Not too long ago, the heavens parted, the planets aligned, and I found my self alone in my truck. It doesn't happen often, so I decided it was a good time to take a listen to a CD that I recently picked up at my Family Readiness Center. These Boots: A Spouse's Guide to Stepping Up and Standing Tall During DeploymentI found to be a great resource for getting me into the proper frame of mind as we prepare for Steve's upcoming deployment. His last deployment was nearly 4 1/2 years ago, and our circumstances were much different then, so I was feeling the need for a bit of a pep-talk, and I got just that. Topics covered include: pre-deployment, helping children deal with deployment, communicating with your deployed spouse, communicating with relatives during deployment, homecoming, and readjustment. Some of it was a little corny and didn't pertain to our situation, but a lot of it did and was helpful. I think my favorite part of the whole CD was a point the narrator made: "As goes the mother, so go the children." It reaffirmed the fact that the most important thing I can do right now and throughout the deployment is to set a strong, stable example for my boys.
I'm afraid this post is going to end up as a whole lot of whining, so consider yourself forewarned.
The last time Steve was deployed, he did all of his pre-deployment training in another state. So, in the end, he was gone a total of 18 months. This time, the training and preparation are taking place here, so he gets to be home, which is great. On the other hand, I'm finding that what we are getting is an over-tired, stressed out, slightly grouchy husband and father when he comes home at night. His schedule is unpredictable, and his days are long. I know all of these factors only add to his stress - - he also has all the things at home that he wants and needs to get done before he leaves. I try to keep all of this in mind and choose my battles. I keep telling myself that I need to have more patience, that I need to tailor my reactions to random occurrences accordingly. I tell myself this, but so far I'm not doing the best job. Here's where some whining comes in.
One of the most difficult things about being a stay-at-home mother, in my opinion, is that I find it terribly difficult to take care of myself in any way, shape, or form. While I know this is a challenge for all mothers, I found it a bit easier as a working mother (I worked full-time until Griffin was born) because I had the benefit of being around other adults during the day, I had the ability to use my brain in a different way, and I had my glorious lunch breaks, which I used for brisk walks, five days per week. There is nothing I'd rather be doing than staying home with my boys, but oh, how I miss those aspects of working outside the home.
How does all of this fit together, you ask? For me, I realize from time to time that I put an awful lot of pressure (unconsciously) on my husband, to be all those things to me - - the things that I use to get from going to work every day. The added pressure of what's to come in the next few months seems to make it even worse. So, we're starting to have snappy little arguments about dumb things, because we are stressed and tired. We waste time trying to one-up each other on who has it worse. These are moments in time that I will surely regret, come September. I sure would like to know how I'm supposed to decompress, though. I can't seem to figure it out in "regular" life, and it is proving even more difficult now. I want to be able to process my thoughts and feelings, but I feel like I can't (and shouldn't) add to my husband's load, and I need to keep on an even keel for my boys. I keep stuffing things down and hoping I will have an opportunity to deal with it once Steve deploys, yet I don't want to wish the time away.
I suppose this is the most difficult time of this whole thing - - the hurry-up-and-wait part. I don't like it. I'm afraid I'm going to be a nut-case before we ever even get to September. I want to enjoy time with Steve, but I feel like I am getting the last little crumbs of him - - the stuff that is left over after work has its way with him, after stress fills his brain, after he comes home and plays with the boys...by then he's too tired to listen to my ramblings of the day and I go to bed feeling irritated and alone.
So, today I am whiney. I'm kind of bitter. And I am really irritated. I'm going to go with it for the day and get it out of my system, and then I'm going to get a grip and get on with it.
I have seen these types of lists all over the Internet...this is basically a collection of the ones I could relate to the most. I try to keep in mind that people have good intentions and are simply trying to empathize, but really, it is surprising at the comments you hear over and over, through the course of a deployment.
