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Goodbye, Again…Military Separations & Deployments

woman looking at runway

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. When I’m 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.

15 Bible Verses for Deployment

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. Honestly, I probably err on the side of not asking enough! I also try to make a point of being the helper as often as I can.

I’d 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, get my book, You Are Not Alone: Encouragement for the Heart of a Military Spouse.


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10 Responses

  1. I just saw images of myself mowing the lawn in Ogden, Utah. These were the “pre-deployment” years, before the word was even used by the military community. We hadn’t yet gone to war and the Twin Towers still stood tall in NYC. But my husband would still be sent far from home, sometimes to places where I couldn’t know what was going on.
    I turned into a single mom. To mow our lawn, I would either have the baby strapped to my back (probably horrible for his hearing) or would have to stop the mower every few minutes to listen to the baby monitor I’d put in the window that faced the backyard. The three year old had learned how to crawl over the barrier that kept him in his room and I was constantly having to be the only eyes and ears that kept my kids safe. Sometimes, I wished I was the one who had been able to leave.

    We’re in a job now where my husband doesn’t deploy and his TDY’s are far and few between because the budget just can’t allow it. And I’m relishing every minute of it.

    1. Love that word picture, Angie. The things we do! We had more time together in DC than we’d had in years and I relished it too. Now, my husband is gone more than he’s home again. I don’t mow the lawn 🙂 but for some reason I’m still surprised at my level of exhaustion when he gets back–the tension just seems to drop off me like a weight the moment he walks in the door. I feel for full-time single parents.

      1. Single parenthood is hard and we don’t even know the half of it. But the up and down stress of military life takes it’s own toll. We’re both fortunate, strong marriage and great kids. I wish we could figure out how to bottle it and hand it to the next group. But I think the best we can do is keep sharing our stories and hope that it makes a difference. Love your writing Jen! Looking forward to seeing the new book!

        1. Thank you! And so true! In Hawaii, they call it “talk story” and I love how that sounds. We need to be sure to “talk story” with the younger ones so they can learn from our experiences–good AND bad!

  2. We made it easy on ourselves – I do everything around the house, so that when the hubby left, it wasn’t a “huge” change in how things ran. We missed his presence at all times, but this made sure our routine stayed the same. He can step in and out easily. Plus this meant he knew everything would get taken care of when he left as if he were there. When my husband came back the last time, we had all teenagers – I asked if *I* could take the next “cruise”. 😉

  3. We are right in the middle of deployment and I keep thinking we are doing fine! But I used to think that when my teens were learning to drive I would say to myself “look how calm I am!” Then I would get out of the car and realize I had sort of been holding my breath the whole time. It wasn’t until the stress of the situation was gone that I realized just how stressed I really was. Denial is my happy place. HahaSo I know I am waiting to exhale but I mean we are fiiiiinnnnneeee….. 🙂
    BTW I have a girlfriend that loves to mow the grass so I watch her toddlers and she mows my grass. Win win.

  4. My girls and I had a chick flick night on the first Friday of my husband’s many deployments. It gave us something positive to look forward to.

    1. That’s a great idea and so fun! I’ve often done the same with my own girls, since Dad is not usually too keen on chick flicks. 😉

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Hi, I'm Jen!

As a military spouse of three decades and now the mom of an active duty son, my hope is to support you in your own military life. You’ll find help for your military marriage, deployments, PCS moves, and more!

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