My name is Rachel and I am Brianna’s older sister! I had the privilege of annoying her as a kid and making fun of her everyday. One of my favorite things to do is joke around and laugh and poke fun. My personality is usually bubbly and I’m always up for having a good time! But there has been a time where I was anything but bubbly, and my life and personality changed drastically.
Being a military spouse is something I signed up for the moment I said “I do.” I have a husband who has been in the army for 22 years now and counting. He has always had a lot of training to attended and has been gone frequently in our last 7 years together but this past year he deployed for 12 months. This wasn’t his first deployment, but first for us since we have been married with kids. I can not tell you enough about the struggle and strain this was on our family. We survived although some days I felt I couldn’t take one more thing, but God was gracious and gave me just enough strength to get through that day. But it was just plain HARD.
I wrote a lot while he was away and have never really shared anything I wrote. But I found this and thought it was something worth opening up about. I hope the thoughts aren’t as jumbled as my mind was at the time this was written.
6 Things To Understand about Military Families left Behind During a Deployment
1. We are different while they are away and it may not always be pretty.
I swear I am a different girl since the stress and reality hit home with deployment. The stress level is always high. Kids are screaming, there are a million little needs that need to be met and no one to walk through the door at 6pm so I can “take a break” after a long day. No back up parent to feed them, wipe their bottom, bathe them, pack lunches, break up the kids fights or tie shoes. Not to mention, my own job or household duties or yard work. If you work your own job 60 hours a week and your husband is only home one night a week …I still envy you! The stressed out, high strung, scatter brained, forgetful, unkept looking hypochondriac that I am the year my husband is away isn’t the real me. While I have “a lot” of it together it is impossible to have it “all” together and it will show. Translation: We may appear crazy and high strung. Be patient and wait it out with us without judging.
2. Don’t forget him. And don’t forget us on the home front.
People will ask me how my husband is doing, occasionally. I appreciate that. I love talking about my husband it helps me feel closer to him. But sometimes when the question is asked about him and then nothing is asked about how the kids are handling it, or how I am doing. It can feel kind of like we are forgotten. Its hard at home, too.
3. My kids really are sweet .
My kids have had a very hard time adjusting. Especially my oldest. He misses his daddy and shows me by being hot tempered, impatient, frustrated quickly and emotional. It may seem like he isn’t listening all the time, and while he may not be, you don’t see the little boy crying at night and asking how much longer until Daddy comes home. So if I don’t seem too concerned with his behavior it is because I know where it is stemming from. I try my best to help him deal with all his feelings but lets face it…I am still learning to navigate my own.
4. When we wait in line at the post office, if it looks like I am beaming and about to cry. I am.
Something happens when I walk to the post office with that care package. I know he will touch it. I know eventually he will open it and miss us. I feel so proud of him. I feel proud of us as a couple and of our kids. They are making the biggest sacrifice and I love to let them tape up the outside of the care package even if it annoys the clerk helping me. I don’t mind. Little hands may be slower, but she has no idea how bad that little hand wants to hold Daddy’s. So tape away kids.
5. If you ask us if we need anything, I will say “no” because I have no idea what we need, although we need a lot of something. Then I will cry hysterically or laugh.
Deployment is a crazy time. There are a lot of emotions. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed but I have no idea what to ask for. I’m not sure what the kids or I need and I don’t know what to tell you. Most likely, I’ll just cry. Then I will laugh because I am crying and think there is no idea you would ever get what I am feeling. This is where you will judge me (#1) and think I am crazy.
6. I learned fast, not to have expectations.
Being that my husband is a reservist, we don’t have the pool of resources at our fingertips that some may have with active duty spouses. Now that my husband is deployed, I realized how hard this really is. I expect others to “get” where I am at, to understand this, to step up and be more available, but they have NO IDEA I have placed this expectation on them! This only leads to disappointment and frustration for me. They aren’t military families. In fact there isn’t another military family around with a husband deployed that I know of. Talk about lonely! When you feel like a fish out of water, and you feel like you cant let others know how you “really feel,” because they just wont know what to say or how to help. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I have learned I need to let that go. It isn’t their fault. I am the one placing unrealistic expectations on them. That is a hard place to be.
Deployment is something that only other military spouses will understand completely. But the best thing you can do is love on that family and don’t let them feel forgotten. Everyone remembers you right after the soldier deploys and everyone gets excited with you, right before he comes home…but somewhere in the middle of all that is where the above happens. We need you just as much in the middle as we do in the beginning and the end. You don’t have to understand us, because we sure don’t understand it all ourselves!
It doesn’t always end when they come home either, but that is another story for another day. There is a reintegration process as the family adjusts to being back together. Everyday is a slow step in find a new normal. Everyone is different when the family reunites.
I knew I could make it to the end. I knew it would be hard. I gave myself a lot of pep talks. But what I learned along the way were things I would not have seen unless going through the deployment. Things like how much my husband was needed by both me and the kids. How I cant do it very well on my own. How much a daddy makes a difference to little boys. How he brings balance and a sense of security to our family. How much I appreciated him and the soldier that he was, so my little boys could sleep safely at night. Things I took for granted before. I learned that God had equipped me with exactly what I needed for each day, although some days I doubted it. And lastly, I learned what it meant to be proud to be an American. Proud of my little guys for sacrificing their daddy for a whole year, and proud of my husband who has a heart for this country and has dedicated himself to defending our freedoms.