When your soldier is away…

This past year was a challenging one for our family a because my husband was away for a few months. I say ‘few’ because it was less than a year but even as I say it I quickly remember how hard those ‘few’ months were. As a mom of 7 (with #8 in the oven) solo parenting was challenging at best. I cried, I gave myself some slack and sometimes I thought I couldn’t do it but somehow we all made it through because…well…we have to.

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Now that I am on the other side and my husband and I have had the opportunity to talk about what helped get us through the challenges I have decided it might be helpful to share some insight with others.

By no means is it easy to see your soldier leave but we are proud of him and really enjoy being reunited when Daddy comes home. Our children have learned that Daddy’s military service requires sacrifices from all of us. Here are some tips that really helped us to make the sacrifices a bit more bearable.

1.Videos

Depending upon operational security this may or may not work for everyone but for us it   did and was very successful. My husband would record a short video and send it to me to share with the kids. This is a great way to tell the kids a quick, “Hello, Daddy loves you.” It is also a great opportunity to remind the kids that they too are serving in their own way and that he’s proud of them for working hard at home. He sent videos whenever he could. The great part of technology is the kids could watch them over and over again whenever THEY needed to. When one of the little ones was having a sad day and just wanted daddy they could watch the video until they felt better.  Sometimes he would even include special messages for any of the kids who had anything special that day. I also have to admit this started as videos for the kids but soon included videos just for me which served as great encouragement on the hard days.

2.Daddy Dolls

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Daddy Dolls inc. has hug-a-hero dolls and they were an amazing tool for our. These are custom made dolls with a photo of their soldier so they can hug and snuggle them. They are not too expensive ($32.95) and worth every penny. Although we didn’t opt for the recorded message you can add a recording device for $7.95 to record a special message for the child. For my little ones they were happy to carry around Daddy and snuggle with him anytime they wanted to.

 

3.Countdown Chain

We all know that the military is unpredictable but we can at least estimate how long our soldier may be away. Whether it’s a daily, weekly or monthly countdown it is helpful to tear that piece off. I always felt like I accomplished something.

4.Letters

The kids colored lots of pictures, made many drawings and wrote letters to Daddy. I would collect them in a file and mail them in clumps. The mail isn’t fast but it’s something tangible for the kids to make for him and something for him to hold.

5.Communication

When we did have an opportunity to talk to Daddy it was a struggle. For some kids talking to Daddy made them miss him more for others it was helpful. Sometimes we had a hard day on our end and sometimes Daddy had just endured a very challenging day on his end. Trying to talk to one another without pushing our negative feelings from the day onto the person on the other end of the phone is very hard.

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Another extremely difficult part of communication was choice of words. Any time my husband would down-play his role as a soldier or his being away would instantly let the wind out of my sails. For him he was trying to be humble about his service, what he was doing, and did not want to burden me with his stories and stresses during his time away. For me it sort of under minded or made light of the incredible sacrifices the children and I were enduring while he away. Being able to discuss this while he was away improved our communication and helped us during the rest of his time there.

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At the end of the day it was our faith that got us through it. We prayed for each other, weprayed together. Once in awhile we were able to FaceTime during a meal so we could do a quasi family meal. Somehow doing those regular daily things as a family made it seem like Daddy wasn’t so far away.

What helps your family get through challenging times? If you are a military family how do you cope with deployments? What tips work well for your family?

 

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My Soldier


My husband enlisted in the National Guard when he was 17 long before we met. While dating in college he had his weekend drills where he was gone and as a poor college student I worked so it didn’t affect me as much. (Yes, I did miss him though). There were a few weekends he had to miss out on some big events but I dealt with them as they came up.

Fast forward and we are married and have a baby. I REALLY missed him while he was away and even came to see him when I could with the little one in tow. Being a first time mom with a little one was a bit of a struggle without him but I made it through.

My little soldier 1

Fast forward again and now we  have a large family. He felt the desire to re-enlist & I was very supportive of his decision and even brought the kids to see him swearing in. This time around has been very different from the first. With a larger family it has been more challenging while he is away but I can’t complain because he is not currently deployed. I was scared he would have missed the birth of one of the babies but that didn’t happen, (Thank God). One other large difference is how helpful people have been. Anytime things are crazy and I am flying solo with my crew people have offered to help in a number of ways. This has been amazing and a life saver. I am so thankful to those who step up and offer to help whether it’s holding the door for me when I am coming through with my entourage, helping to carry out groceries or taking my shift to work the penalty box at my son’s hockey game.

It’s hard enough to be a Mom. I can’t be Daddy too nor do I want to be. My husband is an amazing father and all of our children look up to him. He works hard to provide for them during the day, serves his community, serves his country, prays with them at dinner and reads them stories at night.

He is a good Dad, a good soldier and a great man. I miss him terribly when he  is gone but am proud of him for serving and thankful that there are so many men and women willing to sacrifice to serve as well.