You’ve heard of long-distance love affair, but have you heard of long-distance parenting yet?
“Geographically Single Mom” (GSM): A term coined by me and some of my military mommy-friends to describe the kind of status that we are in. It’s the irony of being happily married, but serving both roles and functions of being a mom and dad since your partner is always faraway, working.
Let’s talk real. I’d cut a finger off if I find someone who’d say that being a GSM is easy. Being a military homemaker while nursing a toddler entails hardwork, even harder than the corporate jobs I held for the last 5 years. If a typical family finds it challenging to discipline a child even if both mother and father are present and involved, how much more if you are a GSM?
“THE CHOCOLATE STORY”
Last Wednesday, my husband sent me a text message asking if we could go online in Skype because he misses N. Of course, I said yes because it’s not everyday that he gets to have good Internet signal at his bootcamp.
Sure enough, we were able to get in touch through Skype and our daughter was very happy to have seen his Daddy. I could tell that my daughter was having a good time because she sang Bahay Kubo twice, danced, talked to her father a lot, embraced and kissed the iPad screen several times. I don’t know what’s running into her innocent mind; and I’m also unsure if she is already aware of the kind of family situation that she is in.
Though I’ve sort of trained her to answer other people’s questions as to her Daddy’s whereabouts, and that the latter is “at work,” we prefer to teach her that her father is actually serving than just plainly working. She could already associate her father to riding an airplane to work since I always bring her with me to the airport whenever he’s leaving or coming home to us.
LONG-DISTANCE PARENTING SOMETIMES CAN MAKE YOU DO SILLY THINGS.
Going back to the Skype video chat, my husband showed my daughter some nugget-sized/miniature Hershey’s chocolates. When my daughter saw this she said, “Daddy, chocolates!” while extending her small soft hands to the screen as if reaching for those chocolates. Looking through my mommy eyes, I feel a little crush in my heart whenever I see my daughter trying to virtually bond with her father.
That same night, when our daughter was already asleep, my husband and I talked on the phone and we discussed again what transpired during our Skype video chat a while ago. My husband and I had a mutual feeling of sadness because our daughter had to go through this kind of sacrifice at a very young age. My husband told me to go look for some similar-looking kind of chocolates that he had so when we chat again the next day, we will be staging a little drama.
Thank God I was able to find some of those Hershey’s chocolate nuggets in SM Makati. As soon as I got home, my husband acted as if he’s giving N those chocolates; while from my virtual side, I acted as if they were really coming out of the screen. Our daughter was very happy! He held those choclates close to her heart and when I asked her where did those chocolates come from, she’d only answer, “Daddy.” She’s persuaded that those chocolates really came from her father, who in reality is thousands of kilometers away from us.
BREAKING A BAD NEWS.
It was 8PM and N couldn’t eat any of those sweet treats anymore. I made a rule that she is not allowed to eat any candies or chocolates after 5PM. But my daughter has her witty ways, while holding her daddy-given chocolates, turned to him who’s on the phone and audibly said these words:
“Daddy. Chocolates. Eat. Noa. Mommy gagalit.” My mommy radar immediately decoded and translated those phrases as: Nagsusumbong ang anak ko sa Daddy nya! She knows who to approach when the going gets tough! My husband and I agreed that we would allow her just this one time with 2 conditions: after eating, she should drink lots of water and brush her teeth!
CAN THIS KIND OF PARENTING STYLE SURVIVE?
Long-Distance Parenting requires teamwork and consistency most especially in instilling discipline. I salute the GSMs because it’s difficult to strike a balance between being a disciplinarian and a spoiler at the same time. It’s very difficult to own both a caring hand and an iron fist. Between me and my husband, I will admit to be playing the role of the Devil’s Advocate, most especially when he’s in town. There has to be balance. I need to be his equalizer. We can’t be both a spoiler or a disciplinarian at the same time.
I’m also very thankful for technology. It is any military family’s lifeline. I couldn’t imagine those strong military wives before us who did not have access to mobile smartphones and gadgets to communicate to their soldiers on the field.
What’s your take on long-distance parenting? Is it possible for us to become good parents to our children despite our uncommon family set-up?