It is difficult to make an all-inclusive list of everything that goes on in the lives of a military family during deployment and TDYs. I have read several attempts at making lists so that friends and family may better understand our perspective. Unfortunately, they all fall short of giving the full picture of our lives. My list will fall short as well. Many things on my list apply even if my husband is not deployed but when he is gone for any length of time it makes these points much more applicable. In no particular order, and with the understanding that this can’t possibly include everything, here is some things you should know about us…
We live paycheck to paycheck.
~Even when my husband is home, we are out of money by the end of the month. This is not because we are always careless with our money. Anyone who knows me well knows that I do my best to manage the money well. I realize that not everyone is as organized as I am but I personally have a large binder that holds all of the bills that we pay monthly. I diligently budget out where our paycheck goes… down to the penny. Inevitably, something comes up that requires money that we were not expecting to spend and our budget for the month goes out the window.
~We do tend to spend more during deployment. Usually there is a little more money coming in the paycheck. This is the time to try and catch up with the bills, to buy that extra “toy” that we haven’t been able to afford, and to treat the kids to a restaurant or activity… all before the money runs out and we are back to our normal routine.
~We also do whatever we can to help earn more money to help the finances. If we do not have a full or part-time job, we have yard sales, home businesses (Norwex, Thirty-One, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay, Scentsy, etc…), we babysit, do yard work, and basically will do anything we can to earn that extra cash. The money we earn ensures that we will be ok if we grab happy meals for lunch or get an extra outfit that the kids fall in love with, so our kids can do extra curricular activities, and so that every once in a while we can pay a babysitter and go run errands for a few hours without kids.
We stay busy so that we (and the kids) don’t have time to think about Daddy (or Mommy) being gone.
~Very few days go by that we do not have to leave the house and go somewhere. School, appointments, play dates, church services, church activities, library, pool, lessons and practices, clubs, etc. Even if we are home, we are cleaning house, making meals, having friends over, reading, watching movies, and sleeping. A full day keeps everyone distracted so that we don’t worry about Daddy or Mommy (What they are doing, How & Why they are doing it, Where they are, and When they will get at chance to call us).
~We often do things that we do not want to do for the sake of our kids. As an example, a few weeks ago, I took the girls to the BBQ on base for families with deployed family members. It is way outside of my comfort zone to interact with people I don’t know. I was the one sitting on the bench watching the kids and not talking to anyone. But, I felt it was important for the girls to play on the bouncy house and get a backpack. This gave them something to do that was a treat out of the normal routine.
We do not know when Daddy (or Mommy) is coming home.
~We may or may not know an approximate time frame. If we do, we will answer your question usually sounding like this: “Hopefully he will get back the end of August or the beginning of September. There is a chance he could be extended and have to stay a couple of months longer. You never know with the military!” There was a time that I was told 4 different changes to his return schedule within a 4 hour timeframe!
~Most of us have learned our lesson about avoiding the countdowns with the kids. One time we were told he would get back the night before Easter. So we set out the Easter baskets early and bought a cake that said “Welcome Home!” Then, I had to deal with the aftermath of telling a 2 1/2 year old why Daddy didn’t come home while she was sleeping. Never again will I tell them he is coming home until he has set foot in our town. Often, we just surprise them and let them figure it out when he walks in the door or when they wake up in the morning and find him sleeping in bed.
We do not watch the news.
~With the exception of articles I see on facebook (which I can choose to read or not read), I do not want to see what is going on in the part of the world where he is at. It is better for me not to know and not worry as much (we never stop worrying) then for me to be constantly trying to figure out what part he may or may not play in the overseas drama. He will tell me (if he can) when he gets home. If he cannot tell me, then it confirms my reasons why I don’t want to know while he is there.
We need help but there are very few people we will ask because we do not want to be a burden.
~Unless you are family or a friend who we absolutely consider family, we will not ask for your help. The exception is if we are paying you to do a service like babysitting, yard work, etc. We attempt to do most everything ourselves but if for some reason we can’t it is embarrassing for us to actually ask for help.
~We “save” our favors. If we know that we may need to ask a certain person for help during a deployment, we limit our requests to when we have no other option but to ask them. We do not want to overwhelm the same person with all of our potential requests.
~Even if you offer to help us, we most likely will not take you up on the offer (unless you are family or a friend who we consider family). We have found that most offers are half-hearted or completely insincere. We would rather that you do not offer at all then offer and not really mean it.
~There are a few women who act like they cannot lift a finger to do anything for themselves. These women are constantly calling their husband’s shop to demand help with everything and cause hardworking men to resent them because they insist that they be taken from their jobs & families to tend to the needy wife of their co-worker. These women give military wives a bad name but I assure you there are very few who actually fall into this category. The majority of us would only call our husband’s shop in case of emergency or something that legitimately cannot be solved without the help of a military organization (finance, family readiness, etc.).
We will help others even if we need help ourselves.
~This goes along with keeping busy. We often over book ourselves with activities and helping others. You may really need someone to watch your kids, carpool kids, help you with your house or yard, take care of your pets, run to the store, hang out and watch a movie, have a deep conversation about something important, etc. We will most likely do any and all of these things, even if it causes us to burn out from exhaustion, because you are our friend and we care about you.
~At any given time, WE could also need any and all of these things.
We may look like we have it all together but inside we are crumbling.
~We miss our husbands (or wives).
~We carry the fear of the unknown and the “what if’s.”
~We carry all of the stress of running a household, finances, everything that goes wrong, raising/teaching/disciplining the children, etc. because there is no way our spouse can handle any of it from afar.
We are exhausted.
~Coffee (& coffee creamer), Tea, and Wine are essential to our survival. If we go to get a drink of any of these items and they are not in our kitchen, we feel like a tidal wave has engulfed our entire body. Coffee in the morning to help us wake up, coffee or tea for lunch or snack to keep us going, tea or wine to help relax us enough so we can go to sleep. All three (at different times) are essential to a great conversation with a friend, reading a good book, or soaking in a hot bath.
We take lots of photos.
~During deployment so that we can post them on facebook so our husbands (or wives) do not feel so disconnected from the family.
~Before deployment so that we might just happen to get photos like these:
Here are some practical ways of helping us during a deployment or TDY:
~Pray for us.
~Write us an encouraging note.
~Bring us a meal… or a cup of coffee… or a bottle of wine.
~Support our home businesses if we sell something you love and spread the word to your friends!
~If we are relying on you for something, make sure that you follow through with what you said you would do for us.
~If you go by our house on trash day and our garbage is not on the curb, take a minute to stop and do it for us. We most likely completely forgot.
~Watch our kids for a day so that we can get some things accomplished without the constant interruption of kids. Or better yet, watch them for a whole night so that we can actually get some sleep.
~Recognize when we are crumbling and allow us to vent our frustrations or cry on your shoulder.