Surviving deployments and even extended TDYs can take a lot out of everyone.
The emotional roller coaster leading up to the goodbye; manning the day to day, day after day; the unexpected; and even prepping for the homecoming is a lot for anyone to endure. Now add in a kid (or two or more) and possibly even a full-time job, and you find yourself precariously balancing on a point between that Pinterest mom who always seems to have it together and someone who is trying to bail out a sinking ship with a bucket full of holes. You would love to stay on the first side of that mountain, but it isn’t hard to find yourself sliding into that boat. It is safe to say that we all need support during deployment.
We have all been there – whether it be a 12-month separation or even just a week or two at a particularly tricky stage of life. Both can end up being equally exhausting for the military mom. We also know that it can be hard to ask for help when you are that mom. If you are a friend of that mom, you also might not know where to offer help.
We are here to help you with that. We pooled our team at MilMB for the best things you can do for that friend who is living through this.
1. Support each other during deployment. Do you have a group of moms whose spouses are gone? Consider having a rotating potluck at a different house at scheduled times. Let the kids play and the parents talk and relax.
2. That same potluck group can take turns watching each other’s children. I have three kids and will honestly tell you that taking on another three doesn’t add any more chaos. If anything, it is easier because they all entertain each other.
3. Even if you don’t have a deployed spouse, call your friend and say you are coming over to watch the children so she can do whatever she wants.
“A friend called on Mother’s Day and said she was coming over in the afternoon to watch my kids. I went on a long run – something I hadn’t been able to do in months. It was amazing and the sweetest gift.”
4. Ask how things are going and don’t be afraid to sit there and just let her cry. Don’t try to “fix” it, just be the friend who listens.
5. Take her to see a movie or on another “date.” Support during a deployment comes in many forms. You can find ways to make it fun.
6. Drop off coffee/muffins/tampons/diapers/you name it. Think about the little things that you need (sometimes immediately!) or that make your day better but aren’t worth running the errand with a bunch of small children.
7. Drop off a meal, frozen for later or ready to eat now.
8. Commit to a standing “no kid” time. Help her find a sitter if needed. This may seem like just one more thing to her she has to do or pay for but is so worth it.
9. Offer to drive to appointments.
“I drove a friend, who was not yet my friend, only an acquaintance at the time, to and from a colonoscopy. We had the same babysitter, and the babysitter was on the phone with her at my house. The friend said I need you for the procedure for my kids but I’m not sure how I’m gonna get there yet. I interrupted and said I would drive. That was the beginning of our friendship!”
10. Ask if there are things around the house that need help. Garage door, leaky sink, anything that requires two adults, etc.
11. Text her when you are going to the store and ask if you can pick up anything.
12. Stop by and hold that baby.
“The most memorable moment was when one of my husband’s cousins came to visit me for the weekend, even though she had a set of triplets and a full-time job. She brought me frozen meals, she sat with me on the couch and let me cry. She said “I’ll take the baby tonight!” and I got 10 hours of sleep. It was the best sleep I had in months. I woke up to her holding the baby in her lap and folding laundry. Her name is Lauren but I call her Saint Lauren. I’ll never forget how recharged and refreshed I felt after that short weekend.”
13. Hook her up with services on base. There are so many available resources to provide support during a deployment that people don’t know exist. Help her find something that is best for her and her children.
14. Be specific when you ask if she needs help. Can I mow your lawn? Do your laundry? Watch your kids while you go to parent-teacher conferences? An open-ended question is easy to brush off and can make her draw a blank when it comes to thinking of actual tasks.
15. If she goes back “home” for a period during the deployment, help out by getting the house ready for her return. This can be anything from freshening up the house to stocking the fridge.
16. Include that mom even if you are doing something with other couples. It is easy for her to feel isolated when everyone else’s spouse is still home. She will appreciate being included.
17. Be there for the unexpected. Murphy’s Law says that it will happen during a deployment!
18. Check-in regularly, even if it is just via text. Let her know that she is on your mind.
What can you add to this list to provide support during a deployment?
*Moms of deployed spouses, it is okay to ask for help too! I write this in the middle of my husband’s TDY. Just last weekend, I asked a mom friend to take my youngest so I could coach at a swim meet. I was going to just drag him with me (out of pride for not wanting to ask for help or inconvenience another mom) but I am glad he went to stay with the friend and she didn’t mind one bit.*