We found out about my husband’s deployment 15 months prior to him leaving, which allowed us plenty of time to prepare for what was ahead. What we didn’t plan for in the months leading up to him leaving was the death of my father and the aftermath of his passing. Anyone who has lost a parent can understand that it will change your whole family dynamic. In my case, it was and continues to be a bumpy road. We also found out we were expecting our third child, who would be born while he was away. It was a wild year, and for many reasons I was terrified of him leaving.
Because he has always been my best friend first and partner second, I had no idea what to expect in terms of my mental health once he was away. Obviously I would miss him, but would my depression worsen? Would my anxiety take over me as a parent, leaving my children with a mother who wasn’t mentally there for them? Joe and I talked extensively about the challenges we would face and ways we could handle them from a distance.
Goodbyes are hard. The three-hour drive home from the airport was filled with tears. Tears from my boys in the backseat who were sick of being in the car, frustration tears from me because I hate driving in heavy traffic (the first thing I missed about my husband), and more tears from all of us missing Daddy.
The moment I stepped into our house, though, was the first second of clarity I had in over a year – I have a new opportunity here. I can utilize this 11-month deployment for my own well-being instead of pouting my way through it.
1. I’m transitioning to being a stay-at-home mom.
First of all, I will point out that in no way did I turn into a temporary single mom. Having people label me as one has been my biggest irritation. I still have the financial and emotional support of my husband, so please do not give me the credit of being a single mother. Those are some badass women.
I spent the last 10 years working ridiculous shifts bartending, going to school, and having children.
Balancing all of those jobs was an art, but in no way could I continue with my husband gone and 3 kids under 5. Daycare costs, anyone? Staying home with my kids was the new norm and I wasn’t quite ready, but here I am totally rocking it. Coffee and crafts have consumed my life, and I’m okay with it.
2. I’m finding myself…again.
I lived alone for 2 years before moving in with my husband. I was independent. Somewhere in the chaos of having kids and getting married, in that order, I lost a piece of myself. I don’t even remember what it’s like to get up and go somewhere without a second thought. Deep down, that girl is still there, and I am finding her again in this deployment. The absence of my husband has allowed me the space to determine who I want to be as a mom and wife. Trial and error, of course.
3. I’m building a foundation before he returns.
Ridiculous work and school schedules made it hard to create a routine at home. Sorry, kids, consistency was not our strength. Without working around Joe’s civilian job, we have found a regular routine that gives me a little peace of mind. IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE. Routines, routines, routines! Housework is done before the kids are in bed. Finally, I can sit down at 9 p.m. with a glass of wine and a little energy left from my day to send a good morning text to my hubby overseas. Score!
Oh, and cooking. I can perfect a few meals so my saint-of-a-husband doesn’t have to pretend to enjoy a burnt dinner. Did I mention I love him?
4. I’ve learned problem solving and how to ask for help.
If you asked my husband two things I need to work on, the first is how I need to handle a situation by myself. I know you are thinking, “Wait, I thought she said she was independent?” Yes, but being an introvert with anxiety makes it difficult to make phone calls or answer them for that matter. Can’t businesses text? Kidding…kind of.
Second, he would tell you that I need to ask for help. Here is where my independence comes in; I rarely ask for anyone to watch my children, especially with three. I feel like people are going to say, “What did you expect when you had three kids?” So, in fear of rejection or judgment, I seldom find a sitter. It has nothing to do with our families, because we both have amazing people in our lives who would probably take my kids for a week if I asked them (I would never do that to them, my kids make a circus look relaxing).
5. I’m learning new things.
Pre-deployment, our nights consisted of Joe playing video games and me falling asleep while folding laundry. Now, I have the freedom to watch terrible Lifetime movies and peruse Pinterest for new recipes and sewing projects. WIN.
6. I have a new appreciation for my husband.
Distance really does make the heart grow fonder, but in ways I didn’t expect. Small gestures that I didn’t always notice include daily complements and making coffee on Sunday mornings. I had no idea he controlled the weeds that grew on our patio until there was a jungle outside our door. The lawn always looked perfect when he was home. Oh, and he always charged my electric toothbrush. I thought the battery lasted forever. Nope.
But please don’t pity me for the distance between my husband and me, I love him and miss him, but I am making it work.