I never thought that I could loathe any one thing as much as I loathe that big green duffle bag.
You know, the one that was issued to your service member. The one that somehow fits every.single.piece. of Army gear your spouse owns. The one that causes your stomach to drop because it is only drug out when a deployment is imminent. The one that signals life is about to change. The one that gets to accompany your spouse on a faraway adventure while you are left to manage the household.
Yep, I hate that big old green duffel bag as much as I hate my spouse’s deployments.
After a two, year-long deployments early in our marriage, we were blessed to have our service member home for a long (over five years) period of time. But, like most things in military life, that was about to change. I can still remember where I was sitting when he told me that he would be deploying again. I would like to say that I confidently stepped into my new role as the solo manger of the household, but I would be lying if I didn’t share that my stomach had a huge pit of fear in it.
Yes, I had handled deployments in the past, but not only was it a long time ago’ it was also before we had children that were verbal. This meant that not only was I responsible to manage my own emotional health over the next year, but that I would need to be able to walk my children through it as well.
I knew that in order for us to make the most out of this extended absence from each other after being together for so long, I would need to a fair amount of preparation. Since simply hiding the aforementioned big green duffel bag from my husband (in hopes that if he didn’t have his bag, he couldn’t leave) didn’t turn out to be an effective strategy to prepare for an upcoming deployment, I decided to make a list of the top five things to do to prepare for a deployment after your spouse has been stateside for a long period.
1. Make a QRF (Quick Reaction Force) List
This list should contain the contact information for all of your important POC’s (Points of Contact). Be sure to include babysitters, backup babysitters and backup backup babysitters. Just kidding…well sort of kidding; babysitters are a MUST for solo parenting. A plumber, the closest emergency room, your children’s school, the American Red Cross, family doctors and your dentist should also make the list. Trust me, when an emergency arises this list will help you quickly and calmly deal with the situation. Additionally, it should give your spouse the peace of mind that you can handle anything life can throw your way in their absence.
2. Learn How to DIY (Do It Yourself)
I also refer to this as the way to “Murphy-proof” your deployment. Murphy’s Law is the old adage that anything that can go wrong will. Any battle-tested military spouse will tell you this is 110 percent true! So, before your spouse leaves, have them show you how to do some of the jobs/chores that they may take care of in the relationship. A good place to start would be learning how to change a tire, or how to replace that pesky light bulb that is “conveniently” located 20 feet up in the air above the stairs, or even how to pay bills/access financial accounts. Not only will this increase your knowledge and skill set, but it will be a fun way to engage with your spouse before they leave.
3. Connect With Your FRG
Your unit’s Family Readiness Group (FRG) is a great way to meet and connect with other spouses who are going through the same situation as you are. Additionally, the FRG has access to the best and most up-to-date information about your servicemember so you will want to make sure that they can get into contact with you quickly. Finally, FRG’s typically plan fun social events (usually at no cost to you) that help pass the time.
4. Choose Your Adventure
Planning different adventures throughout the deployment or training exercise will give you events, or milestones, to look forward to. If it is a year-long deployment, perhaps you can plan a fun day out (at the zoo or spa) on the first Friday of each month. Hopefully the planning and anticipation of these outings will help keep your mind off your spouse’s absence and result in positive, lasting memories!
5. Make a Silver Lining List
Deployments suck. I’m sorry, but they do. While it’s no secret that there are plenty of things that are terrible about having your servicemember leave for weeks or months at a time, there are some positives. I encourage you to try and find as many “good things” about the absence as you can. They may be things like: freeing up your evening to go back to school, having to do less laundry or being able to eat cereal for dinner. These may seem like small things, but the ability to find happiness and gratitude in a tough situation will pay dividends in the future!
While I can’t say that I like that big, green duffel bag (or accompanying two tons of equipment laying out in my living room), I can say that instituting the five recommendations listed above has helped me approach my husband’s upcoming deployment in a much more positive light. An with any luck and these tips to guide me, my family and I can skip through the Grinch phase and head straight to the survival phase of deployments!
What about you? What do you do to help get through the long days/nights away from your servicemember?Subscribe to Military Spouse's Weekly Newsletter