The Bravest Thing I’ve Ever Done Is Become A Full-Time Parent

Family & Relationships
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Diana Quinlan

Editor’s Note: This article by Rebekah Sanderlin originally appeared on, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.

I've done some brave things in my life. I'm not saying that to prop myself up, but to say that I know what it feels like to swallow my fear and step forward anyway.

I moved across the country and gave up a dream job in order to pursue a relationship. I went skydiving. I trained to be a professional boxer and stepped into countless rings knowing that I would get hurt. I've given birth three times, twice without pain medication. I've clicked "submit" on hundreds of stories, fully aware that the responses were far more likely to be "no" than "yes," and that readers might hate me for the words I wrote.

I've driven away from a summer camp where neither of us knew anyone and left my firstborn there to fend for himself — and that's a whole lot harder to do than it sounds.

But each of those actions required a decision. Each time, there was a moment when I could have said no, could have chosen the easier path, could have spared myself some pain.

The bravest thing I've ever done, however, was to become a Must-Have Parent — and I can't point to a "yes" or "no" moment when I made that choice. It just sort of crept up on me, the result of a hundred other choices that seemed much less consequential. This decision was the product of reacting, time and again, in a way that would best address each particular situation. It didn't feel brave at the time.

I say Must-Have Parenting is the bravest thing I've done because the smart thing, the safe thing, the society-approved thing to do would have been to take control and look out for myself. Being a Must-Have Parent has meant putting all my faith into others.

As MHPs, we're leaning out in a lean-in world. We're stepping back when the world tells us to push forward. We're throwbacks. Retro. Old school.

Most of us have no 401(k). We might not even be contributing to Social Security. For many of us, Must-Have Parenting has meant having no professional life at all. For others, it means constantly disappointing our bosses because we are the person upon whom all domestic responsibilities fall.

I'm at an age where most of the couples I started on this military journey with are now divorced. I can't pretend that I don't notice that. I've watched as friends who made the same choices I've made found themselves starting all over again, sometimes with a 20-year absence from the work force, fighting in divorce courts to quantify their own contributions to their families.

And I've watched as far too many of the couples my husband and I started on this path with have had their relationships severed by death. Women who were MHPs with me now find themselves as truly single parents, widows who are grieving, comforting, parenting and providing for their families.

That's why I say that Must-Have Parenting has been a brave choice, even if it's hard to point to an exact moment of decision. It's a path that offers us very little security.

Our culture rarely celebrates parents. Sure, we offer blanket statements about the contributions of parents, but we don't celebrate in-the-trenches parenting.

Military culture, particularly online, can be openly hostile and dismissive toward the work of MHPs, with phrases like, "You didn't serve, you only served dinner," popping up far more often than they should.

I won't pretend these statements don't make me angry. They make me furious. What could be more "service" than volunteering for a 24/7 job that offers no pay, no advancement, no recognition, no benefits and no security? Moreover, for many if not all of us, volunteering to be MHPs has meant forgoing jobs that would have rewarded us with all of those things.

So why would we do this?

When I jumped out of that airplane, it was to prove to myself that I could. When I stepped into those boxing rings, it was to see how my training and abilities matched up against another person's. When I submitted all those articles, it was to satisfy personal ambition. When I gave birth to my children, it was because I needed more humans to soak all the love my family had to give.

But why did I choose to be a Must-Have Parent?

The simple answer: Love.

Love for my husband. I wanted to help him reach his goals, and I was willing to cover down at home so he could.

Love for my children. They needed a parent, and I wanted to do that job.

Love for my country. I knew that my husband had a skillset that was vital for our country and way of life.

The complicated answer: I'm still sorting that one out. It's a million different things on a hundred different days. Love, certainly, but also loyalty. Commitment. Habit. Stubbornness. Pride. Stability. Because it's what makes the most sense for my family right now.

And bravery. Because it feels good to be brave.

This article originally appeared on

More from

The United States and Turkey have agreed to a temporary cease fire to allow Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a safe zone that Turkey is establishing along its border with Syria, Vice President Mike Pence announced on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

Trump's recent decisions in northern Syria were ill-advised, strategically unsound, and morally shameful. In rapidly withdrawing U.S. presence and allowing a Turk offensive into Syria, we have left the Syrian Kurds behind, created a power vacuum for our adversaries to fill, and set the stage for the resurgence of ISIS.

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One of the world's largest freshwater fish is protected by the natural equivalent of a "bulletproof vest," helping it thrive in the dangerous waters of the Amazon River basin with flexible armor-like scales able to withstand ferocious piranha attacks.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego and University of California, Berkeley on Wednesday described the unique structure and impressive properties of the dermal armor of the fish, called Arapaima gigas. They said their findings can help guide development of better body armor for people as well as applications in aerospace design.

Read More Show Less

DELAND, Florida — A military freefall parachuting team has a better reason to conquer Mount Everest than "because it's there."

The 12-member team, assembled by Complete Parachute Solutions of DeLand, will attempt a world record for the highest-elevation tactical military freefall parachute landing. But it's more than a record. It's validation.

"When CPS says we've landed our parachutes at over 20,000 feet, that means we've done it," said Johnny Rogers, the company's vice president.

Read More Show Less

The U.S. military's withdrawal from northeast Syria is looking more like Dunkirk every day.

On Wednesday, the U.S. military had to call in an airstrike on one of its own ammunition dumps in northern Syria because the cargo trucks required to safely remove the ammo are needed elsewhere to support the withdrawal, Task & Purpose has learned.

Read More Show Less