I have spent over three decades as a childcare expert working with families from different types of backgrounds. My career started in New York City, employed by dads who worked in corporate America. Then I moved to Los Angeles to do the same for families in the entertainment industry. Recently, I wanted to see what other dads go through as parents, especially military dads. I have always been intrigued by the work they do, the purpose behind it, and the sacrifices they make.
I knew a military dad’s parenting journey would be different from the everyday dad. Since their parenting lives are difficult, I felt I might be able to help them with my experience and advice. For a few months, I went to military bases across the United States, visiting installations in California, New Jersey, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan, to name a few. One of the universal things that I saw was how much love these military dads have for their family and the pride they have in their country. And by all means necessary, their dedication to defend both!
Helping the military families through Operation Homefront gave me a new prospective on their lives. At each base, I met with parents in groups and offered Q&A sessions. Most of the military dads attending had wives who were expecting babies. The fathers were looking forward to their babies arriving and being able to help care for them. When they were home from deployment, they wanted to be hands-on. They also wanted to learn how to keep their wives calm before they give birth.
My duty was to help them get rid of their nerves and look forward to the day their wives give birth by equipping them with tips to make them prepared. For instance, when their wives finish breastfeeding and take a nap, I showed them how to rock their baby or take them for a stroll. Then we graduated onto learning how to give their baby a sponge bath, which creates lasting bonds with their children. As I demonstrated a bath, there were a lot of smiles and chuckles in the room. I could tell when I was done that everyone was not as tense as when we first met.
First hand, I saw how unpredictable the life of a military dad is. During my trip to Tennessee, I stayed in the home of a military family. One morning, the dad woke up and got a call from his base. He then told his wife that he would be leaving on a mission the next day — one that he could not discuss. Tears ran down her face. She didn’t know where he was going or when he was coming back… or if he would ever come back alive. At the time, they had two children under the age of five. He was going to leave for his mission and would miss Father’s Day with his family. As he walked out the front door, his wife and kids hugged him. They didn’t want to let go. In that moment, I saw a dad receiving gratitude from his family.
Many other dads I met had wives that were deployed. They needed to hold down the fort at home without much experience in childcare. In fact, some of these fathers had children that were infants. I showed them how to care for their babies without any help and create a schedule so they could get sleep at night. Due to the pressures of being part of the military, sadly many relationships fall apart. I helped military dads with blended families. There is added pressure in this situation to run the household and make sure everyone gets along. It felt good to help bring peace on the home front!
Growing up without a dad myself, I was amazed to see that these men would do whatever it took for their family’s comfort and protection. I truly admire their strength and hearts. For all of the other fathers out there that are stepping up to the plate and enduring all that it means to be a parent, know that you are not alone. Keep making the right choices by your children. When you feel down, think about the military dad in the battlefield.
As I look forward to this upcoming Father’s Day, my admiration for military dads is so much stronger. I realize that the military father’s duties often overshadow his involvement with his own family. He misses birthdays and other important family events while keeping us protected. His sacrifices are not in vain. We applaud and celebrate your contributions, honor, and love for family and country. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
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