Deployments suck. There. I said it. Peter recently deployed for the sixth time. You would think after five deployments, I would be a pro at this by now. But I’m not. Sometimes I need to remind myself that I survived the other five deployments and we will survive this one as well.
Here’s the thing, though. I’ve learned quite a bit over the course of Peter’s almost 19 year military career. (What??) So, yes, I wrote this for all of you wives whose hubbies are deployed. But I also wrote it for me.
I need to say this before I start: You have done this deployment thing before. A lot. It’s not easy and what you really want to do is take a long nap and hide from the never-ending squabbles between your children. You are exhausted beyond what you thought was possible. Maybe you are barely hanging on. But in case you have forgotten, I am reminding you that you are strong and you can do this.
Here are some more things to remember:
- Try to put Christ first. And when I say “first,” I mean get up early, grab a cup of coffee, and spend some time with Jesus. I know, I know. You’re exhausted. Trust me. I get this. But when you get up early and talk to the Lord about your burdens and concerns, your plans for the day, He gives you comfort and peace to face whatever the day may bring. If you just can’t possibly get up any earlier than you already are, find a few minutes of quiet in the morning to spend with Jesus. You will never regret the time spent with Him.
- Get plenty of rest. (I realize that this one is sort of the exact opposite of #1. But keep reading.) Go to bed early. Leave the dishes in the sink or the toys on the playroom floor. They can wait until tomorrow. Research shows that when we are exhausted, our tempers are easily triggered and we can become overly emotional, worrying about every little thing. But when we are able to get a full night’s rest, our anxieties and frustrations will usually look a lot different the next morning.
- Schedule time for yourself. This is admittedly easier said than done. It is often difficult to justify a babysitter for my kids so that I can go sit in relative quiet at Starbucks or go to a movie by myself. But sometimes it is necessary to put myself first. I can’t take care of everyone else if I’m running on empty. Even if you can’t afford a babysitter or you don’t feel like you can spare two hours away from home, take a mommy timeout. Put your kids favorite movie in the DVD player and take a bubble bath while they are occupied. Or my favorite – put those kids to bed early and grab your favorite book or park yourself in front of Netflix. Anything that rejuvenates your spirit will be beneficial to your emotional and physical health.
- Things are going to break or go wrong while your spouse is deployed. Just accept this as fact and find a friend or handyman that can help you with the problem. This go-round, Vivienne came down with the stomach virus on the second day of Peter’s deployment. The second day! I mean, what the heck? And of course it was the exact same day that Brienne had a basketball game and a chorus concert. So what did I do? I asked a friend to drop Brienne off at home after her game and then I took Brienne to her concert and picked her up when it was over. (Vivienne rode in the car holding her “throw-up” bowl. And she used it, I might add…) Yes, I missed Brienne’s basketball game. Yes, I missed her concert. But sometimes you’ve got to do the most important thing in front of you, and ask for help with the rest.
- Some days will just be crappy. You will yell at your kids and lose your mind because you’ve lost control. Ask for forgiveness from your children. Kids don’t usually harbor grudges like we adults tend to do. And forgive yourself for letting your emotions get the best of you. It happens to all of us at one time or another. When you experience one of those terrible no-good days, put the kids to bed early, grab a glass of wine, and find something great to watch on Netflix. (See? I told you it was my favorite.) Or do something else to decompress. Maybe you like to scrapbook. Maybe your happy place is curling up with a good book. Perhaps you need to ask a friend or neighbor to stay with your children for a few minutes while you walk around the block and get some fresh air. Do something for yourself to help you reenergize. And pray. A lot.
- Stay firm with your discipline. (But give lots of hugs and grace.) Small children can’t always comprehend that Daddy is on a long trip because they have no concept of time. They also can’t control their emotions and may tend to act out more often because they don’t understand their feelings of sadness about Dad being gone. The other day, Jonah and Vivienne were fighting with each other, and the constant bickering was making me a little crazy. I threatened them with timeouts and when they didn’t stop arguing, I sent them each to their rooms. As they were headed to their respective rooms, one slammed his door and yelled that he didn’t like me and the other laid on the floor crying, “Daddy! Daddy!” It was super fun. Although I know it is important to continue disciplining the children just as if Peter were here, it is often a really hard thing to do. Hearing Vivienne cry for her daddy nearly broke my heart. Be persistent, Mamas. But also give extra hugs to those babies. Hugs and grace can go a long way.
- God will meet you in your desperation. Y’all. Can I just say that God is faithful? Five years ago, Peter deployed for a year. It was tough on so many levels. He was in a very dangerous and unstable part of the world and I worried about him constantly. Plus, communication was virtually nonexistent. I can count on two hands the number of times we were able to talk to each other over the course of that year. I couldn’t sleep and I even had a couple panic attacks as I drove into my neighborhood, expecting to see government vehicles parked in front of my house, bringing me the worst news imaginable. But you know what? God is good. He provided godly friends who encouraged me and prayed me through the deployment. And He met me wherever I was. When I was desperate for Him, He wrapped His arms of comfort around me. He wants us to be desperate for Him, to desire His guidance and love. Lean on Him when you can’t do anything else. He will lift you up.
- Your children love you. So what if your house is messy and you haven’t had a shower in three days? Your kids don’t care. They just know that Mom is there when they need something. So go ahead and eat day-old pizza and let them spend an hour playing in the bathtub. Give lots of snuggles and don’t be reluctant to accept chubby, dirty little hands rubbing all over your face. The messes, the broken-down dishwasher, the ceiling fan that is hanging from the ceiling by one wire (true story!), none of those things matter in the long run. Just wrap your arms around those little people and accept their unconditional love.
Mamas, I know deployments are hard, and you may be lonely. I am right there in the trenches with you. Hang in there. I’m rooting for you. And hey. You’re one more day closer to the end!