“My theory is if the kids stay busy then they won’t have time to miss Daddy, but we do incorporate Daddy into as many things as possible. Both girls have a Daddy Doll that they sleep with every night. He records books before we leave so they can listen to them while he’s gone, and we do the famous countdown calendar to keep an eye on the prize. During the most recent deployment, I downloaded an application that let me know when my husband was returning.”
—Kelly Douglas, Army wife and mom (Carey, N.C.)
Take action: Remind kids of their dad with a Daddy Doll ($24.95)
2. Sanity Breaks
"Guilt-free time away from all the responsibilities. Having those moments where Grandpa or Grandma take the kids for a few days while you can decompress and reset your priorities. I think military spouses need to do this more often. As difficult as it is to do when you don’t typically live near your family, it’s an incredibly important survival strategy. A lot of times you can trade off with your other military spouse friends to make this happen."
Take action: Call a military mom, and simply offer to take the kids for a day so she can run errands, get a haircut or just grab a coffee out of the house. If you don't know a military family check out our list at the end of the story for other ways to get involved.
“For seven years, I home-schooled the kids. We moved 11 times in the first 13 years of marriage. I took advantage of free ‘Mom's Day Out’ offered by the chapel or various churches. I also went to moms' groups that provided free child care, such as MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) or PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel).”
—Ellie Kay, Air Force wife and mom (Palmdale, Calif.)
“I connected a lot with people more through email and chat than in person or by phone. It was just easier for me since I was dealing with two little ones. That was good for me.”
—Allison Hester, Army wife and mom (Little Rock, Ark.)
Take action: The USO is a not-for-profit organization that can connect you with military families in your area.
5. Practical Help
“Any time I had a problem—like a mouse chewed through my dishwasher line and oven line all in one sitting—I could call (my husband) Mike's work and they would send someone out to help me. One of the guys was a repairman, so he came out and figured out what was wrong, got me the parts I needed, and helped fix it—all just for the cost of the parts. They would also send a whole crew out every week or so to mow and weed my yard. They would also just call and check on me at times to see if I needed anything. That was very helpful.”
Take action: Sometimes it is as easy as an email. Just a reminder you are thinking of them and there if anything is needed. Connect with a military family on your community through the USO.
“I made sure I kept the kids to their schedule, while still allowing for special 'dad-is-gone-let's-splurge' events, or a special pizza and movie night—at home, on a budget—while he was gone.”
Take action: Deliver pizza and a movie for a military family one Friday night. Just give her a bit of warning!
7. Affirmation and Support
“I had to replace the negative friends with positive ones. If a friend used me to constantly complain, denigrate the military, gripe about her husband or her life, I stopped hanging out with her. It's one thing to have a safe friend that you can vent with when things are tough, but it's quite another to let another friend's incessant negativity seep its insidious way into your own mind.”
Take action: If you are new to the world of a military family help educate yourself on what they are going through. The National Military Family Association has a great set of resources to get you started.
8. Movie Day
“I am a stay-at-home mom, and while Mike was deployed, I thought I would lose my mind. Mom watched my kids for me a few hours a week, and for a while there it was common for me to go to two or even three movies—alone. I found that was the best ‘escape’ I could find in a couple of hours. Running errands just didn’t have the same effect as a movie!”
Take action: Look into supporting Operation Purple which offers moms a break through Operation Purple Camp and Family Retreat.
9. Facebook Feedback
“Facebook became a big friend to me, and also kind of a life saver. It not only helped me stay connected with the outside world (because, again, I was trapped at home much of the time), it helped me keep a sense of humor. I’ve always been an introvert and shy. Through Facebook, however, I was able to show the 'world' my sense of humor. I was able to laugh at the frustrations of my world—mainly mommyhood—and turn them into something humorous. I regularly had friends saying I should turn all my posts into a book.”
Take action: An incredibly easy action! Comment or like a mom’s post. Letting her know she’s heard will mean more than you know. Don't know a military mom personally? Check out pages like this USA Military Moms and Angels.
“Finally, a group of friends in an autism support group donated money to pay for my trip to Mississippi, which is where I had to go to pick up Mike when he returned to the States.”
Take action: From organizing fundraisers to helping wounded warriors, Operation Homefront has a host of ways to help soldiers and their families with the important stuff.
Other Ways to Help
Even if you don’t know a military mom personally, there are tons of worthy causes where you can lend your support. Visit these charities for more about how you can help military families adjust to life without their soldier at home.