Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dealing with Deployment: 7 Ways to Help Spouses and Kids

Since military life plays a big part in my survival as a writer, I'm sharing my experiences. All photos are taken by me and are a part of the DDG-60 crew and their families. Respect these photos and do not take them for your own purposes.

Being a Navy veteran doesn't make deployment easier, it makes it more understandable. I've only done three deployments but they were all on CVN-72 aka Stinkin' Lincoln. 5,000 sailors on a floating city takes its toll. My shippies and I believed it ran on despair. The more miserable we were, the better the ship ran. The more happy, we'd lose reactor power. (True story: a fellow cook shared a joke and we all laughed. Seconds later, the galley went dark. One of the reactors went out. So you're damned right we're convinced.)

Now that I'm married and we have an awesome kid, I'm on the other side. I stay at home while my husband plays Navy. He just finished his first deployment as a father--fourth, overall. I don't know how parents do it if they're active or sea duty. That's nuts to be gone that long and away from your kids. Especially for the moms. It's heartbreaking. It takes more than understanding deployment or the military, it takes miles long of perseverance, and strength beyond Wonder Woman's (or Superman's). So I can understand (now) why some females would just snap during deployment. They're not in their element. They're going against every particle of their womanhood; it's biologically unsound to be apart from their children. When their biology is disrupted, everything else is out of whack. It's why I left the Navy. No more turning me inside-out for the good of the world.

There are those who have no choice. Or they choose to stay in because they can handle it. Those are some women. The more the struggle, the more armor they wear. They are genuine heroes. I applaud them.

For those such as myself, who had the choice and chose to be the support team, this is for you.

Master Chief Villanueva with his family.

These are some of the things that got me through deployment. I have very little friends. Some of them barely meet five feet. In seriousness, I prefer staying home in my nest and being with my kid. But there are times when I need to do more than laze about. I need to keep my sanity. How do I survive my husband being deployed? While you're waiting around for homecoming to happen, why not make it come to you faster by getting active?

We're waiting...and waiting...
  1. Exercise
  2. Healthy Eating
  3. Being a Veteran
  4. Put Your Diplomat Dungarees On
  5. Make Sunday Family Day
  6. Get Involved
  7. Pursue Your Hobbies

(1) EXERCISE. Being a Beachbody coach and trying to stay consistent with my fitness groups helped. I'm not a fit guru, or a bodybuilding personal trainer, but I did lose a lot of weight, and never wanted to go back to that old, icky-feeling me. I know what it feels like not working out. I hate it. So I stayed with the fitness.

I involved myself in Stroller Warriors, a running club for military families. They accept anyone to join but it's easier if you have base access as the meet-ups are usually on base. Check your city if you have one. They do Couch to 5k, which is beginner level running. And 5ks and marathons are totally optional. I joined because it's a place for my kid to have a social outing. He gets to play at parks after we run. He's a great coach too. Hahaha. "Ready to go run? Okay! Let's go! Hurry up, Mom!"

No joke. It's a good way to be a good model. My kid also likes working out with me sometimes, especially if it's P90X-3. He loves Tony.

(2) HEALTHY EATING. I get crabby and tired if I carb load. Your body knows if it's not receiving the proper nutrients it needs; your brain will feel it. You might get "edgier" with others, more emotional. Don't forget to eat Vitamin B! Broccoli was the winning vegetable for me. Yep. That rhymed.

Want help eating healthy? Get a hold of me and don't let go. No, really. Don't. I love hugs.

(3) BEING A VETERAN. A weird one. An obvious one. But this helped immensely. Understanding the other side. Knowing exactly what's going to happen on that communist floating prison--I mean--ship. If my husband didn't call for a week, I noticed, but I knew why. I remember everything. I mean...EVERYTHING from my deployments. There would be times I wouldn't call my parents for a month. I worked 18-hour days. I would be happy with my hubby if he told me "can't talk, I got off work early so I'm going straight to bed for a good six hours." Six hours? Hot dog! That's a lot of sleep! You go, dude! Sleep away!

(4) PUT YOUR DIPLOMAT DUNGAREES ON. Be a diplomatic wife with his chain of command. Before my husband's ship pulled out, I handed off a gift bag to my husband the morning of, and told him to deliver it to his senior chief. It contained a letter letting Senior know that I love my husband, he's a very good worker (we used to work together, so I know), and that I am watching you. In a nice way. With that letter was a bag of homemade cookies. Nothing better than homecooking to the military.

