Fit to fight, proud to parent

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brittany Dowdle, 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, hugs her son, Easton, on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Jan. 10, 2013. As a single parent in the military, Dowdle faces unique challenges when it comes to taking care of her son. (U.S. Air Force
photo by Senior Airman Timothy Moore/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brittany Dowdle, 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, hugs her son, Easton, on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Jan. 10, 2013. As a single parent in the military, Dowdle faces unique challenges when it comes to taking care of her son. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Timothy Moore/Released)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Monday through Friday, I get out of bed, put on my United States Air Force uniform with pride, and walk down the hall to wake up and prepare my two-year-old for the day.

Being a single parent in the military is not the most paid, the most prestigious, or the most sought after lifestyle; but for me, when I look at my son, I know he is well taken care of and that I can provide for him on my own.

Being a mother is one of the best feelings in the world to me, but I am also part of less than 1 percent of the country's population who said that they will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies. I may have to miss dinners, bedtimes or even birthdays. Those are challenges a civilian single parent may not have to face, but I know I have a job defending my country. Yet, I can still be his mom.

I work a full time job, pick up a toddler, feed him, bathe him, and make sure we are both ready for the next day before going to bed, all while staying physically, emotionally and mentally fit to fight.

I've heard people say, "If the Air Force wanted you to have kids, they would have issued them to you." To those people I say, in today's Air Force there are programs in place that make it easier for a single parent to be an Airman and a parent. I can put on my uniform every day, just like anyone without kids, and do my job while providing for my child.

In a new location, I have to make friends, quickly, and trust them enough to take my son at a moment's notice. It's a lot to ask of a person you might not know very well, to take your child for an undetermined amount of time, with very little notice. As a mother that potentially has to leave her child with that person, there are different worries that cross my mind.

As a military member, I know that I could be called at anytime to go fight for my country. As a parent, I know that when my child needs me, I need to be there day or night. As a parent in the military, I know I will have to leave my child, at some point, to provide for my country and to do what is asked of me.

I know that in fighting for my country, I can help provide the freedoms that we as Americans enjoy every day. As my son grows up, I hope he understands the sacrifices he made was so he could enjoy the same freedoms that I am a part of fighting for.

There are days when I want to just go home, take off my boots, relax and be alone to unwind. I don't always get to do that, but when I look into my son's blue eyes, all of my stress from the day just melts away. He has a way of making me feel like all my worries and anxieties from the day don't really matter as much as I thought they did.

Being a single Airman who happens to have a child is not always an easy task, but I am Senior Airman Dowdle, professionally; and mommy, personally. I wouldn't have it any other way.