The Scariest Part of Military Spouse Life…
Arguably, every military spouse dreads the moment their service member says the words, “I’m getting deployed.” That moment overcomes a military spouse with so many emotions that may range from fear, anxiety, and sometimes, even anger. While every spouse knows that their service member could inevitably be given orders for deployment, it doesn’t make it any easier when it does happen.
When a service member gets deployed, the spouse is often left to fend for themselves in regard to parenting and running their household. Schedules have to be adjusted to accommodate daycare/school drop-offs and pickups, appointments, meal times, extracurriculars, and so much more.
Additionally, deployments can leave a military spouse not only physically distant, but also emotionally, intimately, and mentally disconnected from their service member. Luckily, there are multiple resources available as well as a number of tips and tricks that can help.
Here are 4 ways to get through a spouse’s deployment:
1. Get Organized and Build A Routine
Because deployments are a part of the reality of military spouse life, it is always a good idea to prepare prior to its arrival. For example, if you are working and have children, notify your employer that you are a military spouse and that in times of deployment, you may need a more flexible schedule to drop off and pick up your children.
Conversely, you could make sure that you have identified a few different people who would either be willing to help out or be hired to assist you with your kids when your service member is away. The key is to figure out what will change in advance and take proactive steps to alleviate as much hardship that could result from it.
“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” - Benjamin Franklin
What You Can Prepare Prior to Deployment
- Help with childcare: You’ll want to find your village or have babysitters on standby. Inform family or friends nearby who can assist you with drop off, pick-up, or in cases of a sick child, who has to stay home.
- Important documents: You’ll definitely want to make sure you have a binder with legal documents and other important information like bank logins, emergency contacts, insurance information, etc. Also, keep an updated Power of Attorney on file for things like filing taxes, getting passports, or banking decisions while your service member is away.
- Daily routine: When faced with big changes, like a deployment and missing spouse, it is best to keep schedules as normal as possible. So figuring out prior to departure what a new schedule might look like and implementing it early could help ease some feelings of anxiety around so many changes.
- Preparing children for deployment: On top of missing a parent, other changes may happen for children naturally during deployment. Helping children prepare for a parent being away through books, discussions, and even role-playing can make the transition smoother. For example, it may be expected that your children take on additional household duties to fill the gap of the deployed parent.
2. Stay Connected
In this new digital age, it’s much easier for families to stay connected while deployed. Though this may not always be possible, depending on the location and accessibility of the service member, military families often have the opportunity to do video chats and send emails.
One way that military spouses can stay connected to their deployed service members AND keep their families and themselves busy is to start a video blog. It can simply have recordings of their life and events, which can help the deployed service member feel like they are not missing important moments in their family’s lives. It can also serve as a mechanism of communication for the military spouse if video chatting, texting, and email are not easily accessible.
Then, there is the tried and true method of connection between the deployed service member and the military spouse: the care package. Military spouses and their families can send little tastes of home to their deployed service members in the form of letters, pictures, treats, candy, and household comforts. This is also a great way to get the kids involved. You can have them help decorate the inside of the box or make a special card for their parent who is deployed. Just make sure to check what items are allowed through customs first.
3. Have a Countdown
One great way I have seen families pass the time is to create a deployment countdown. This can be a simple timeline, but it can also be something fun like pieces of candy in a jar labeled “XX Days Until Mommy/Daddy Are Home” or an advent-like calendar with small goodies to open each day (or week).
Some families of deployed service members even prepare dedicated spaces in their home decorated with the deployment countdown, along with keepsakes, photos, and multiple clocks: one that shows the time where the deployed service member is and one with the current time of the family. I really love this idea to encourage your children to be involved which would also give them and yourself a visual cue of time passing.
4. Take Time for Self-Care
Deployment is hard. It is especially hard on spouses who feel like they can’t take time to take care of themselves. Make sure that you are doing mental health check-ins, doing things that you enjoy, and splurging on a babysitter for an afternoon or night out with friends.
An additional form of self-care is having someone to talk to regularly. Military Family Life Counselors are available to provide military spouse support during deployment. They offer non-medical counseling to help military spouses and service members address issues, such as improving relationships at home and work, stress management, adjustment difficulties, parenting, and grief or loss.
To get through a deployment, it can also help to fill your calendar with things to look forward to. One military wife stated that she did one big thing per month during her spouse’s deployment. This allows you to stay busy and get excited about something fun you have planned instead of focusing on your service member being away.
Military Spouse Support During Deployment
Whether you are preparing for one, or are already in the midst of a deployment, the ASYMCA has resources to offer military spouses support during deployment. You are not alone.
The Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) offers programs at little to no cost for military families, such as local military spouse support groups, educational resources and childcare services to help families face the unique challenge of a service member being away. Learn more about ASYMCA’s programs today.