I was a mom to five children who were seven years old and under and it was a wild time in our house when my fighter pilot husband deployed. There were some assignments when he was gone more than he was home and dealing with all those kids was simply chaos. But out of the chaos came creativity and new capabilities that were waiting for the right opportunity to emerge. There were things I learned to do and not to do in order to survive and thrive.
I wasn’t alone. Over the course of a decade, the combination of multiple deployments and limited time at home has weighed heavily on the families of military members who have fought two protracted ground wars. Those family members left at home have a significant role to play while their military loved one is deployed. While there are things they can do to make the separations more bearable, there are also certain activities to avoid. Along those lines, here are the “Top Twelve Don’ts for Deployment”
- Don’t have a negative attitude; it will hurt you, your kids, and everyone who is unfortunate enough to be around you! Keep the sour remarks off Facebook and twitter or anyplace your spouse can read them. You don’t want him or her distracted by your “stuff” because distractions can lead to accidents and accidents can lead to loss of life.
- Don’t spend time alone with people of the opposite sex; establish boundaries during this particularly vulnerable time.
- Don’t listen to your favorite love songs or romantic movies if it makes you nostalgic for your mate. Instead, watch a comedy with a friend.
- Don’t buy big-ticket items without your spouse’s approval—no matter how depressed you are. Instead, try to save money. For example, review the amount you are paying for home or auto insurance and try to get it cheaper. Be sure to check out USAA if you qualify to become a member.
- Don’t give in to impulse buying on the smaller-ticket items either; they will surely add up to big debts!
- Don’t clean out your spouse’s “stuff,” even if he never does listen to those old CDs!
- Don’t stay home alone—especially if you have little ones. Plug into your Family Support Group, LINKS, on base or join a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group in your area.
- Don’t turn down offers for help. Take people up on their offers to take you to lunch, come over for dinner, baby-sit your kids (if you trust them), and even bring you a casserole. Now is the time to accept help!
- Don’t overdose on news shows, especially when your spouse is involved in a “hot news” conflict. Don’t let your kids hear much (if any) of the news involving your spouse’s deployment. Even babies and toddlers can pick up on the vibe. Madeline Brazell says, “Andrew, who was only two when Duane went to war, started to exhibit disturbing behavior during the first days Duane’s deployment to the war when we kept the news on almost all day.”
- Don’t overdo it on TV in general—too much of it makes your brain turn to mush.
- Don’t use TV, DVDs, computers, or game systems as a babysitter. Limit their use to one show or one hour a day and your child will have a better outlook on life.
- Don’t list your physical address in the phone book or on any registration information. When a Stealth went down in Kosovo, and they didn’t know who the pilot was, CNN was standing curbside at every pilot’s house listed in the phone book!
How do YOU find you cope when your military member is deployed?
Thank you for being a Hero at Home and be sure to share this with a military family as your way of telling them, “Thanks for your service as a Hero at Home.”