This is a post from Amy Warrick of No Greater Honors
My husband has been in the military for over 12 years now, but it didn’t take long for me to realize just how different a life it is being in the military. In fact, it was a harder adjustment being civilian for a little while than being in the military. We spend the first 5 years of our marriage at an active duty military base, and then transitioned to Air National Guard. That change was unreal for me, and I can’t tell you how comforting it was when he was finally hired as full-time, active duty Air National Guard in our hometown after having spent almost 5 years in a somewhat civilian lifestyle (when he only had to work on base one weekend a month). I was so out of my league in regular civilian life, and yet I have heard many say they don’t know how they would handle military life. To me, it’s like a comfortable pair of shoes – you never take them off, never give them up, and generally wear them out – before buying another pair exactly the same. Except for a few things – like deployments.
In 2009. my husband had what I like to call an ‘in-country’ deployment – he was working in conjunction with OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) and yet, he didn’t actually have to go overseas. He was, however, gone for a total time of 6 1/2 months. His only breaks were Christmas, and to come back just days before the birth of our youngest daughter (and leave again when she was a week old). Then, in the Spring of 2012 – just days after moving in to a new house – he left again, this time for an overseas deployment that lasted almost 7 months. The first *deployment*, we had three children and I was expecting our fourth. The second was right after our youngest turned 1 year old. To say that was hard is an understatement.
If you are reading this, and you are a military wife, then you know what I’m talking about. The moment your husband steps on that plane, you now have sole responsibility of: finances, taxi driver services, all meals, all training of your children, every long night, every rough family moment, every crisis that comes up (kids are sick, someone is sad, somebody fed her brother dramamine and you have to rush him to the ER on the off chance that he begins to seize) – and all those things are handled alone. You also have to keep up relationships between you and your husband, worry about him constantly (that’s going to happen anyway, whether you work at it or not), make sure not to panic when he doesn’t call for several days, make sure not to panic when you hear something has happened on the news AND he hasn’t called for several days, not get upset when he didn’t get to tell you Happy Mother’s Day, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary – or whatever it might be – on the right day. Then, if that’s not enough – you also get to try to squeeze in a chance for the kids to talk to him, write him emails, teach them how to send him a message on facebook (and realize that is one of your strongest links to him – a computer screen). Then, when the days are long, you are sad, you don’t think you can handle one more day of this deployment – you cry yourself to sleep, and start again the next day.
If you are reading this and know what I am talking about – you are not alone.
Maybe you are in this situation as we speak, or getting ready for it, or just have gone through the separation for one reason or another in the military (TDY, Tech School, extra training, etc.). If you are here, then you face the dilemma we all face. How do I make it, and how do I keep the relationship alive?
I’d like to share some tips that helped me. They may not apply (you may not have as large a family, or you may have larger), but they can probably be tweaked to help anyone.
- When you are missing your husband (or the kids are missing their dad) and the day seems more stressful than usual, go to the park. Go to the local fast food place with a play area, or some other special little (free) place in the area. Just something to mix up the day for a few hours. If you have a friend to go with you, that will help even more. The kids will get a nice distraction from their thoughts, and wear themselves out playing, and you can have a chance for some adult conversation.
- When the kids have been disobedient, or particularly trying, on any given day – give them an extra hug, and kiss – and send them to bed EARLY. Maybe they are just having one of ‘those days’ that kids have, or maybe they are feeling the missing person a little more and it’s causing them to have a bad day. While I know as parents we have to teach our children they can’t react badly, the truth is – sometimes we do, too. They are going through the same thing you are, so be kind to that. In the mean time, know that getting them to bed at night before they get overly exhausted will help them to not get overwhelmed, and you to get some peace. Then, when (if) your husband calls – DON’T tell him everything. You can tell him you’ve had a rough day, but leave it at that. There isn’t a thing he can do about it from so far away, and the last thing you want to do is spend precious minutes with him on the other end of the line, complaining. It will stress him out, and later you will think of so many things you wanted to say, and it may be a few days before you get to say them again.
- Two words for you – FLAT DADDY( http://www.imalreadyhomeagain.com/ ) This was indispensable to our family. Our Flat Daddy got many hugs, kisses, pictures taken with him (even with other family) – it even went to Chick Fil A once with us. When not in use, our Flat Daddy stayed in the highest point in the main living area of our house, so we could always have a bit of my husband with us. The good news is, if you are in the military, all you have to do is send in an application for a Flat Daddy and (if approved) you get ONE for FREE! So we didn’t even have to pay for this blessing, although it would have been well worth the money. Even now, our FD stays stored somewhere for use again if needed.
- Plan a trip. Depending on the size of your family, you can go big, or small – simple, or adventure-packed. For some good tips on trip-taking with a large family, visit Vacationing With A Large Family – Tips and Tricks To Make It Work . Whatever it is, plan one for about halfway through the deployment. It will give you something to keep your mind busy and excited about until it happens, and something to continue to talk about after it has happened. The best part is, it will be a visual marker for your children to know that when the vacation week(end) comes, you have made it halfway through. Ours was a camp meeting (weekend long revival) in another city. That may not appeal to everyone, so I don’t say that as a suggestion necessarily – it’s just what we had on the schedule that fell at the right time. My children enjoyed meeting new people and seeing some old faces. Oh – and they loved that we stayed in a hotel (we may or may not have gotten a phone call asking to make sure our children weren’t jumping on the beds!!!). It was a break from the normal, and gave us all a break. It can be whatever you’d like, though. And look for military discounts – they are offered in so many places, and don’t be afraid to let it be known that you are military – it’s worth the discount!
Other little things you can do are:
- Make a growth chart
My children and I did a simple ‘mark the wall by the bathroom’ chart, which they still go back to even to this day, two years later, to see how much they have grown.
- Have a countdown
We started with a ‘Kisses from Daddy’ jar, which was full of Hershey’s Kisses. I knew how many were in there, and how many we needed for all five kids to be able to have one a night (it started out with a ridiculous amount!). They enjoyed this, but we didn’t use it the entire time. Turns out, when Mommy starts to miss Daddy at night, after the kids go to bed…somehow those kisses start to disappear faster than they should… 😉
- Watch Home Movies
We didn’t have a lot of these to watch, but if you do, it would be a fun thing to pull out and enjoy the memories!
- Make a ‘Daddy Scrapbook’
I didn’t personally do this with all my children, but my oldest had received a small beginners scrapbook set for Christmas, and had taken some pictures with her Daddy before he left, and this helped her a lot to have that to look at. She kept it close to her at night.
- Send Care Packages
Everyone benefits from these! Dad will love them, and the kids enjoy knowing they are part of sending something that he will be holding in his hands in a few days. Just be sure to take pictures, and try to see if he can get a picture of him with it, so they can compare later!
There are so many great ideas if you just use Google and Pinterest.
My last piece of advice, and the greatest:
There are some things that Pinterest and Google searches can’t fix. There are some hard days when it seems like the clock never moves, sadness just won’t leave, and the tears must come. In that time – the most important thing, and the only thing that can fix it, is to PRAY. God will hold you closer than you could possibly imagine, and will give you peace to get through the toughest of times. A deployment is truly a life changing affair for all involved, and will mark your marriage and family forever. The best way to get through is to lean fully on the Lord, and pull from the list of things to do to make the time pass quicker.
Always remember that you are NOT alone! There are military wives everywhere that are going through the same thing, and can be support system for you. This military wife is praying for you!