I’m thrilled to share with you that I’ve somehow convinced Blue Star Families to let me join their team as a columnist. (To learn more about Blue Star Families, you can read my interview with the Membership Director or visit their website directly.) I’ll be writing a weekly column about the ups and downs of being married to a deployed service member under the name Wife on the Roller Coaster. Very exciting!
Here is my first post for Blue Star Families called Let the Roller Coaster Begin. Hope you can head over there and check me out!
I’m ready. Or at least I think I’m ready. Well, I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be, and quite frankly, ready or not, here it comes. I’m about to hop on the jolting, unpredictable roller coaster called deployment.
As I strap in for the ride, I can’t help but wonder how I’ll handle it. I’ve been on this roller coaster before, and I can’t say I came out on the other end with flying colors, but if I were to be graded on a Pass/Fail basis, I definitely passed. I think.
I recall my husband’s first deployment and how wholly unprepared I was. I had no plan whatsoever to get myself through it. At the time, our son was 6-months old and I was finishing up graduate school. Needless to say, I had my hands full, and somehow I hoped that merely staying busy would magically flip the pages of the calendar. I was wrong. Between the hurricane that hit 10 days after my husband left, multiple trips to the ER for baby ear infections and RSV, a canine ear surgery, and the completion of my student teaching and thesis, I was busy alright. But it wasn’t enough. I had nothing else to buffer those bumps on the roller coaster.
Life is different now. That 6-month-old baby is a 6-year-old self-proclaimed man, and we have a rambunctious 2-year-old daughter added to the mix. I am a full-time domestic engineer (yes, that’s a fancy way of saying stay-at-home mom), and I’m blanketed in the security of commiserating friends. I’m older and wiser. I’ve had time to adjust to my official duties as a military spouse, and I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and respond with aplomb.
The change in our family dynamics will bring a variance in the challenges I will face this time around. I didn’t have to explain to a baby why his daddy was absent, but living with a kindergartener is like being trapped without a helmet inside a rapid-fire batting cage of questions. Without the escape of graduate school, I could ostensibly pass days without having a face-to-face conversation with another adult. I’m pretty sure I’m safe in the hurricane department, but you never know. Unlike last time though, I have a plan. I’m ready for these challenges. I think.
As a consummate planner, I thrive on making lists. Grocery lists, to-do lists, lists of equipment my son needs for baseball. You name it, I list it. Therefore, it’s no surprise that part of my pre-deployment preparation includes lists. A list of items to buy for my husband to pack, a list of affairs to put in order, a list of tasks for my husband to complete around the house before he leaves. Most importantly, for my own emotional preparation, I need a list of strategies to get through this deployment with not just a passing grade, but an A+. I need a tangible list I can post on my refrigerator, not just an arbitrary list floating around in my head and crashing into the other random thoughts held hostage in there. On those challenging days when the kids think I enjoy the sound of ear-piercing tantrums or when I don’t get that phone call from my husband, I can use my list as a reminder to keep my head in the game.
So here it is, my list of ways I plan to ride the deployment roller coaster without getting thrown off. (And yes, it’s written as if I’m speaking to someone other than myself because sometimes it takes a voice of objectivity to snap me back into reality.)
• Embrace the unexpected!
• Stay busy. Boredom breeds rumination.
• Allow yourself brief moments of sulking, but don’t wallow. Get it out of your system and move on.
• Write your husband letters. It may be the only way you can “talk” to him so take advantage of it.
• Make time to pamper yourself. If that means simply a hot bath with a glass of wine and a good book after the kids are in bed, so be it.
• Make time to pamper your children. Just because they’re young, it doesn’t mean they don’t understand that Daddy is gone and Mommy is sad. Encourage them to share their feelings, and dole out extra hugs.
• Do things you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do: watch cheesy chick flicks, read that pile of magazines on your desk, spend time with friends and family, train for a half marathon.
• Use your support system and don’t be too proud to ask for help.
• Get out of the house! Spring is here so go for a walk, take the kids to the park, and on rainy days, indulge in some retail therapy.
• Talk. Don’t let your fill-in-the-blank emotion of the day bubble inside you until you burst. You have a dozen people on speed dial ready to listen.
• Take time as it comes. You might wish time away to speed your husband’s return, but don’t forget you have two growing children whose daily milestones you would regret missing. (And don’t forget the video camera so your husband doesn’t miss them either!)
The tasks on my list may seem obvious, but I know from experience that a simple plan is better than no plan at all. If I get frazzled facing the commissary without a list, I can’t imagine what a list-less deployment would do to me! So now that my list is made, I’m ready. I think.
Let the roller coaster begin.