Maybe you have kids right now. Maybe you don’t yet. I was lucky enough to experience surviving deployments and separations both ways: without kids, and then with them. We didn’t want our lives to be on hold just because Jesse was in and out all the time. You hear people say all the time, “I can’t remember what life was like before them!” when they’re talking about their children. And let’s be real, of course they can. *cough*free time*cough* BUT. It goes without saying that kids change your life as drastically as possible. And with the added bonus of perpetual sleep deprivation, your life as you once knew it waves goodbye and floats away.
I would not trade time with my babies for all the sleep and free time in the world. Obviously!
But it’s definitely interesting to contrast the two lifestyles.
What Surviving Deployment Looks Like:
Without Kids vs. With Kids
- [THE FOCUS IS ON YOUR MAN]
The second your eyes don’t see him anymore, it’s like.. ONLY 278 DAYS TO GO!!! The countdown begins. Amiright?? Then you have to drive home. By yourself. And be home. By yourself. And night comes, and you’re cooking for one. You eat by yourself. And you go to bed. By yourself. Because he’s the one other person from your duo that’s missing, the void is pronounced. Your right arm might as well be missing, well, because that’s just what it feels like now. So, girl. Miss him! Put pictures up of you two everywhere. Write to him. But most importantly, and I can’t stress it enough… PRAY. FOR. HIM. This is a special time of just the two of you. Remember that you have someone to miss who loves you and is missing you too, and that you’re the reason he is fighting to come back.
- [COMMUNICATION & COMMUNITY]
Lean on your family. Go out with friends. Actually, staring at your Email Inbox is suddenly a good time on a Friday night–no, a great time–because you can’t wait to open his email as soon and as fast as humanly and Gmail-y possible. You’ll never email more than you do during this time. Become friends with his unit’s Ombudsman so you can find out information first. Join Social Media groups related to his branch and unit and milso’s to connect with others going through the same thing, or those of us on the other side of it.
(Everybody needs encouragement—on the daily, girl—and that’s what building community is for. Find your people! When it’s hard, reach out and chat with someone. We got you!)
- [A TV SERIES]
Get hooked on a TV series. While my husband was gone, let’s see…I watched all of Grey’s Anatomy, every season of Dancing with the Stars that aired, every Fixer Upper possible, all of Outlander, and any Bachelor or Bachelorette or Bachelor in Paradise. Why? Because NONE of that was interesting to my husband, so while the cat was away, the mouse got to watch whatever the heck shows she wanted! Getting hooked on a new TV series is another thing to keep your mind off the hurt his absence causes, gives you another thing to chat with other people about, and helps maintain a routine for you week after week.
Long, hot baths, candles, wine, mani/pedis, conditioning treatments, tanning, sleeping in… these are all things that existed in my life pre-kids. The only person I had to worry about with no children yet and my husband gone was myself! I’d crank up some empowering music and take forever to curl my hair just because I could. If this is you right now, girl, live. it. UP! What you’re dealing with is hard and it’s lonely, but you’re still YOU, so treat yo-self! And for goodness sakes, get yourself a satiny eye-mask and SLEEP IN.
- [FREE TIME]
I still laugh now when I look back and remember having free time. Especially free time with no one else to worry about. Your time is yours. You decide what you want to do. Go anywhere. Do anything. Drive to the state line one night just to take a picture. Learn how to knit off YouTube and surprise him with socks YOU made. Take a class that would make you know something you don’t already know. Do it for you. The goal of surviving deployment (when you don’t have kids yet) is to still thrive. It’s a perfect time to really focus on YOURSELF before your life changes into focusing on OTHER PEOPLE all the time. I wish someone had told me to take advantage of it, because I didn’t! I focused more on the counting down of the days than the building up of myself.
But one day… most of us cross over… and then there’s this….
