My husband is gone a lot for work. This is the military life we chose. We both accepted the responsibility of this choice, and we are more than willing to see it through. However being apart, as a family, is met with a very hefty set of challenges. Sometimes I feel like a lonely military wife.
There is a stillness in the house during deployment. My kids are snuggled under blankets and Elmo dolls, unaware of the weight of the world and why deployment will be a part of our lives throughout their dad’s career. My husband is who knows where. And my family is thousands of miles away on the other side of the world.
I am here.
You can hear Pandora (This is what I’m listening to) playing soft indie rock in the background. You can hear my wine swirl as I turn the glass on the kitchen counter. You can hear me reach my hand to my hair and tuck it behind my ear.
There is a stillness in the house that allows you to hear all the sounds you never noticed before. And then you are only left with the thoughts in your mind.
How will you explain to your kids that dad is away? How will you help them cope through the frequent transitions of a two parent to one parent household? And how will you cope as a military spouse and mother in the midst of guiding your children through it all?
Sometimes being a military wife feels lonely.
I don’t have all the answers. But one thing that helps the most is being honest about parenting in military life. Honest that life gets tough sometimes. And honest that life feels lonely sometimes.
1. Make a plan.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’m sure you’ve noticed I’m a bit of a planner. If there is ever a time to plan, it is before a military deployment. The stress of separation is tough. Having a predictable plan offers stability and can help immensely with the transition.
The start of a good plan involves talking to your husband and discussing how best to help each other transition during long separations. How can we all best stay connected to each other? Before my husband leaves on any work trip or deployment, we talk about ideal communication versus realistic communication frequency.
Ideally, we would like to talk once a day. Is this always realistic? Probably not. But we are intentional with attempting to make time for each other when we are apart. This could be via email, written letter, or a phone chat. Talking about expectations can provide a smoother transition during family separations.
Other questions to ask include:
How can you best help your child through the deployment? Maybe it’s a special note or letter from dad your child gets once a week. Maybe it’s a daddy doll or a voice recorded book for your child.
We absolutely loved this lamp from Create My Light (shown at the end of this post!). Each night before bed our son says, “Goodnight dada” to his special lamp. It’s so perfect. Whatever you decide to do to help with the transition, try setting it up prior to separation.
2. Build up your support network before departure.
Building community far from home and making friends after moving to a new duty station are two blog posts, in which I’ve talked about support networks. We all need support. It is important to share that. We don’t have to do it all alone, nor should we.
Build up your support network through mom groups, Facebook groups, military community sponsored groups, and public community sponsored groups such as the library.
Since moving overseas, I’ve joined a several military spouse Facebook groups in my area and a new parent support group sponsored by the military community services. I also attend story time at the library and look to meet other moms that way too. At our last duty station, I also used meetup.com to join a mom group in my area. These are just a few examples of things you can do to build your support network.
3. Encourage visitors and go visit others.
Whenever my spouse is away, I usually solicit friends and family from the Midwest to come out and visit me. Knowing ahead of time that I will be alone with my son, I request visitors knowing they allow me to focus less on the loneliness of the separation and more on investing in other relationships. I encourage you to ask others to do this for you. Sometimes friends and family are simply waiting for an invitation.
Now that we are living overseas, it’s a little bit of a different story. When my spouse is away, it isn’t so easy to ask a family member to fly half way around the world. It is also very expensive. I’m also not too eager to jump on a plane myself. If you enjoy a challenge that will test your sanity to the brink, I highly recommend international travel with kids.
So instead, I try to do regularly scheduled outings with friends to keep busy. We do dinners on Sundays with another family in our area. The effect is twofold: First, it creates a sense of family when you are far from home. Second, it allows you to have something to look forward to each week. This helps immensely if you are ever struggling or feeling lonely.
4. Be honest with others.
If you are truly struggling or are feeling discouraged, it’s okay to remove your supermom cape and tell it like it is. Sharing your struggles is incredibly brave, courageous, and most importantly, honest. Be true to yourself and share with people you trust.
My husband was recently gone at school for about 4.5 months, and while it was not a deployment, it was still hard to have him away. Being with my son 24/7 was a huge struggle for me. I worked through a lot of false mom guilt during that time. I felt awful and selfish wanting to take a day away.
I just wanted one whole day to myself, which I did end up taking recently. However, when I was in the midst of parenting alone, it was really tough. I often shared my feelings with my husband, parents, and close friends. It really helped, and because they knew I was struggling, they were better able to support me through a difficult time.
5. Focus on as much positive as possible.
We all the power to influence the day to day tone in our lives. Moving overseas is a big eye opener for anyone who wants to set the tone in life. I know a lot of people who struggle with overseas moves. Having a positive attitude tremendously impacted our ability to enjoy our new life here.
I digress. Moving over here was really tough. Now that we are here, though, we are learning how many amazing life opportunities we are afforded because of this overseas move. We get to experience a new culture and see and do things we never would otherwise. We recently made homemade sushi at home using local ingredients, and I thought, wow, we are truly blessed to enjoy this experience.
So deployment or not, we’ve decided that this is going to be a positive thing in our lives. Focus on as much positive as possible.
You can still hear my wine swirling.
Staying strong when your spouse away is hands down very tough. As a community of military spouses, we all need support to help get us through the lonely days.
Building community, sharing your struggles, and maintaining a positive mindset are just a few ways we can muster the courage to make our way through the journey.
Go ahead friend, stop swirling. Pick that wine up off the counter and take a sip.
Want more on Military Life?
- 7 Things Good Military Spouses Do That I’m Not Going to Do Anymore
- The Real Reason Being a Military Wife is So Hard
- 10 Lessons About Love and Loss that Only a Military Spouse Will Understand
- How to Find Stunning Military Ball Dresses for Under 100 Dollars
What are your experiences with parenting alone? How do you deal? Please share your wisdom in the comments so we all can learn!