Single parents invited to relate, share at support group

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joe McFadden
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
There are many jobs in the Air Force that could compete for the title of being the toughest. Whether it's flying multi-million-dollar aircraft, jumping out of planes over enemy territory or conducting a press conference, many jobs demonstrate the pressures associated with serving in the military.

While labeling a career "tough" may be left to the eye of the beholder, there is one job that many may agree is among the most challenging and rewarding: being a single parent.

With all the tasks that come with being a parent, like taking children to school or the doctor, preparing meals, and attending to their needs, raising a child on your own can become especially time-consuming.

In order for single parents to share their experiences and draw lessons from others, the Airman & Family Readiness Center holds a single parent support group meeting on the fourth Tuesday of every month. The meetings, complete with a complimentary lunch, are open to all active-duty and civilian single parents to make use of the community's resources, identify common struggles and provide solutions where they can best be applied.

Michelle Underwood, A&FRC readiness specialist, said readiness challenges for single parent service members are radically different than for those who are not single parents.

"Often times they work nine- or 10-hour days and don't have time to go out and explore what's available to them," Mrs. Underwood said. "So it takes a different level of creativity for the single parent. These people come together to share their obstacles and say what's working for them."

Mrs. Underwood mentioned how the group welcomes spouses of deployed Airmen who may find themselves functioning in more roles than they had expected for extended periods of time. Regardless of the circumstances that may get them where they are, the single parent support group helps its members find ways to compensate for missing elements or support. The group often does so in inventive ways that can save time and money while allowing parents to capitalize on quality time with their children. For example, tips on how to prepare nutritious meals on-the-go or how to maximize time can prove to be beneficial when shared among a larger community.

Second Lt. Paula Kallai, 1st Special Operations Force Support Squadron Force Management chief and mother of one, said she was familiar with the trials of being a single parent, including being away from her family and trying to find child care.

"Being in a leadership role, I noticed a lot of Airmen had similar issues," Lieutenant Kallai said. "So I'm glad to be a part of a group that helps to find more resources for them, and glad that I can be able to be a voice for them wherever I can."

The meeting topics vary from smaller tips like using pre-cut vegetables to save time while making dinner to broader ones like how it's OK to ask for help when parents most need it. The underlying theme behind each meeting is to show that no one has to go through any challenge alone. That's a message Master Sgt. Jenaro Jackson, 1st SOFSS Career Development superintendent and father of two, said he appreciated.

"As a single parent and having gone through it when my children were younger, there are times you don't really feel like you have anywhere else to turn without being ostracized by someone who thinks 'What's wrong with you? Do you not have the ability to take care of your children?'" Sergeant Jackson said. "So it's nice to know there's a support group here or someone that you can just sit and relate to. If you don't do anything other than just share stories and experiences with someone, you know that you're not alone."

The group's organizers hope to get guest speakers, like representatives from finance, legal and the first sergeants' council, to talk about what they collectively see as issues for single parents. But the potential for more involved activities like starting a co-op for baby-sitting and house-cleaning may only be limited to the participation and ingenuity of future members.

"We're trying to grow in strength, because the more we grow in members, the more our network of resources for single parents expands, too," Mrs. Underwood said.

For more information about the single parent support group, contact the A&FRC at 884-5441.