Following on from the feature in our summer edition, All Shapes & Sizes, looking at how the army is adapting to support our changing community, single dad Brian talks about his experiences of jugging parenting with his army commitments…
“It was an absolute challenge to begin with, trying to remain focused at work, from leading a team of 18 to administratively supporting the Commanding Officer and chain of command and then having to switch fire to do the school pick-up, get tea ready, get the washing done, help with homework and then getting a seven, five and three-year-old, as they were when I was awarded custody, to bed, and then get up and do it all again the next day.
“At that moment, climbing Mount Everest would have been an easier challenge.
“I was initially my own worst enemy. Being an officer and department head, I kept a lot of things to myself as didn’t want to appear a ‘welfare’ case, so I didn’t approach either my chain of command or the welfare services available as I was too proud.
“I deployed to Afghanistan on Operation Herrick only two months after getting custody. Not wanting my private life to interfere with my work life, I organised for my mum and brother to look after the children, together with my partner Kirsty’s support.
“She was unable to help practically due living in the north west with her own two children, but she helped with emotional phone support and the legal side, liaising with solicitors and completing paperwork in the UK.
“As my mum is retired and my brother was not working, it seemed a good idea – it wasn’t. It was far too early to leave my children who had just had a major change in their lives and it had a detrimental effect on the way I operated in an environment where you have to be on top of your game.
“I have never left them again for such a long period and I have been fortunate enough to have been in a job where I seldom have to deploy but when I had to, I ensured there was a suitable childcare plan in place.
“It became a bit too much in the end and when I did ask for help it was there in abundance – if only I had done it a lot sooner.
“As they have grown up it has got easier and now my daughter is studying at Lincoln University, one son is now in Phase 2 training, having joined the army last summer, so it’s just me and my youngest, who goes to Darlington College.
“I have now served with a few units as a single parent and every single unit has been extremely supportive. The army is a fantastic employer of single parents and you should never be afraid to ask for understanding and assistance if your circumstances change.”
For more on modern army families, see pages 14-16 of our summer edition or read more here.