Secrets From a Military Spouse: How we do it
Our year-long deployment is currently underway, and I’m not going to lie: I take each day at a time. I wrote a version of this post two years ago, and I need to share it here so I can remember that I can do this. It will be hard. It will suck. But I can do it, and I will do it…because I have to.
“I don’t know how you do it.” is easily the most common thing I’ve heard over the years. And for good reason: We play the part of both mom and dad while our husbands are away, and we worry about our other half, all while maintaining a sense of normalcy for our family.
And it’s hard. Really hard.
Actually, it’s really freaking hard, if I’m being honest.
With our better half away, we’re still left with all the responsibilities of life, and everything that comes with it.
I need to note that I fully understand that solo parenting is not like being a single parent. I still have a spouse, who is still very much in our lives; he’s our family’s main income provider, and despite the fact that he’s not physically here, we still make decisions together (as best we can). That’s why I call it solo parenting—because I’m flying solo for a bit.
Sometimes we can talk to them every day, but some times it can be days, weeks, or months without a word. Thank God for technology, but sometimes it can be a blessing and a curse since not hearing from them after great communication can be scary.
And if you have kids…well, that’s a whole other ball game.
Stay at home parents are likely with their little people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for who knows how long. And that’s a lot of one-on-one time with tiny humans who find pleasure in sucking every ounce of energy, brain cells, and sanity out of you.
I’ve never been so thankful for school time, daycare, and babysitters for giving some respite to break those long days up.
I do it Because I Have to.
When someone tells me, “I don’t know how you do it,” my typical response is, “I don’t know either, but I just do it…because I have to.”
Seriously, I have to. If I didn’t do it, we’d crumble.
The whole “it takes a village” thing is hard when your family isn’t close and you’re new to an area.
Creating your village takes time, especially when we’re up-rooted so often, so your immediate family become your lifeline, and you cling to each other, while accepting whatever help comes your way.
So in the meantime…you just do it.
Here’s How We Actually Do It:
So how do we actually do it all when the world looks at us like we’re crazy for taking on so much? Here’s every military spouse’s deepest darkest secret for how we actually do it. Lean in close…
You put your big girl panties on every morning, and you suck it up, buttercup, because you have to.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not strong. I’m not brave. I am not some supermom. Unless it’s Halloween…then bring on the cape.
What I am is exhausted and frazzled; my kids and I argue and yell more often than not; we eat ice cream for breakfast (and sometimes dinner), because it’s easier to give in than have one.more.fight.
We get on with our day as best we can, and we try to survive and thrive at the same time.
Throughout the day I ask, pray, and beg for grace and patience, and I find myself saying, “I’m sorry,” to my kids and asking for their forgiveness more often than not.
There are also tears…lots and lots of tears.
Because even though you’re home doing and trying your absolute best, the kids are missing their dad, so you have to reassure them that it’s going to be okay, while praying that it will, actually, be okay.
What “Doing it” Actually Looks Like:
Honestly, most days I don’t know how I keep it all together, but I do it because I have to.
Whether I “signed up for this” or not (another phrase people like to remind military spouses often), this is where we’re at right now.
My husband’s job requires him to be away from us for days, weeks, months, and now for an entire year. The only way I know how to survive these seasons is to hunker down and find our new normal, while looking forward to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Doing it looks a little like this:
- It means waking up every morning knowing you are filling the shoes of both mom and dad (and housekeeper, chef, babysitter, chauffeur, etc.).
- It means letting the kids eat ice cream for breakfast and cereal for dinner.
- It means I consider an afternoon in the kiddie pool or running through the sprinklers as their bath for the week.
- It means sometimes paying for someone to come over to your house so you can take a nap, or a shower in peace.
- It means doing that direct sales business, or turning your hobby into a paying gig so you have money to pay for an angel to come clean your house once a month (aka my favorite day of the month).
- It means being on a first name basis with your Starbucks barista and the crew at Chick-fil-A.
- It means not having him around for OB appointment, possibly even the birth of your child, or after your new baby is here.
- It means finding your new best friend and praying she doesn’t think you’re crazy when you tell her a week later that—surprise!—she’s your emergency contact.
- It means crying on the phone, over an email, or having tear drops on the letter to your spouse telling him you don’t think you can do it anymore.
- It means trusting him and believing in yourself when your better half says, “Yes you can.”
- It means waking up the next morning to a brand new day, pulling on your big girl panties, and knowing you can do this.
- It means sometimes doing the unthinkable—like moving with kids—without your spouse around.
- It means hiding in the garage or pantry, and devouring some chocolate and chips, because sometimes Mama really just needs a hot minute to herself.
- It means tucking the kids in at night, crawling into bed with them, and wiping away their tears, because all they want is the one person they can’t have.
- It means celebrating Christmas in July, anniversaries after the fact, and birthdays via FaceTime.
- It means not just accepting, but asking for help when you need it—even if it’s for someone to just bring over a gallon of milk (and maybe coffee or ice cream; I mean, if they’re already out, get yourself a little something since you’re clearly having one heck of a day).
- It means going to bed alone, and waking up to an empty side of the bed day after day after day.
- It means finding or sometimes creating your own village, and clinging to your military family and friends while you wait for your spouse to return.
- It means putting on a brave face when talking to you kids about where he’s at and what he’s doing.
- It means doing all the things…
It means you do it—however, and whatever “it” is to you. You settle in for the ride, buckle, up, and survive…because you have to.
Are you a military spouse? What does “doing it” look like to you, and how do you do it?
YES GIRL! Amen.
One thing I used to do when my husband was deployed from April til September was I would plant Sunflowers. They take 3 months to bloom. Whenever my small child would ask if Daddy is coming home today, I would say not til there’s a great big flower on top. When he was delayed I would say ok when the petals are ready to fall off. That would give them something tangible to view time passing with.
Retired Navy Wife