It’s only Monday, but my everything hurts.
Even though I know my first graders have been able to easily list off all the days of the week for years, I count the rest of the week off on my fingers anyway. We get used to a lot as military spouses, and yet, it’s hard to truly get used to any of it. When I am done counting to four—the homeschool days left after today— I count the number of years I have had to adjust to the sporadic absence of my husband, but I run out of fingers.
Super military spouses will agree. It seems like we do so much by ourselves when our husbands and wives are home: school the kids, nourish the bodies, do the shopping, drive to a hundred extracurricular activities and back; and so long as someone else is home to kiss the kids goodnight, we never feel like we’re really on our own. Then some fancy paperwork comes our way and we are alone.
Everyone copes differently. Most of my friends struggle at first, and then quickly recover, but it’s never been that way for me. I’m fine for the first week. I’ve usually had time to prepare an endless rambling of what constitutes a mental pep talk. It’s in the second week that I stumble, as well as the last. Those are the weeks that I struggle the most, and those were the weeks that made me come up with my burnout prevention plan. I’d like to share it with you.
(Feel free to ask any questions you have about all this here! >>>)
1. Start early
Do all your lesson planning and meal planning in advance. Host a Freezer Meal Swap with friends. Make a list of every book you need and order them early from the library, or get them quick with Amazon. Get every bit of supplies you need, so you won’t suddenly need to run out for something.
2. Think about you
Is the goodbye the hardest or is it the last few days? Do you have a slump in the middle or is this your first try? Decide early on when you need some downtime. Line up babysitters in advance so you can have some time to yourself or go to the store without any extra help. Plan for some fun days to break the monotony of everything. Go on field trips or to the park. Write your plans down. You’re going to need them. Put the fun where you think you’ll need it the most. It’s your life. Do with it what you want!
3. Countdown with Fun
On the day after daddy leaves, the kids and I always make a fun calendar counting down the days until he comes back. Leave a lot of space on the calendar for all the things you have already planned—and all the things you might need to add in later.
Let every child add their special touch to the calendar and make sure you keep it to share with your spouse when he or she comes home. Rotate so each of the kids gets to cross off days.
4. Go with the flow
…and if the flow isn’t working, toss a few things overboard. As much as it kills me to admit it, I cannot get all the work of two parents done. It’s a steep learning curve. I spent the first 10 years being a military spouse convinced I could pull it all off with better planning and more willpower; but after that I realized it was a lost cause. It’s a freeing thought, but it’s also a little scary. The fact of the matter is, everything that was in your life from before might not fit in your life right now. That might mean cutting down on the bedtime stories or dropping a dance class. Sometimes it’s obvious from the very first day what is working in your new schedule and what isn’t, but sometimes it takes weeks. Never be afraid to reevaluate your family commitments and find a way to eliminate what’s not working. It might not feel great to get rid of anything at first, but you’ll feel better about it in the long run.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
It such an easy, and sometimes even expected thing that tends to embarrass us. We think we should be able to cook three meals a day from scratch, and teach all the kids at least five subjects. We think we can weed the garden, and do mommy and baby gymnastics. We think we can keep the house clean, the kids clothed and continue our own education. We think failing is not an option until that moment it is, and then help is a lifesaver we’d love someone to throw us. Don’t wait until you are drowning or haven’t done math in 12 days.
You’ll be OK.
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