I wiped the sweat out of my eyes and pushed the mower through the tall Florida grass. Glancing up at our front window, I spotted my nine-year-old perched on the back of the couch, giving me a thumbs up. I waved at him and hurried on to finish the yard work before my other little ones woke from their naps. This was my life during those years, rushing between tasks that my husband and I would normally split when he was home.
My kids are all older now now, and I no longer look anxiously at the window to check on my little ones when he's gone. But I've said it before, and I'll say it again:
There is no good age for kids to be without a parent.
I read recently that having a loved one deployed is akin to dealing with a severe long-term illness or family trauma. It’s an incredible, ongoing stress. While it's impossible in this short space to cover all you can do to care for your family while going through a deployment, here are a few thoughts to get through.
Stay connected with your spouse.
If you're able to video chat, great! If you only have occasional phone calls or can catch up by e-mail, fill them in on as much as you can with the dailyness of life that they're missing.
My husband has expressed that one of the hardest things for him about being away is feeling out of the loop with all the little things that go along with family life, from baseball game scores to grades. My kids also like feeling that he knows what is going on in their lives as much as possible.
Do something surprising.
Interrupt the daily routine with a treat now and then for yourself or for your kids, even if it’s something as simple as stopping at the park, going out for ice cream, or renting a movie and staying up later than normal.
It’s the unexpected moments here and there that can lift all of your spirits. I also find when I am focused on cheering up my kids, I don't focus on how much I am missing my hubby.
Ask for help.
You need your church family and others’ help, whether you believe it right now or not. Don’t shut off your support system. People often truly wish to help in a practical way, but aren't sure how. If someone asks you, “How can I help?"...be specific.
But be mindful.
On the other hand, there is something called “caregiver fatigue.” I’ve been careful to try not to tap people too often and save favors for the big things, so they don’t get tired of hearing from me or think I only reach out when I need something. I probably err on the side of not asking enough, however! I also try to make a point of being the helper as often as I can.
I would love to hear your ideas for how you help your military family through deployments and separations. How are you doing?
For more content like this, please take look at my book, You Are Not Alone: Encouragement for the Heart of a Military Spouse.