Te whakatupu takitahi i te tamaiti
Sometimes we can go it alone as parents, whether by choice or a change in circumstance. But, did you know that the way you parent is more important than the structure of your family?
When could it be a problem for me or the team?
Being a military member provides some financial security and gives your children a positive role model. Being in uniform as a sole parent can sometimes mean there is extra planning and preparation needed to meet responsibilities. This is to make sure you are operationally ready to perform in your military role at any time, and at the same time have alternative childcare planned for any situation. It is also important that your children know when you will be there and when you might be away. This helps gives them a sense of security.
One thing guaranteed about being in uniform is that at some point you will be away from home. As a sole parent you are the person your children rely on at all times for their care, fun, support and safety. It is essential that you also have a good support crew to rely on when you are away.
Having a family support plan for any eventuality before you need it is crucial. It ensures your command can rely on you being good to go when they need you. Some things to have sorted are:
- If you were called away at short notice do you have family/whānau or friends to rely on? If not then now is a good time to create a family support plan.
- Do your children know these people and are they comfortable staying with them?
- Will they stay in your home or need dropping off?
- Do your children have a ‘grab bag’ if your role means you get ‘called to go’ at short notice?
- Do you have a list of all their likes, dislikes, and hobbies?
- Are they able to sign your children in and out of pre-school, kindergarten, or school?
- Does your alternative caregiver know your children’s medical information?
- Are they able to give medications if needed?
It’s important also to prepare for unexpected eventualities:
- Is your alternative caregiver able to make decisions about your children’s care or wellbeing?
- Do your family/whānau know who your next of kin is if you got hurt or became ill?
- Who would manage your affairs and support your children if you became unwell?
- Do you have a will or power of attorney?
Check out some tips for sole parents here
Support with your career
Having opportunities for career development is important when you are a sole parent. Not only does it provide financial security, support self-esteem, support your children’s wellbeing, it also helps to break down myths or stereotyping attitudes about sole parents. If you have parenting or family matters that mean you may be temporarily unavailable for exercises or operations we strongly encourage you to talk with your command and support services early. This will mean that together you can work through how to manage this situation.
NZDF has flexible work options you can talk through with your commander or manager to see if these are available for your current role. There is also positive parenting support for those who are on flexible employment. Returning to work after having a baby as a sole parent will need planning and support.
Time out and self-care
Being a sole parent can be tough at times. You get less respite, carry all the decision-making responsibilities, and have to be both the good cop and bad cop at same time. It’s vital that as a sole parent you have an opportunity to recharge yourself. Even a short time away from caring for children and doing something you enjoy will help support a sense of wellbeing. Looking after yourself is a priority, even to just be able to be a good parent. This will top up your tank to keep you going with a busy lifestyle being in the military, and raising children by yourself.
Don’t forget that being a sole parent can also bring resilience. You can make your own decisions. You will be motivated to provide for your child/children and have goals for yourself and family/whānau. You will have a strong sense of family/whānau identity, more time with your child/children if you are working flexible hours and may become closer to extended whānau who may provide support for child caregiving.
You are also able to access strong supports and networks by being part of the military family which would not otherwise be available.
If things are tough for you there are a lot of ways that you can access support. NZDF provides the following support and resources for parents:
- Some locations have onsite before or after-school care.
- Some locations host school holiday programmes or activities.
- Defence Community Facilitators (DCF) are available to support you with parenting information and resources as well as hosting family events.
- Deployment Support Officers provide support for families during deployments.
- Social Workers are there to support your parenting relationship with your children.
- Chaplains are available for pastoral care.
- Are you a Veteran who has been on operational deployment? You may qualify for support from Veterans Affairs and be able to access support for your family.
- You can seek advice and support from your health team.
There are some practical support resources that you may be eligible for as a sole parent. These include:
- Birthright is a community Organisation that aims to support sole parents.
- Single Parent Services (Waikato) or groups in your area. Go to your NZDF, DCF or Citizens Advice Bureau to find out more.
- Working for families will give you information about work and tax credits from Inland Revenue.
- Child Support – If you are separated the other parent of your child may be liable for child support or, you might reach an agreement between yourselves. (See the Ministry of Justice information on Child Support. Payments are managed by IRD.).
- Find useful information at Mothershelpers.co.nz , www.parenthelp.org.nz.
- Childcare services (talk to your Community support team).
- Trusts (Navy/Army/AF)that may provide grants for families or directly to children, SSANZ.
- Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association (RSA).
- Force Financial Hub - Force4Families.
- Community Law Centres can provide legal information free of charge but not act as a lawyer for you.
- Also see our Positive parenting content for further websites and programmes.