We’re so happy to share this guest post with you today in honor of National Day of the Deployed. Stacy is a mom to four beautiful babies, twins Emilyn and Hailey who passed away shortly after birth after being born too soon, a six year old son Elim, and a three year old daughter Isla. She has been a NICU nurse for the last year and a half and has been a volunteer for the March of Dimes for nearly eight years. Her husband Charles is currently deployed and has been active duty Air Force for over thirteen years.
My babies seeing their daddy for the first time in six and a half months during his two week R&R:
When my husband joined the military a little over thirteen years ago we knew to expect deployments, although we hoped that they would be few and far between. His first one was just one year after we were married, I was in nursing school, and we had no kids unless you count our fur-child Molly. The first days and weeks were so incredibly lonely but I quickly got into a routine and one week dragged into the next and four months later I was welcoming him home. Back then we only had a few phone calls here and there with calling cards and emails almost daily.
Five years later he went again. This time he left behind not only me, but our fifteen month old son. I was a stay at home mom which left me with virtually no adult interaction on most days. I quickly learned that I needed to take care of not only my son but also myself. We were lucky enough to be stationed near my parents who were more than willing to babysit, which allowed me to go out one night every week to visit with friends, enjoy delicious foods and adult conversations. Technology had advanced and we were now able to video call several times a week. Our son was able to see his daddy and while at that age, he wasn’t really interested or able to participate in any conversations, he was able to see him and hear his voice which is so important for one so little.
Five years later we find ourselves in the midst of another deployment, this one more than twice as long as the first two. He has been gone for nine months with three months left to go. In addition to our fur-child Molly and our now six year old son he also left behind our three year old daughter. This deployment is tougher in so many ways. I am now working full time and trying to balance my time between work, kids activities and therapies and squeezing in some time to take care of myself. This time, the kids are older and able to understand what a year means. They miss their daddy terribly, but are able to keep in contact with both messages and video calls as often as they want. A very common sight in our house is my six year old son sitting in his room playing Legos with our tablet propped up on his dresser so his daddy can see them and they can talk as he is building things. He came home in August for his two week mid-deployment rest and relaxation leave and the joy on my kids faces as we surprised them at daycare with their daddy is something I will never forget. I can’t wait to see it happen all over again when he returns for good at the end of this deployment. But being a military family we know that for good really means until the next time.
Today on National Day of the Deployed, I share a few of my secrets for surviving a deployment:
- Take time out for yourself no matter the ages of your kids. Take advantage of the programs that your branch family support center offers. It is so, so important that you not burn yourself at both ends of the candle.
- Build a support network starting before the deployment. Meet people at church, or spouse socials, MOPS or other moms club and find your tribe! Online options are also helpful for the hours after the kids go to bed if you’re not able to get out. One great option is missionhealthybaby.org where you can connect with other moms whose spouses are in the military!
- Make family traditions while your military member is deployed. Our family has instituted the one kiss from daddy a day. A bowl was filled up with Hershey’s kisses and the kids each get one every day counting down to when daddy returns and the bowl is empty.
- Set up times to video chat with your spouse when the kids are engaged in other activities, find ways to connect like watching the same shows. Chatting about daily life gets dull when your military member is most likely either not able to talk about what they are doing or it’s the same day after day.
- Set up times for your kids to chat with your spouse! Keeping the connection with their parent is so so important no matter the age! Even if your child is a baby, hearing the sounds of their voice can help them maintain their connection.
- Make videos with your deployed spouse reading bedtime stories for your kids so they can hear mommy or daddy every night before bed.
- Plan activities for after the deployment that your whole family can look forward to! Also activities to help you and your spouse reconnect.
- Learn to accept help when you need it and find people that you can lean on. If you need help with your lawn, or cleaning your house or taking care of your kids, ask for it before you’re completely overwhelmed!
- Take time to rest, you need it! It’s so easy to stay up half of the night and then be exhausted in the morning when your kids get up. Find a manageable bedtime and try to stick to it.
- Pamper yourself. Whether that’s going to a salon to get a haircut or pedicure or doing it yourself at home, take care of you. You deserve it!
- Take advantage of all the programs the family readiness center offers to prepare for deployment and homecoming.
- Remember that it takes time to adjust once your spouse is home and reintegrate back into the family.
- Take advantage of counseling through military onesource, they can offer counseling free of charge and off the books for up to twelve sessions if there is need for it.
The March of Dimes expanded the Mission: Healthy Baby program, which provides free pregnancy and newborn health information and support services to military families, with the launch of the site missionhealthybaby.org. This web portal, exclusively for military families, will connect you with other moms-to-be who face many of the same challenges.