Being military families we will all be separated from our spouse at one point (or many) and most often we will have children. When I was dating my husband he was on deployment, I really felt (even though I missed him like crazy) like life just sorta when on. I continued seeing friends for dinner and happy hour and visited my family, but now that I have kids it is a totally different beast. Currently he will travel for seven days, home for two weeks gone for three days and so on. It really disrupts our everyday living especially for the boys. Yet, as the one always staying behind I have to keep some sort of normalcy in our lives while staying connected with my frequently traveling husband. How do I do it? With these tips!
1. Maintain routine! It can be so easy to pick up and leave for the extra support of family but sometimes this isn’t the best option. If your children are in school keep them there and stick to what they know. This will also help when dad (or mom) comes home. They will be able to jump right in because it was just like this when they left. My boys don’t always think to ask their dad for help tying shoes because it has been me for two weeks but I point and say, dad’s home he can do it and because it was something going on previous he knows it is the norm.
2. Talk everyday (if possible) in some fashion. We love iChat, FaceTime, calling, texting and even Facebook to stay in touch. The last long deployment my husband went on we emailed him everyday about what went on that day and I used my then four and two year old’s words. Now, it is a quick text of a picture or chatting on FaceTime and the kids love it! I really feel like they stay connected with their dad this way and keeps their spirits up. I also notice they tend to listen a little better when they have heard from their dad.
3. Have special plans up your sleeve. In our family eating out is rare and so I always plan at least one meal out with dessert to follow. Another thing is a day trip some place, like the zoo or a near by park we don’t often visit. This keeps things fresh and it shows kids that good things can happen when dad is away. If you are on a budget visit your local MWR ITT office for any discounted tickets and if it is a meal you are after don’t forget to ask about military discounts.
4. Have a count down. Count downs can be anything you think up. I have heard of paper chains, hershey kiss jars, and even a jar full of loving thoughts written out by the parent deployed and each day the child reads one. We always used stickers on a calendar to mark off the days. I think counting down really helps give kids a perspective of time and something tangible to show dad or mom will be home soon.
5. Have a picture next the child’s bed. Every night my boys would say goodnight and kiss the picture of their daddy. When they were too little to really understand that he was gone and wouldn’t be home for long time this helped keep that image of daddy in their mind. My older son used to talk to the picture, even though to me it was only babbles, but he must have been telling his dad important things.
6. Know your limits as a parent. When enough is enough reach out and ask for help be it a babysitter for a night out with friends or a trip home to visit family. I found a “mothers helper” to be crucial part of surviving deployments when my children were three and under. The young lady who helped me was so instrumental in keeping me from reaching that limit. I had her come three days a week during dinner hour while I cooked, fed and cleaned up and that was just enough. But, that limit is different for all of us and knowing it is key. We may be among the strongest spouses in the country but we all have a moment when we just need a break. When and how you go about it is really up to you.
This blog is written at a moment in time when even I needed to know tips to surviving separation from my husband. It may only be for a short time but it is all relative. The feelings of loneliness and heartache for my him are all the same no matter how long he is gone. I know this is true for our children as well. Some trips are easier than others because of the length and my experiences with them but as I kiss him farewell and watch him hug our boys, I know I have to dig deep down in me and pull up strength I forget I have. So, to those of you reading this and wishing your husband, friend, father to your children were with you take a moment realize you aren’t alone. There is a whole military of spouses feeling just like you using some of these very same tips to make it through those long, lonely days drinking a glass of wine while wearing a suit of armor.