We did manage to make it through the store without me having a similar meltdown. I was concerned they might find both of us in frozen foods, on the floor, sobbing and throwing things — but we survived. Of course, when it was time to leave it had started pouring down buckets again and by the time I had the squirming snotty midget in his car seat, and had loaded the groceries, I was looking like a drenched rat in squishy Birkenstocks. - Me, Circa 2009
It’s tough being an Army wife sometimes. Mostly, it’s the times where I turn into a single parent and spend a lot of time wanting to lock myself in the bathroom. Newsflash - our bathroom door doesn’t lock. I’m so blessed to have good family and friends who support me during those times. It’s gotten easier as the kids have gotten bigger too. Never EASY, just easier. Like, the deployment where I had a 6 year old, a 3 year old and was pregnant? Not easy. Now? Easier. See how that works?
Some things I’ve learned along the way:
- Try to keep routines in tact. Nothing throws a child out of whack more than having a parent gone AND having their normal routine disrupted. It might not be a big deal to an adult to take a shower in the morning instead of the evening, but it can turn an already emotional child upside down.
- Have a support system in place. You need someone you can call at midnight when a Kmart commercial makes you start sobbing. They need to be the kind of person who will just listen, and not try to over-analyze why Kmart is making you cry. Also, it’s helpful if said person lives nearby and can show up with a half gallon of ice cream or a taco at a moment’s notice. Feel free to substitute a bottle of wine for the taco if that’s your thing.
- Keep the lines of communication open. We had a “mailbox” that the kids could put their letters, private notes or drawings into and I would mail them out once a week. Even though you might be Skyping or emailing with your absent parent, sometimes kids have stuff to say that they don’t want you or even their siblings to be privy to.
- Keep busy with new and exciting things. Eat ice cream for dinner (do I seem obsessed with ice cream? I’m not, I swear) or try a new restaurant that you wouldn’t otherwise have tried. This is how we found a great vegan sandwich shop in NJ, no way would daddy have gone there with us if he was home at the time.
- Take LOTS of pictures - of everything, including stuff you think is mundane. Your spouse misses the little things like your child putting a Santa hat on the dog, or the awesome Lego figure your daughter crafted without help. You know, things you take for granted.
- Sometimes it’s OK to just say “screw it” and go to bed. A deployment is hard, no matter who you are. If it takes a few days of hiding under the covers to make it all better, just do it.