The same day I chose this blog topic, I received a “heads up” that my husband’s name was at the top of a list for a deployment next year. He gave me the heads up on the phone while he’s overseas. Granted, nothing is set in stone and he may stay home, but the irony of the timing is not lost on this military wife.
My whole life has been owned by the military. I grew up a military kid, chose to join and serve, and then married into it. This is one world I know well and from varying angles. While my response to such uncertain news has matured, the kick in the gut never gets old.
I used to think the military was unique in this way. We are not.
First responders, some corporate jobs, prison guards, and others also know what it is like to rarely have control or predictability in their work schedule. While a lot of these jobs are noble and a calling, there is a price they pay along with their families. The price is living with uncertainty and learning how to nurture trust in a family that experiences on-going change.
Over the years, my coping method as a military wife was to “soldier on” and deal with it. We signed the dotted line, and me of all people knew what I was getting into. I told myself to just live with it. Now, the commitment looks different with 3 children living this life and I am regularly solo parenting. I have been forced to find some tools to deal with the constant uncertainty in our lives due to my husband’s profession.
These will also help those who are not only in the military but may be in a transitional season: moving, health change, kids’ growing up, etc.
Phone a Friend.
Do not hesitate to text someone you trust and simply say, “Not my best day.” If anything goes wrong (toilet, car, etc.) DO NOT handle it all on your own. You probably can, sure, of course! But why? Being “Ms. Independent” and doing it all yourself drains you of essential energy to push through the loneliness. You knew there was hours and hours of deep, soul agonizing loneliness tied to this life, right? We’ll have to dive into that another day.
Workout, Drink Water, and Sleep.
Your physical health will help keep your emotional and mental health moving forward. When I binge eat or stay up all night, I feel like crap the next day. Which then results in feeling yucky and that always leads to a bad mood. Keep your body working so the rest can follow its lead. No matter how healthy and strong you are, emotional and mental wear and tear is happening underneath the surface in this life. When our bodies are working well, we are better equipped to face the rest and respond in a healthy way.
Do Something Fun When They are Gone.
In the beginning, I felt guilty about having fun while he was away. Since I served, I remembered that being away did not always equal a good time. However, I had to embrace my new role as a military wife and see what worked for us at home.
When my husband is away we eat cereal for dinner, a lot. We also eat out more often because my kids are little and $15-20 can go a long way with them. Traveling is also a big part of our coping style. It is work to take three kids places but we usually see family, which provides a great change of scenery.
Plan Fun When You are Together.
Whether your person takes long trips or has weird working hours, schedule enjoyment together. This can be a “staycation,” lazy day at home, movie night, smores, or something more detailed. Each Monday my husband is home we have a date night. The only requirement is both our phones are away and we spend that time in the same room. Nothing fancy. 3 years later it’s still one of my funnest nights of the week because I know we’ll be together.
Take Time for Yourself.
I admit, I’m not great at this. During this trip, I thought I had it covered well, but I am finding there are still some areas to grow here. Solo parenting is not the same as single parenting; however, I finally accept that it is exhausting and it’s okay to slow down. One way I do take time for myself is hiring a babysitter a couple of times while he’s gone, about every other week. I also go to the gym and attend church, both places have a separate space for the kids to play with friends and I can be poured into.
Even though I have known the military all my life, being a military wife was a new role for me.
There is still a lot for me to learn. For today, I want to share this bit of wisdom I have learned in the trenches of transition, separation, and on-going change. If your person has a work schedule that is constantly in flux, then be proactive and think about ways to fuel your body, mind, and soul, so that you can continue partnering with them in a healthy way. I believe it is vital for us who DO get this lifestyle to take care of ourselves, adapt in a way that works for you and yours, and try new things. Do not hesitate to decide what tools would help you navigate the emotional roller coaster of each week looking different and then implement them.
If you have some ideas, I’d love to hear them below. Each situation is unique and I learn something each time I enter into this conversation.