If you think you're kissing tail, you're not. You're putting a positive spotlight on your spouse and giving him an attentive barrier. A barrier, meaning, the command will be more lenient if he messes up (he will mess up; everybody does), and they'll take special note that he has a family who's watching out for him, and that'll boost the possibility of getting more opportunities. My husband was going up for first (E-6) and was having a difficult time with the test part. He got awards for good performance at work 'n' stuff. I think that helped. At least...I hope my diplomacy helped with some of that. Keep in mind that everyone on that ship will be under stress and they will forget about those cookies and letters you send. It happens. In the end, it doesn't matter. They'll kick themselves for saying things that shouldn't've been said. Cuz when you see them, you'll thank them for being nice to your spouse (even if they weren't). And you'll thank them for keeping an eye out on your spouse (even if they didn't). You're the diplomat. You're the face of the family. Be civil. It calms the storm on the ship during deployment and the storm at home. It really does help.

(5) MAKE SUNDAY FAMILY DAY. Do it. Pay attention to your kids. My father said Sunday was his favorite day when he was young cuz every night was pajamas, cocoa, and TV. His mom did laundry only on Sundays and cocoa was dinner because they didn't have a lot of money back then. But those were his best times. Make memories with your kids. They love you. If Sunday doesn't work, figure out another day. Schedule the whole week for different things if you want. It's up to you.

You could even go on an extended vacation to see family. That's what I did to kill a few months.

(6) GET INVOLVED. Go on Facebook, find the ship's Ombudsman. He or she will have a page you can follow. They'll ask for some information and then you'll get to know what's going on with the ship. A huge load off your shoulders instead of waiting around for your spouse to tell you, if they know anything at all.

Also, join the ship's Fleet Readiness Group page. You don't have to be a part of the group, but joining the page will give you updates as well as events to show up to. There are parties, meetings, and community work. Knowing exactly what goes on during deployment is what kept me from going full Dependa on people, or just a total jack-monkey. Plus you get to meet people dealing with the same issues you are.

It's a great networking opportunity if you're a photographer, artist, salon specialist, etc.. No shame giving them your business card even if it is just a hobby. You'll connect, meet friends, and time will pass by if you have events scheduled, like helping with homecoming.

Fence cup display event for our ship.

(7) PURSUE YOUR HOBBIES. I had lots of hobbies and care packages to keep me busy. Focus on them!

Practice photography so when homecoming comes around, you'll be better at taking different types of shots.

Do your nails, so when you feel good enough, you can give other military spouses a free manicure. Get some nail stamp plates that nail salons charge lots for a girl just wanting to look pretty. Make it a nail party! Have someone buy the wine if they insist on paying you for a mani-pedi.

Take up painting. Use your garage or maybe go some place peaceful with your canvas and easel. Maybe you like digital painting. Ask your spouse if it's okay to buy Photoshop and a tablet. Artistic route is always good because you can make things for others...including your spouse for a care package or homecoming.

Or if you're a writer (and you are if you've been following my blog), get to work! Is it a novel? Get that outline finished so you can dive into the story. Is your kid hindering you? Get up earlier. You're gonna have to make time if you really want that first draft done.

Have you heard of NaNoWriMo? <----- clicky

Become my writing buddy if you think this November event is a good distraction.

It's a social event that can really help you push your first draft along. My first book's 50,000 words without NaNoWriMo took me half a year, when I was actually focusing on writing. This year I plan on using NaNoWriMo as a fantastic excuse to push through the 50,000 in the 30 days given. 50k, for my first book, was a little over half my first draft. This is doable!

*    *    *    *    *

Before you know it, your sailor will be home.

It takes a lot of patience, planning, and coming up with distractions for you and your kids. Include them in your hobbies. I taught my child how to use my camera. He's a careful type for four years old. We also drew and painted a lot.

When homecoming was a month out, I started contacting family members, friends, and celebrities to send me a short, welcome-home video. I put all the vids together and my son and I added our own flavor.

This is it:

Something you like? Dislike? Is there something you would add? Leave a comment! Don't be shy.

No comments:

Post a Comment