because I’m not sure I can fully imagine how it would feel to be married to the President of the United States.
Probably like a single parent.
This certainly doesn’t mean she has no empathy for actual single parents out there and the struggles they face.
I’ve used the term “sometimes single mom” not as a way to take away anything from actual single parents out there, but rather to explain, describe, and perhaps elicit empathy from other married folks who might not understand the unique challenges I face personally on a regular basis.
By acknowledging her challenges, by saying she probably acts like a single parent to her kids as in THE ONLY PARENT, we’re not taking anything away from single parents in the world.
I, like Michelle Obama, am not a single mom, but sometimes, many times, I feel like one.
Kristen Chase is writer, author, and mom of four who lives in Atlanta.