On a recent summer day, I encountered a handsome man at the airport…one I hadn’t seen in what felt like years.
One I hoped to see more often.
We exchanged shy glances at the baggage claim, exchanged a few words, then said reluctant goodbyes. Alas, time worked against us and prevented anything further. I was arriving home from my flight while his was just leaving, so we enjoyed the few moments granted to us.
The sad part about it is that the mystery man was my husband—who was leaving for yet ANOTHER TDY while I returned from a trip to visit extended family. Honestly? I was delighted to cross paths for even a few minutes, since he’d been on the road the entire summer.
We literally did a, “Tag, you’re it!” at the airport terminal.
When you’re faced with a long deployment, advice and encouragement can be easy to come by. In fact, people will often come out of the woodwork to commiserate, offer help, or barrage you with unsolicited advice.
But when your active duty spouse is home…then gone….then back home….but mostly gone…you become well acquainted with a “not really deployed, but not really here either” military lifestyle vibe.
What to do when frequent TDYs mean your spouse lives away from home more than he or she is under the same roof as you?
Well, for starters, after a few months of this back and forth, it can begin to wear thin.
Let’s just get that out of the way. There’s no beginning, no end, and you’re not sure when “normal” (whatever that is) life will happen again.
But having dealt with this particular challenge for many years now, there is a point of reckoning that comes into play. A “This is my military life and I’d better figure out how to deal with it in some sort of constructive way” moment.
So I assume that you’ve reached that point and have decided it’s time to figure out how to make this work. To you, I offer my humble recommendations.
1. What is normal, anyway?
Time to set that word aside. What is typical for my family is not true for others and vice versa.
Some of my friends have never met my husband, much less laid eyes on him.
(He’s become the stuff of legends in some of my circles, like the dance mom carpool. I could give him an exotic name and all sorts of interesting hobbies and weird mannerisms and none would be the wiser. Xavier couldn’t make it, I might offer by way of explanation, One of the lions he’s training is acting up today.)
I used to make a lot of explanations and apologies and jokes when arriving at yet another function, kids’ event or even church alone, but I don’t really do that anymore. The people who need to know our situation know.
2. Remember you are a team.
When you’re alone a lot, you become accustomed to doing everything yourself, eating what and when you want, and making most decisions alone.
Though you may cherish your independence, it’s important to be mindful of making your spouse feel welcome when they return home.
Even though you can do it all, ask for help or opinions or input. You’re still a team—don’t forget that!
3. Maintain a routine.
The flip side of that is the juggle of maintaining some semblance of a routine with the back and forth and the upheaval it inherently brings, especially if you have kids.
While flexibility will be huge, keeping certain routines the same whether the active duty person is home or not will provide stability: meals around the same time, bedtimes, Sunday brunch or whatever else is important to your family.