Hey guys! Danielle here! If you have not realized it yet, we are a military family. Military families are quite common nowadays in America, although, our setup is not your average. In our eyes, this is typical, but some civilians cannot get used to the woman being the military member. My husband deals with this all the time. In his defense, he served his country proudly for six years, however, the trade he learned was taking a toll on him mentally and physically, so he decided to get out. So now he lives the life of a dependent. Because I have had quite a few comments about the spouse’s perspective of deployment in the last few blog posts, I decided to ask him to write a post about how he manages when I go on extended TDYs. So the wives AND husbands out there can have a glimpse of what is to come when deployments or TDYs arise.
Hi guys, LaDerrick here. I just want to give you guys some quick tips that I live by when the wife is not around. I know it is not easy (especially in our circumstances), but we make it work.
1. KEEP CHILDREN OCCUPIED
This does not mean that you have to go out and do something with your children all the time. Believe it or not, I despise going out in public when my wife is not around. She tends to calm us down (meaning me) when tension rises. One thing I noticed that if I keep the kids occupied during downtime, they will not constantly wonder where mommy is. Under no circumstances is this trying to be deceiving. They will miss her regardless of what I do, but if I take some of the stress away from them, it tends to help. Weekends tend to be the hardest because she always has something planned for us, so I try to plan small things to do with the kids. Examples could be:
1. Going to the arcade
2. Going to the park
3. Throwing the football around
4. Taking a walk around the neighborhood
5. Walk the beach
2. UTILIZE SOCIAL RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO YOU
A lot of things will be thrown at your spouse (aka serving member) to the point that they may not even be concerned about how you will have to adjust to the situation. REMEMBER, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. In my situation, sometimes it is a bit weird because I am usually the only male among the spouses, but the information still applies because I am the spouse that will be the one taking care of home. With that said, your spouses’ unit/work center SHOULD constantly contact you while your spouse is deployed. This is called the Key Spouse Program. This might be labeled something else in different branches, but the results are still the same. Normally, this is a group of Key Leaders’ spouses who have come together to touch bases with the deployed personnel’s spouses to make sure they are adjusting to the change. Do not think for one minute that you cannot mention to them that you need assistance. They will go out their way to obtain the assistance or find someone to help lead you in the right direction. You may even have a person from your spouse’s unit to do a wellness check on you. Although the wife and I have a few deployments under our belt, I still take them up on a babysitter every now and again, just so I can run errands alone. Additionally, your Force Support Squadron (or Personnelist Office) should have incentives you qualify for now that your spouse is deployed. Examples are
1. Give Mommy A Break (even though I am Daddy, I still get “a break”)
2. Teen Lock-ins (check for ages; normally includes pre-teen ages)
3. If you are Guard or Reserve, and your children are not enrolled on base, you have the opportunity for your children to be cared for at the Child Development Center (CDC) and Youth Center. NOTE: if you are currently paying a high flat weekly rate, take advantage of this option because weekly rates are based on your base income).
3. SET UP A ROUTINE TO TALK WITH SIGNIFICANT OTHER
Of course, you are both going to be busy with your new lifestyle…for the moment. Take about a week to let each other get accustomed to this new lifestyle. If you try to start a routine without establishing normalcy, you will have a difficult time during the entire deployment. Once you feel that you BOTH have created some normalcy, set up a routine to talk every day. Normally, the deployed location is roughly eight to eleven hours ahead of the United States (depending on Daylight Savings and time zone) so your spouse will need some time to get over jet lag. Once that has subsided, I would start with calling on the weekends. Make sure you know when your spouse’s day off is, so you can have one day that you can call them at any point of the day. One thing I do want to stress is being patient. Most of the time my wife had to wake up out of her sleep to talk to us, so I had to remind myself that she is not that alert when she is asleep. Keep in mind, your spouse probably only gets 12 hours to themselves, and eight of that is normally dedicated to sleep. So, I stress again be patient during phone calls. Now, if something happens that is significant, CALL! My wife never got angry when I called her in the middle of her sleep. Ninety percent of the time, it was just a milestone that our youngest was experiencing, and she is all for missing sleep to witness that. Haha!
Once you two get in a normal routine, feel free to add additional calls throughout the week. I text messaged my wife as much as I could throughout the week because she loved waking up to sweet messages from me and the kids (not trying to toot my own horn). I also tried to send her a picture of us every morning. I did not make the kids smile if they did not want to because, in reality, they would be gripping while she was trying to get them ready if she was home. Plus, my wife is big into candid photos, so she just saved them all for scrapbooking.
4. EMPHASIZE SHARING THE GOOD
Because of the stress your spouse is going through, they will not necessarily want to hear about a lot of negativity going on. Of course, this goes both ways, but I would recommend avoiding talking about negative things when you talk unless it is necessary. Our children tend to act out within the first month of my wife being gone. Of course, she gets annoyed, but I just like to inform her of their behavior. Sometimes I will let her “scold” them through the phone (because we all know mom’s words hold more strength than dad’s lol), but we focus on the good because she is already stressed out from being away from the kids. Do not think that nothing is important enough to share. Trust me, I let the little one rattle on in gibberish, and it meant the world to my wife. This will hold true to the men deployed too. Us dads want to hear our babies little milestone just as much as the mommies out there.
5. YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER MAY SEEM DISTANT
One of the negative effects of being deployed is that your spouse may sound distant (or mechanical). Do not get upset about this. Initially, it may hurt to think that your spouse is just humoring you, but at some point in the deployment, your spouse will be on “auto-pilot.” They are basically trying to zone out and get through the rest of the deployment. This sometimes falls over into interactions with you. This is in no means being disrespectful. Just ask them if they caught what you were saying so they can snap back to reality.
The most important thing to remember throughout this whole entire deployment is to REMAIN SANE! When the kids are giving you a rough day, do not be afraid to admit it. There are a few ways you can handle it. With me being a guy, we tend to mask our feelings a lot. Honestly, if it was not for my wife, I would not talk about how stressful work can get. When she is gone, I have to remember that I have to let that frustration out, but not on the kids. I try to take deep breaths when I am on the verge of losing my temper. This gives me time to prepare my thoughts, so I do not say anything I might regret. I know this is easier said than done, but simply letting your child know that you need a minute could make a world of a difference. Yes, most of us are out there with toddlers and it is hard to just tell them to give you a second, but stepping into the bathroom for just a second to get yourself a second will result in a better outcome than reacting at the moment. Luckily, we have a preteen, so when I am feeling overwhelmed, I can ask big brother to watch his brother while I get myself together. If breathing does not help you, utilize those social resources we discussed earlier.
7. TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER
If you had to remember one thing from this article, it would have to take care of each other. I know you are like “How can we take care of each other when we are apart?” It is simple. If you have a spouse anything like mine, they will know when you are reaching your limits, as should you. When you two are communicating with each other, pay attention to each other’s body language. Compliment your spouse unexpectantly on occasion. LISTEN to what each other have to say. Ask them if there is anything you can do (even though your spouse is thousands of miles away, there may be some things that you could assist with stateside). All this reassures both of you that things are running smoothly in the house, which results in a happy life.
In conclusion, having an idea of what to expect has helped me survive all these deployments and TDYs my wife has gone on through the years. Of course, you can never be fully prepared, you just have to be able and willing to adapt. Most problems come from a failure to adapt when necessary. I hope my tips help anyone experiencing their first deployment or TDY away from their spouse. If you have any questions or want further explanations, feel free to comment below!
Seeing Danielle off (July 2015)
Even though he has been through several TDYs, this deployment hit our oldest hard
Little man slept through it all