Military spouses are a tough bunch. You'd be hard-pressed to find another group of people who willingly give up their partners for six, nine, 12, and even 15 month intervals to serve our nation. It's a sacrifice, no doubt, and the burden is especially great on parents. Deployed moms and dads do dangerous work and miss out on important milestones at home, but staying behind also requires a special kind of badassery. There's no getting around the fact that it's going to be hard, but a partner's deployment will remind you you're a strong mom.
My husband deployed last summer, and this is my first deployment as a wife as well as our first as a family. When I initially found out my partner would be gone for a full year, I was really upset. I knew it meant my husband would miss one of everything (Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and our daughter's second birthday). However, here we are at the halfway point and we're really doing pretty well. We miss him like crazy, and there are times when this deployment makes me think I might lose my mind. While our time apart has made me appreciate my husband more, it's also made me realize that not only can I do this alone, I'm actually well-suited to this lifestyle.
Deployment blows big time, so hang in there, military mamas. Then again, I probably don't even have to tell you. You already know, because you're already strong AF.
When You Handle Big Changes
Since my husband deployed, my daughter has started pre-school, and I've taken on two part-time jobs. Those are pretty major changes, but you know what? I absolutely love working remotely, and when I go to pick my little one up from school she's happy as a clam. Yeah, it might be an easier adjustment if her dad was here, but we're not letting deployment hold us back. We're doing it.
I know plenty of women who have been through pregnancies and even births without their partners. Those ladies are resilient as hell.
When You Manage Literally Everything
Mommy, writer, education consultant, financial planner, playdate architect, master chef, chauffeur? Yeah, I do it all. In the military, it's known as being Household 6 (6 being the designation for commanders). Basically, it means you're a freaking boss.
When a partner is deployed, everything (childcare, chores, budgeting) falls to you. It's especially challenging if you find yourself taking on roles in your relationship that you hadn't before (for me, joint finances). I'm about to tackle filing taxes on my own, but don't worry. I've got this.
When You Travel Solo
I don't actually mean solo because usually you'll be carting a tiny human or two with you. I mean without another sanity-providing adult. Baby girl and I have traveled to Florida, Washington, and Georgia in just the last five months. I have it down to a science. I put her in the umbrella stroller, hook the diaper bag over the back, put the roller suitcase handle over the stroller handle, and sling the car seat over my back. I'm a beast.
But that's the easy part of the trip. As a baby, my little one was a dream. If she got fussy, I just stuck a boob in her mouth and she fell asleep. Now I'm dealing with a stubborn, wiggly toddler who doesn't understand why YouTube doesn't work on the plane. I ended up crying myself as my daughter screamed, "Elmoooooooo!" to the dismay of the other passengers. As we exited the plane, I took some deep breaths, dried my tears, and headed off to enjoy our trip.
When You've Changed 100,000 Poop-Filled Diapers
When I had a baby, I knew I was signing up for probably two years of dirty diapers. However, I thought I could reasonably expect that I would not be the sole person responding when duty called. Once my spouse was gone, I realized that all poopy diapers would fall to yours truly. Plus, she's like an adult who will only go number two at home because she never poops at school.
You'd think diapers would be the least of your worries during a separation from your child's other parent (in a war zone, on top of everything), but a blowout can absolutely test your mental and emotional fortitude.
When You Let It Go
One night, I'd been slaving over a pot of delicious chili and was finally sitting down to enjoy a bowl myself. I'd already served my daughter, and she took it upon herself in that moment to hurl her bowl of chili to the floor. It was all over the wall, herself, and the cat.
I could have cleaned it up right away, but I let myself savor my special dinner. For me, it took a lot to get over my obsessive-compulsive tendencies and leave the mess there. Military mommies know not to sweat the small stuff.
When You Help Another Spouse
You know you've reached Super Milspo status when you're able to give an assist to another military family. Honestly, I couldn't survive this deployment with the support of the cadre of Army wives who keep me going with encouragement, food, and babysitting services. So when I had the chance to repay the kindness, I jumped at it.
My friends were off to their squadron ball, so I offered to watch their 8 month old. Their little girl has hip dysplasia and is in a cast, and my 1 year old is going through a needy phase. When the baby started crying, it set off my kiddo. At one point, I was trying to calm the baby and my daughter sobbed so hard she threw up. Everyone went to bed early, and this mama rewarded herself with a nice glass of wine.
When You Realize You're A Multitasking Maven
Can you manage a Skype call while holding your baby and scrambling an egg? Read a book to your child and mentally calculate time zone differences? Amazon Prime coffee to Afghanistan during a tickle fight? You just might have a deployed partner.
When You Send An Awesome Care Package
We have quite the army family, so I pretty much always have care packages in varying stages of readiness to send to our soldiers. Once, my friend came over and was surprised not to see any and gave me the best compliment ever: "If you weren't doing something for someone else, I'd be worried about you."
I think it says something about you when you're able to meet both your needs and the needs of your children and still find time to put together a box full of Girl Scout cookies, handwritten notes, and Walking Dead playing cards because you know it will mean a lot to someone very far away.
When You Fix Something Yourself
Don't get me wrong. I'm no shrinking violet, and I eat gender roles for breakfast. However, I draw the line at maggots. One morning a few months ago, I woke up to find writhing, white creatures all over my tile floor. The floor my baby crawls all over.
So what did I do? I stuck the toddler in the crib and proceeded to gather up every last one (which I crushed in a paper towel) and then bleached the crap out of my floor. This is a job I probably would have relegated to my husband, but now? I run sh*t, and larvae tremble in my presence.
When You Keep Your Sh*t Together
A few months into the deployment, I got a message from my husband letting me know he was OK. I hadn't heard anything and he couldn't go into any detail, so I was left with Google as my only option. That's how I found out there had been a suicide bombing. I can't imagine hearing that news and not knowing if my loved one was alright or not.
It was a stressful couple of weeks as we weren't able to video chat for quite some time, but I held it together for my baby girl. It's terrifying, but worrying about the well-being of a deployed partner is a constant reality for those left behind. At some point, we all lose it, but that's not a sign of weakness.
Despite everything, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and keep on keeping on. For ourselves, for our partners, and for our children. Because we're strong like that.