My husband is deploying for the first time soon. We’ve been a military family for a long time now, so we’ve been apart before. Eight months here. Four months there. A few weeks. A month. We’ve been lucky, though because his position has never required overseas deployments. Throughout our various separations, he has always been in the States, just a time zone or two away. He was safe– and sometimes close enough to visit. We have been apart before, but never quite like this.
This time, he is not leaving for training or a temporary mission or a quick couple of weeks to teach someone at another base how to do his job. No. This time, he is getting on a plane and I won’t see him again for nine months. He will put on his boots, pack his gear, and get up at the crack of dawn to meet the C-17 that will carry him across the world on a deployment to a place where our waking hours will hardly overlap.
His job isn’t combat-related, and his deployment will be relatively safe.
There’s no reason to think he won’t come home no worse for the wear. I understand how lucky I am as a military spouse that I don’t have to lay my head down at night and pray that he lives to see another day. I would never pretend to understand how that must feel.
But I’m still allowed to be sad, and I am. I’m sad because I’m going to miss him like crazy, and I’m not looking forward to his deployment and parenting for many months all by myself.
We’ve done this before, and I rocked it because that’s what moms do. We TCB.
I know that logistically I can handle my kids and my home on my own. As a matter of fact, the kids and the house tend to be much easier for me when he’s gone. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but when he’s not here, we keep things as laid-back and convenient as possible. I don’t cook elaborate dinners, so there are fewer dishes to wash. He isn’t here dirtying a uniform and a civilian outfit every single day, so the laundry is easier to manage. My kids and I struggle for a week or two, then fall into an easy groove. We get our routines in place, sans Daddy, and then we roll with it. My kids are awesome, and I’m a resourceful person. We make it happen.
Of course, there are some logistical concerns that make this whole thing a little stressful.
I’m not always awesome at coordinating things I never have to think about like lawn care and pest control and general home maintenance. It’s not that I can’t do it, it’s just one more thing on my plate, and one more place I can possibly drop the ball. We will get everything in perfect order before he leaves, but I’ll still worry about forgetting something important.
The hardest part of deployment is just how it makes us all feel.
I live with an anxiety disorder. Meds keep me stable, and I usually feel pretty good. But when my anxiety looms and I have a tough day, my husband is my rock. He is my calm. He knows how to make his arms my shelter. I feel safety with him that doesn’t exist for me anywhere else on earth. During his deployment, for the better part of a year, I’ll have to face that alone, employing all of my other, less effective coping skills. I’ll make it, but it will be harder to make it without him.
I will try my absolute best to make special events feel special even without Daddy here, but I know my kids will be sad. My husband is the kind of dad that never misses anything. Ever. I know their father missing just one Easter or birthday or Fourth of July isn’t the end of the world, but they’re just little. They don’t understand things like “other kids have it worse” or “not everybody’s dad shows up for them like yours does,” or “he will be here next time.” And honestly, I won’t minimize their feelings by trying to force them to be grateful that it’s not worse. They’re allowed to miss their Daddy. But it’s going to break my heart to watch it.
Knowing that my husband will be missing us breaks my heart.
It’s going to be the hardest for him. He will be away from home in a foreign country without his family, just missing everything. One of our kids is at a pivotal age where a nine-month separation is going to mean that he leaves a baby behind and comes home to a big kid. He’s dreading that, and I know it. That’s why I never, ever tell him I wish he didn’t have to go on this deployment. He works so hard, and I’m so proud of him. I knew this was going to be part of our life before we decided he should enlist.
I know that a few months away from my husband pales in comparison to the helplessness I’d feel if he was in danger, or truly gone forever. I wouldn’t be so stupid as to compare myself to the spouse of a person in combat or someone who has lost their spouse. Not all hard is equal. I get it.
But I still want to share how it’s going to feel because I think it’s a good reminder to be kind.
We won’t be in mourning while he’s gone. Our family will carry on like we always do, and we will be fine. But we will be operating at a constant, slightly elevated level of anxiety and emotion until he gets home and our life feels normal again. Obviously, we won’t need the kind of support that family would need when someone is gone for good, but we will be in desperate need of a little understanding, grace and wiggle room.
You know that old quote, ““Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle?” It resonates with people for a reason.
Like every other military spouse before me, I’ll roll up my sleeves and do what I’ve got to do during my husband’s deployment.
My husband will do the job he pledged to do. My kids will go to school and laugh and play and we will all be fine. But sometimes, it will be tough. I hope that when we need it most, the people we meet will be gracious and not heap more hard on top of our hard.
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