1. "Aren't you afraid that he'll be killed?"Ummmm...yeah. However, I try not to dwell on that aspect of it. Thanks for reminding me, though. 2. "I don't know how you manage. I don't think I could do it."Don't really have a choice! 3. For soldiers in Afghanistan: "At least he's not in Iraq!" For soldiers in Iraq: "At least he's not in Afghanistan!"Steve will be in Iraq again, and I've already heard this one. Don't assume that just because Iraq isn't mentioned that much in the news anymore that it's a big picnic over there. There are still approximately 130,000 soldiers there. 4. "Do you think he'll get to come home for Christmas/anniversary/birthday/birth of a child/wedding/family reunion, etc?"No. Soldiers are granted a 2-week "R&R" (rest and relaxation) during their deployment. They don't have a lot (if any) say as to when that R&R will be. 5. "What are you going to do to keep yourself busy while he's gone?"This one kind of blows my mind in the same way my mind is blown when someone asks me what I do all day as a stay-at-home-mom. 6. "How much longer does he have until he can get out?" There are many soldiers (like Steve) who will be in the military until age of retirement, and aren't looking to get out. 7. "This deployment shouldn't be so bad, now that you're used to it."For me, this deployment is going to be much different than the last one. The last one was 18 months instead of 12. However, this time I have two little boys, ages 4 & 7, who will be profoundly affected by their father's absence. The last time, I had a one-year old, who at this point in time doesn't remember that Steve was ever gone. 8. "My husband had to go to Europe for business once for three weeks. I totally know what you're going through."Although well-intended, business trips and deployments are not even remotely the same thing. 9. "I'm totally against the war. Bring the troops home now!"How about supporting the troops that are there? 10. “Do you miss him?” This is one that I heard all the time last time! Seriously!
I just have to add a few of my own to the above list. During Steve's last deployment, when I was still working full-time, there was an office mate of mine that would arrive at work in the morning and immediately make a bee-line for my desk and say something along the lines of, "OH MY GOSH!! DID YOU SEE THE NEWS THIS MORNING??? TWO SOLDIERS WERE KILLED IN IRAQ!! HAVE YOU HEARD FROM YOUR HUSBAND??? WHEN IS THE LAST TIME YOU TALKED????" Seriously. I am not kidding. She did this for the entire deployment. I would repeatedly tell her that I was always worried, but that I tried not to dwell on it (hint, hint). Unfortunately, she never took the hint!
Another gem from the last deployment stemmed fact that not only did I have a baby to care for, but also a yard full of yard work that needed to get done. I use to sit Camden in a chair on the front steps to mow, but sometimes he just wouldn't stay put. So, there I am, mowing the lawn with one hand, while holding Camden on my hip with the other. Across the street sat my able-bodied neighbor, drinking a beer and watching me. At one point he yells over, "HEY! If you ever need anything, just ask!"Nope...don't need any help here! Just mowin' my lawn and holdin' my baby! Gives my arms a better work out this way! Thanks though! Again, probably well-intentioned, but you most likely will not find a military spouse asking people to help her (at least not me). If you want to be helpful, offer specific - - those types of offers are more likely to be accepted.
And finally, just the other day I had someone say to me, "Aren't you mad at your husband? I would be SO mad at my husband if he got deployed!" I heard this comment the last time, too. Um, no....I'm not mad at my husband, but I sure do feel sorry for yours!
I thought I'd provide a bit of background about our military story. Steve is in the Idaho Army National Guard. He also works full-time for the Guard, so I suppose it is sort of like being active duty, without having to relocate. He works very, very hard, and I couldn't be more proud of him. This upcoming deployment will be his third in the eleven years he's been in the Guard, although one of those deployments was in-state, where he was part of a back fill. That being said, he was far enough away that he couldn't live at home, but I still was able to see him at least once per week. I suppose that "deployment" was good practice for his next one, which was an 18-month deployment to Iraq. He left when Camden (our 6-year old) had just turned one, and returned when he was 2 1/2. Now, we are gearing up for deployment number three, which will be 12 months total, and begins sometime in September. For me, reality finally set in last week, and I am feverishly making lists, making plans, and thinking about all that we need to accomplish before he leaves. Of those 20-something weeks, Steve will only be here for about 10 of them, with training and what-not. Ten weeks goes by so quickly! Our main concern is how to properly prepare our children for this big change. They are very close to their dad so his absence will have a huge impact on them. We are hoping to make it to the end of the school year before broaching the subject with them (another month), but I'm thinking that may prove difficult, as word of the deployment has now been in the news, and people tend to ask us about it quite a bit.
My second concern is for Steve - - I know how hard it is going to be for him to be away from his boys. The way I look at all of this is, yes, it will be hard for me at times too, but at least I get to be with the boys. I can't imagine being in Steve's shoes (for all kinds of reasons), so I will most certainly be directing a lot of my energy to keeping him feeling as close to home as humanly possible.
Although the Army is certainly part of our every-day lives, gearing up for a deployment has me feeling a little apprehensive about "deployment" Army life. During Steve's last deployment, I didn't really become involved with FRG activities, because unfortunately there were a lot of women who seemed to possess a "victim" mentality about the whole thing, and for me, it didn't prove to be the least bit helpful for me in coping with Steve's absence. I'm going to approach this deployment with an open mind, but if I encounter the same thing this time around, I will look for support, when I need it, in other areas.
My biggest wish is that our boys will have a transition that is as smooth as it can possibly be, and that the 12 months will go by quickly for all of us.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty. ~ John F. Kennedy