Find a Hobby or Goal
This will help the time go by faster and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete something. While my husband was away I’ve taken up crochet, worked towards my Bachelor’s’ degree, got in shape, and decorated care packages (Thanks, Jo). Stop by her site to get some care package ideas; https://jomygosh.com/category/care-packages/. Continuing on, one deployment was without children so I found that I had got bored easier. This really does help to occupy your time because you are focused on the task at hand and not constantly missing your main squeeze.
Make Time to Talk to your Spouse
If you are able to, talk to your spouse frequently. It really helps you feel more connected and helps you look forward to something. Try to keep the communication positive. If you have to discuss a difficult topic go ahead, because, they do need to get resolved, but end the conversation on something good. I like the sandwich technique: good, bad good. Example: Good: Thank you for the letter you sent. Bad: The car broke down. Good: How is your class/hobby going? (whatever they are into, just turn it back to them). If we’re honest with ourselves, the person you like to talk about the most is you; so having your spouse talk about what they like will make them feel valued.
This day and age is nice, because you can usually stay connected more easily with all the new technology. This may not be the case if your spouse is in a more remote location or on the field(sorry Army, Marine, and Navy spouses).
If you are able, try Skype or Facetime. Here are a few others we’ve used and have heard of:
Facebook Video Chat-Well, just sign into your account. I think you get assigned a Facebook account with your social security number now.
Watch a Show or Read a Book Together
We’ve made it to where we pick a show to watch before he leaves and put it on a portable hard drive. This can work for a book too if both of you are readers. We let the other person know what episode/chapter we’re on or how many we intend on watching/reading. Sometimes, you’ll get busy or they’ll get busy and you’ll fall behind; just don’t talk about what you’ve watched or read until your spouse is caught up.
Make Time for You
It is important to make sure you take care of yourself because it can be really easy to get caught up in what everyone else needs and things that need to be done. If you’ve ever been on an airplane, you’ve probably heard “put your own oxygen mask on before helping any young children”. This is true in life too. You can’t help anybody if you’re exhausted and stressed to the max. Take some time to just sit in the quiet or take a bath after the kids go to bed (if they go to bed and in their own bed which is sometimes a challenge during deployments). If this is the case, get a babysitter or use the deployment child care benefits. For Air Force it’s called the “Give Parents a Break” program and is held once a month. Contact your installations support center for what is offered where you’re at.
Do Something Every Day That Brings You Joy
So when you get to the middle of the deployment, life is monotonous and you just feel like you’re going through the motions. This is why it’s important to do something that brings you joy every day (or at least most days). This can be crafting, doing your makeup or watching something on Netflix YOU want to watch. Yay, no toddler shows!
Don’t Upset Yourself
Don’t watch the news or war movies if it makes you wonder if your spouse is ok. This is especially true if your spouse is in a combat area or is some kind of ground force in the Army or Marines. They are the best-trained, most highly equipped military in the world and your spouse is a badbutt, so don’t worry about something that hasn’t happened.
If you are super lonely and you know romance novels and romantic movies make you sad, watch a comedy or something that will bring your spirits up. Save that for your first date night back together!!!
This goes along with making time for you, and sometimes that means complaining about how the kids have the flu, the dog has diarrhea, the car and the washing machine broke down. You gotta get it out or you’ll just turn into a volcano and erupt(probably at your spouse or kids). I try to have planned eruptions or breakdowns which means for 2 minutes(you can decide a different time frame that works for you), I cry it out or write it out in my journal. Sometimes it’s making time to work out. I also regularly talk to friends and sometimes the Chaplain.
Depending on the topic and the type of deployment my husband is on, I sometimes vent to him. Yes, it’s important to talk to your spouse but if your venting at them, about them, you may not even be mad at them. Now an argument has started and deployment fights are the worst! You may be mad at the situation you’re in, misunderstood what was said or an action, or you’re just really stressed. This goes on both sides. Sometimes it helps to talk to a good friend to help you see another point of view. Know that you guys will probably argue while they are deployed, but try not to walk into a fight.
Ask for Help When You Need It
Sometimes things get overwhelming though. This is when you ask for help. There are so many resources now, from the Military Family Life Counselor (MLFC) to the Key Spouse and many others. I, myself, am a Key Spouse and want to help the spouses in my flight. Your Key Spouse is probably the same. You are not bothering us, we signed up to help you(and I would be bored if a spouse didn’t call me). This is the mentality of all the other agencies on base too. So again, ask for help if you need it.
Set up a “Daddy/Mommy Center”
Just look this up on Pinterest. The basic idea is to set up a clock for your time zone and your spouse’s time zone. You can add a map, a count up calendar (countdowns can be harder for children to grasp), pictures of your spouse or letters they have sent. The sky’s the limit!
This helps keep your spouse visible in your daily life to the kids. Deployment is such an abstract concept and these center help kids see where their parent is and understand their life and schedule better.
Let Your Child Talk to your Spouse(Sometimes They May Not want to)
Children take deployments differently than adults. I noticed my kids missed their dad but didn’t always want to talk to him. I’m not truly sure why this is, but it may be that it makes it too real they are gone, they want the real thing or they need to keep up the routine of being busy as a coping mechanism. This is more common in older kids starting at about 8, at least for my children.
Small toddlers and babies may not say much but it helps them stay connected with your spouse through the deployment. Communication will also make reintegration easier. Small children don’t have the memory retention of kids 5 and older and they change a lot in the 6 months during those years. If you’re able, try to make it a point to Skype or do some kind of video conferencing regularly. This helps the parent see the child grow and your child to see and recognize their parent.
Spend Time Alone with Each Child
This is a hard time for them and they need to know that you are there for them and just them. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can be just laying in bed with each child for a few moments. If you have more then 3 children, maybe set aside time in the morning or after school.
You are Stronger and More Capable Than You Think
You will make it through! This time will pass and you and your spouse will see each other again like so many military couples before you have. Deployments are a time to strengthen yourself and your marriage. It’s like when you go to the gym: you’re sore the next day but your arm or thigh might be a little less jiggly. That’s a new hashtag; #nojigglymarriage