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How a Military Mom Survives Deployment

The life of a military spouse/parent is often compared to that of a single parent. In each scenario there are long hours alone, an impossible juggle between self and child, and challenges that are unique to this specific situation. My husband deployed to Afghanistan in March 2012 when I was about four months pregnant and returned home a couple of days after our daughter turned three months old. Many people not in the military hear that and are shocked. "He couldn't come home for the birth?!" was the most frequent question I heard when he was deployed.

While military spouses share some similar experiences with single parents, there is a whole other layer of complexity involved. It is fairly obvious: Your spouse is working in a war zone, possibly experiencing enemy contact. As the wife of an infantryman, this often unspoken reality is something that people outside the military will never understand. In many ways we were lucky through this deployment. Communication was frequent and for most of it, there was no little one to manage. As another brigade from our post is preparing to deploy, many friends with young children are having the tough conversations with their little ones about where daddy (or mommy) is headed.

I can hardly call myself an expert on anything deployment related, but in the few months I juggled a little one alone, I've learned a few things:

1. Find a friend

Even if you have a great network of friends outside the military, find someone that you can talk to that understands what you are experiencing. Obviously someone from your unit/brigade/company/ has a great understanding of what you are currently experiencing, but not all spouse groups have positive or frequent interactions. Stick your hand out and introduce yourself, or leave a note for that new neighbor.

2. Allow yourself to wallow, but only for a few minutes

You will have hard days. There will be days that you do not want to get out of bed or off the couch. Give yourself the moment, but then get up and get moving. Go for a walk or run, spend 30 minutes at the gym or do some yoga or light stretching. Getting your blood moving helps your mood, and is a helpful distraction.

3. Find a hobby or an activity

I took up crafting, but there is a reason there are no fruits of my labor. I am a horrible crafter. Regardless, I spent countless hours working on projects to keep busy. While drinking red wine doesn't count as a hobby, feel free to do it while you're crafting. Although maybe that's why my projects never turned out well.

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4. Communicate

Even though our little lady was too young to understand, we made sure that she and my husband could spend time on video chat. I'm sure it is more valuable for older kids, but making sure my husband had plenty of "daughter time" helped strengthen their bond, particularly as he hadn't yet met her. Seeing someone is infinitely more valuable than hearing about his or her activities. If you can't video chat, take photos with the kids, or draw and paint cards or photos to send in a care package.

5. Know your limits

About to lose it? Take advantage of the many resources for military families and get the kids to a day care or after-school program and go pamper yourself for a couple of hours. No one can do it all, all the time, and you aren't expected to juggle everything. Even if it is to only take a silent shower and nap for an hour, you will feel rested and rejuvenated.

Are you a military mom or a single mom? Leave your tips in the comments!

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