I can hardly believe I am coming up on the last leg of my family's first deployment. (Can I get a collective WOO-HOO from the audience?!)
As a first-timer, I had no idea what to expect. But being the planner I am, I tried my best to mentally prepare for the many struggles I was sure to encounter along the way. Truth be told, I figured it best to expect to be completely miserable for about nine months straight.
And I will admit, the first few weeks were really tough. Readjusting the kids' and my schedules in the beginning was frustrating. Weekends were awful reminders that Daddy wasn't home. Night times were mainly comprised of me lying awake, desperately wishing that sleep would find me.
But lo and behold, we all eventually found our groove. I developed a new routine that kept me and the babies on a more consistent schedule, we ran around like crazy people on the weekends so we weren't so aware of the emptiness in the house, and I was eventually able to sleep peacefully--shamelessly hoarding every square-inch of the bed and blankets all to myself.
It was around this time frame that I began to gain a bit of confidence in my abilities. I was one put-together lady. "This isn't so bad," I thought to myself. The more weeks that went on, the more confident I became...and then my confidence led to cockiness. I was the best Army Wife ever! "I don't know why people make such a big deal out of this!" I began to boast in my mind.
Little did this beginner know, deployments wait until you are at your cockiest to strike. In a single week, my washing machine caught on fire, the plumbing to the toilet in my guest bathroom burst and flooded the room and its adjoining hallway, and my children and I all caught a stomach bug at the same time. (Good thing the toilet was operational...oh wait...) I wish I was lying about this--I'm not.
I also wish I was lying when I said that my birthday present from my husband was stolen from the delivery guy (Thanks for the empty jewelry box, Honey!), that my bank information was hacked from some guy who tried to make thousands of dollars' worth of fraudulent charges to my account, or that the sprinkler system in my backyard malfunctioned and created an ankle-deep wading pool the night before Easter Sunday. But alas, all of these stories are also true.
The fact of the matter is, deployments stink. Each and every one of them is awful. And though there are moments that seem easier than others, for the most part, it is just plain hard. But through my experiences, I have learned there are ways to power through even the roughest deployment hiccups (or hurricanes.)
1. Celebrate the little things.
Perhaps the best advice I'd received from "veteran" spouses is that you have to focus on the "little victories." I discovered these little victories in really silly things, like opening the pickle jar all by myself. (Hooah!) I bragged about figuring out how to empty and reattach my vacuum bag, a skill I had not learned until my husband left. And I publicly boasted the fact that I had successfully weaned my son off his bottles. (By the way, you may henceforth refer to me as "Super Mom.") But in all seriousness, some days are so awful that you have to cling tight to these little victories, because they are the highlights of your day. Thankfully, every day holds something minor you can make a really big deal out of.
2. Realize the grandness of what you are doing.
Don't sell yourself short. It is easy to lose sight of the important role you are playing. You are the payer of the bills and the keeper of the house. You are the liaison between your spouse and his family. You are the link between your spouse and his country. If you are a parent, you are on the job 24/7 for two. And I don't mean to say that you are "both mother and father," but you are the person who coordinates everything to make sure that your spouse still gets to parent while halfway around the world. You change EVERY diaper, you cook EVERY meal, you deal with EVERY sick day (while taking none for yourself,) and you make EVERY holiday, birthday, and special event spectacular for your children--all the while taking photos and videos so Mom/Dad doesn't miss a minute of it. You are a mil-spouse and you are phenomenal! Don't let yourself forget it!
3. You are your strongest when you are supporting others.
Your spouse has battle buddies, and you need them too. Looking back on these past months, I've realized that I felt my best when I heard someone say "thank you for the talk; I really needed it" or "your gift really pulled me out of my funk today." I know I personally have been saved by a friend's surprise delivery of banana pudding after she read my rant on a status update, a neighbor dropping off a meal when she heard I was sick, and a close friend stopping by for a chat after my kids had gone to bed. Shocking truth about the mil-spouse: regardless of what any t-shirt says, we are only strong because we have each other to lean on. But it is when we lean on each other that we are truly unstoppable.