- [THE FOCUS IS ON YOUR KIDS]
If you have littles, like me, you’re hardly sleeping. And if you have older kids, you’re a Master Calendar-Keeper with school and sports. There are now other people in your household for you to focus on that don’t make the void seem AS distinct. And it’s not that you don’t ADORE your man, but let’s be real again for a second… with him deployed, it’s just one less person for you to take care of. I love my husband with my whole heart, so I don’t mean this negatively, but when he is gone, there are less moving parts happening because I’m not managing his changing schedule, washing yet another two loads of laundry, staying up 2 hours later to iron uniforms, etc. etc. (Let me clarify: I’d do 100 loads of laundry to keep my husband from being deployed, but I’m presenting a positive spin on absence, because that’s what you have to do… you have to find any positives!) Kids run your life as a mom; they are why you get that title. Therefore, your focus is naturally on them. Your focus is helping them learn to cope by modeling strength for them. And helping them be excited for Daddy coming home helps you stay positive, too.
- [COMMUNICATION & COMMUNITY]
Nothing changed in regards to me laying in bed, staring at my Inbox on my phone, and refreshing it until that anticipated email came through. Except this time, I was nursing a baby while doing it. My heart still skipped a beat whenever an unknown number or secure line rang through on my phone, and I still couldn’t wait to hear the sound of his voice. Except this time, I was holding the phone against one shoulder, and holding our sleeping baby on the other. I found myself still focused on community with others related to my husband’s unit, but now moreso on community with other moms. Why? I guess it’s because of that shift becoming a Mom puts in your identity. Also, I’ve found that I connect a lot more often with my family now than before I had my babies; chatting with family members can be such a positive support system, especially in the day-to-day, because deep down, your family knows you best and hearing reassurance from them that you’re strong and doing great is sometimes all you need.
- [TENDING YOUR HOUSE]
There’s really no more time to watch TV. At least, in my case, haha. With a 2 year-old and an infant and a dog and breastfeeding and cleaning bathrooms and floors and vacuuming carpets and changing diapers and laundry and cooking and dishes and our weekly activities and taking care of the yard and the garden and the vehicles and working and errands and grocery shopping and and and…. *ginormous deep breath*…. not a whole lot of Mommy TV going on. Tending your house becomes synonymous with living your life. And as much as cleaning the house with a 2 year-old is like shoveling snow during a blizzard, you still have to do it or else you’ll find yourself living in an episode of Hoarders. Having a tidy house with a warm atmosphere is vital to surviving deployment with kids. It calms you, and it calms them. I notice a huge difference when I have a music channel playing on the TV for all of us, or when I bake and send chocolate-chip-cookie smell into the air. It sets a homey mood that makes everything feel okay.
- [A HOT SHOWER]
I no longer care about long, hot baths because they’re just not realistic. Candles are scary because toddler. Wine isn’t happening because breastfeeding. Mani/pedis… I slap a coat of polish over my current chipped coat of polish and we’re good to go again. Conditioning treatments now consist of coconut oil from the kitchen counter. Tanning? um… what? and sleeping in… hahahahahahahaha(delirious sleep-deprived laughing)hahahahahahahahahaha. Ha.. haha…. ha…….
Winning the lottery couldn’t make me happier than my one hot shower at the end of the day when both kids are asleep.
With kids, especially little ones, you thrive on routine. You eat, drink, and breathe routine. They need it. You need it. Everybody needs it. The minute I get a crazy idea that it’d be fun to bring my daughter to 11 AM StoryTime at the Library instead of make her take her 11 AM Nap, visions of exorcist-level tantrums run through my head and push that idea right on out. The routine can get mundane and it can get mundane quickly, but with routine also comes the days going by quickly. And when the days go by quickly, so does the separation…. but so do our children. That’s why I wanted to write this blog: to help find the joy in the mundane, and to inspire to make the most of the days you have with your children without wishing them away. I wish I had had this perspective in the beginning! We get this one go with our kids, and we only get them for so long. No matter what is going on around you, make the most of the space in between naptime and bedtime with them. Absorb into your soul what it feels like to have them hanging onto you. Capture the sound of their little laughter into your memory forever.
So whichever of these seasons you’re in, miss, love, and pray for your man with all you’ve got in you. Encourage and support him. Write him. Cry when it hurts. Laugh when something’s funny. And most of all, make the most of your days ‘alone,’ because they are still YOURS,
and regardless of what we can’t control (ie: everything military),
… days are the most beautiful thing to be had.