Tips For Surviving Deployment

>> Sunday, February 8, 2015

Surviving deployment.  It is a skill that military spouses are always trying to master.  I used to think that it would get easier with each deployment, but the truth never gets easier because each deployment brings it's own challenges.  I've gone through deployments single, with a newborn, and with two school-aged children.  This last deployment was NOTHING like the first deployment....but I CAN say that I've learned something new and different about myself each deployment.

But you CAN survive it....whether or your first or fifth!  Over the years, I've gained some wisdom and tips that I'd like to share here.
Be Prepared
As your Soldier prepares his pre-deployment checklist, there are things you can be doing at home to prepare as well.  Do you know where the main water valve shut off is in your home? Would you know what to do if your water tank starts to leak or if you smell gas from your furnace?  Put together a binder or folder of emergency numbers (friends, family, repairmen, Family Programs, Rear Detachment, etc.)
Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help Or Take Help
This was always hard for me.  I always felt that I had to do it alone.  I had something to prove.  But all I proved was that I COULDN'T do it alone!  If someone offers to help - TAKE IT and gratefully say thank you!
Do Not Compare!
Do not compare your relationship or service members to the others.  I made the mistake of doing this early into our first Iraq deployment.  Webcams were very new and Skype wasn't even around yet.  I kept hearing how everyone was webcamming with their spouses and became very upset.  The reality was My Marine didn't have a laptop of his own at that time and just didn't have the time to mess with it.  He had a job to do.  Just because another service member calls home/Skypes/emails every day and yours doesn’t, means nothing. Your spouse may be busy, may be resting, or may not have a good connection to even try and get in touch with you.  Do not assume that the lack of communication means that they do not love you.
Take Care Of You
Remember that thing about asking for help?  Ask a friend to watch your kids for a couple of hours or hire a sitter so that you can take some downtime.....whether it's going for a coffee or just going grocery shopping alone.  Make it a regular thing.  When you're a single parent during a deployment, you are ON 24/7.  There's no one to take turns getting up with a sick kid or tag team for parent/teacher conferences.  It's all you.  You will get tired.  Your fuse will be short.  Taking that time for you every once in awhile is ESSENTIAL!
It Really DOES Take A Village
Try to schedule some regular time with other spouses.  During this last deployment, at least once a weekend I would try to get together with a couple other milspouses and our kids. We'd make pizza, let them run themselves sleepy, and then set them up on the floor for a giant sleepover with popcorn and movies. We would get a break where we could have some drinks and bitch about deployment -- and the kids were forming bonding friendships and making some fun memories.  Those nights are what kept me going through this last deployment.
Find a Routine But Don't Overextend Yourself
My first deployment with Nani was hard.  I was by myself in a new state hundreds of miles from my family.  I joined a local MOMS Club and we participated in their activities at least 3-4x a week.  During this last deployment I threw myself into volunteering....a lot....with school, with Family Programs, with church....and I got burned out.  I was so busy with everyone else that I had no time for ME.  It's ok to say NO to chairing the PTA's Snowball Festival so you can have a night where you sit in your PJs eating ice cream from the container while your kids watch "The Lego Movie" or "Frozen" for the 100th time in their rooms. 
Stay Connected
Plan regular care packages for your spouse.  Email/FB/Skype whenever you can.  Keep your Soldier informed of what's going on at home.  He wants to be involved even though he's not physically there.  Keep him involved in decision-making and disciplining the kids.  But sometimes there's just not time for a consultation and you'll have to make decisions on your own.  Be prepared to share how you made the choice for what needed to be done.   
Discover A New You!
During our Iraq deployment, I was trying to figure out who I was as a mom....Nani was only 8 months old when My Marine deployed and came back a month before her 2nd birthday.  Not only was I a first-time mom, but I was also a single mom.  Nani and I bonded immensely that deployment.  This last deployment was the Deployment of Me.  I lost weight, I colored my hair pink, I found out that I loved kickboxing and weight training and I discovered a new-found self-esteem and self-confidence that I never had before.  Try a new hobby, go back to school.....but try something new and different.....just for YOU!
Go With The Flow
The Deployment Curse will happen.  Things will break down, water will leak, animals and children will get sick.  It's ok to lose it....for a bit.  But then you have to take that deep breath and then figure out how to get done what needs to be done.  (That's when the "Be Prepared" comes in handy!)
And finally.......

Embrace The Suck
Yes, deployments suck.  No one enjoys being separated from their loved ones.  But in the end, this experience will be what YOU make of it.  It's YOUR choice.  You can choose to be miserable, mopey and gloomy every day or you can choose to embrace this opportunity placed before you.
So there you have it!  I know there are more tips out there, but these are the tried and true ones that have seen me through!  If you're a spouse that has gone through deployment, what are some of YOUR tips?


Michelle February 8, 2015 at 10:04 PM  

A great and informative post!

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