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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Parenting can be tough. No one knows that better than active-duty single parents such as Staff Sgt. Christina Love.

During a recent exercise, Love, the mother of three daughters, ages 7, 6 and 4, went through five child-care providers in one weekend. Life is less hectic now that she no longer has to report to physical training at 6 a.m. five days a week. But challenges persist.

“I don’t have that backup for when I’m stressed out and need a break,” she said. “Just having enough time to spend with my kids, and time to cook and clean the house.”

Love hopes a new group at Misawa will make life easier for single moms and dads. The Misawa Single Parents Group formed in March under the direction of Family Advocacy nurse Ada Overton.

Overton said the group is designed to be a support system for single parents as well as a social network for both adults and kids.

Single parents “really don’t have anybody to fall back on,” she said. “It’s you.”

The group has met twice already, once at the Weasel’s Den and once at Family Advocacy. Meetings are at 5 p.m. every other Wednesday in locations where parents can bring their children. All single parents on base — active-duty and civilians, as well as parents temporarily raising kids alone due to a spouse deployment or temporary duty assignment — are welcome.

For its meetings, the group is hoping to alternate between family activities and educational speakers.

Staff Sgt. Brian O’Neil, a single father to 3-year-old Christian, said more than anything, the group gives single parents an opportunity to swap advice: “We talk about tricks of the trade, things that have worked, things that haven’t worked, and just chatting.” Discussion topics have included how to find child care at odd hours and tips on how to help a child sleep at night.

“To me, it’s networking,” Love said. “Maybe one single parent may be good at something that another may not be. I think we’re going on the right track.”

Overton revived the group after a single dad new to Misawa asked about one.

“The last Family Advocacy outreach manager we had tried it two years ago but it didn’t take off,” Overton said.

This time, she and the handful of members hope to change that by marketing the group better. Though Overton said she’ll continue to facilitate, ensuring the group has speakers and a place to meet, she wants it to be the parents’ group. A Family Advocacy backing could keep potential members away because of the stigma, Overton said. The perception, she said, is “people go to Family Advocacy if they need help or are in trouble.

“We’re trying to reduce the stigma,” O’Neil said. “We’re not really talking to Family Advocacy — we’re talking to teach other.”

The next meeting is Wednesday at Love’s house. Call Overton at DSN 226-6823 or e-mail Love or O’Neil, respectively, at love.christina@misawa.af.mil or oneil.brian@misawa.af.mil for more information about the group.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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