Deployments suck. We can all agree on that. That doesn’t mean we have to lead a terrible life for half the year though. I’m no expert, but I think I lead a pretty happy life even when my husband is deployed. Here are a few of the ways I stay sane, survive the loneliness, and take care of myself.
Weekly potlucks are a great way to get out of the house, give the kids an opportunity to burn off energy, an excuse to try out a new recipe, and, most importantly, a reason to eat something other than chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. Get together with your mom tribe or the other spouses going through the a deployment and share a meal. If that is not your thing, most churches offer a potluck after Sunday services, or you could even start your own Sunday Supper crew. Sharing a meal with friends is something I look forward to all week.
Secret Gift Exchange
It is inevitable that your spouse will miss a holiday or important date during deployment no matter what time of year he or she leaves. On occasion, the spouses in our squadron have done a secret sender gift exchange throughout the deployment. We used a free gift exchange website to draw names anonymously, such as Elfster. Then once a week, for three to four weeks, gifts are left anonymously for the person you drew either on their porch or in their mailbox. The gifts can be anything and are around $15-$20. At the end, we all get together to reveal to each other who the secret senders are and typically a final gift is exchanged as a thank you to the sender. It is a really fun way to get to know the other spouses a little better and brighten their week.
I’ve seen this done two different ways with frozen meals and ready-to-go meals. Both are pure genius, and I kind of want to do it regularly whether or not my husband is deployed.
Option A – Frozen Meal Exchange
This is done just like a holiday cookie exchange. Everyone brings a couple frozen dishes or casseroles of the same meal. Ideally you want each dish to serve 4-5 people. How many frozen dishes you bring equals the number you get to leave with. For example, I only had room in my freezer for three casseroles, so I only made three chicken pot pies to exchange.
Option B – Ready-to-Go Meal
For this swap you bring one dish and five to-go containers. You will only be taking a serving or two of each dish instead of taking home a whole meal. This is such a great option, especially for a quick dinner or lunch throughout the week. You could even suggest the recipe be included, so if you like one of the dishes you can recreate it on your own later in the week.
Mommy and Me Trip
Plan a trip with another mom who has a deployed husband. You may be outnumbered by kids, but at least you will have more than one adult to help you wrangle the children. Most importantly, you won’t be drinking adult beverages alone! Go somewhere kid-friendly, splurge on a semi-nice hotel, and explore the city. Even if you only go 20 minutes outside of town, it will be a nice change of pace for you and the kids.
There are no off days for moms with deployed husbands, and we all deserve a break once in a while. Once a week, usually Sunday mornings, I hire a high-schooler to come sit at my house for three hours with my kids. I go for a run by myself, grab some coffee, stop by friends’ houses to chat and sneak back into the house to shower in peace before my three hours are up. Running is something I really enjoy doing and even though I have a jogging stroller, I prefer to have some alone time while running.
Sometimes I just want the run to be about me and not have to worry if the kids are too hot in their seats and if they have enough snacks. You definitely do not have to hire a babysitter to go run. Do something else during your time. Catch a movie or go have a quiet lunch by yourself. Just give yourself a break and enjoy some kid-free time.
Treat Yo Self to a DIY Spa
If you are like me, then you do not have the luxury of time or money to take a much needed trip to the day spa. A ten minute soak in the tub can really help you relax and is a nice alternative to an expensive spa day.
A bath bomb, scented candles, and a drug store face mask will make the whole experience feel more authentic even if you spend most of the time clearing bath toys out of the way.
While you’re soaking in the tub, go ahead and shave those legs. Not just the calves or places the capris don’t cover, but shave the entire leg … even the tops of your hobbit-like feet (why are my toes so hairy?). I know you don’t see the point in doing it four months from your spouse’s return date, but I promise you will feel like a new woman. If you get out of the tub, and the kids aren’t screaming yet, go ahead and slap on some nail polish and brush your hair (I try to do this at least once a year). Your spouse might be in for a pleasant surprise the next time you FaceTime.
Try Something New/Go on Mini Adventures
My daughter has had a six week summer break from school. During that time, I have done something new each day with the kids or gone on an adventure to help them and I both cope with this deployment.
It has been something as simple as walking to the juice shop for smoothies or more elaborate, like packing up and staying overnight in another town. It is definitely adding a little spice to our lives and helping the deployment days fly by. Some things that we have done: Parent/Child Pilates class, the pool and the beach. We’ve also been to about ten different parks and gone on a handful of picnics. We even spent two weeks quarantined in our house because both kids got hand foot mouth disease … at least that was something new!
The list of ways to make a deployment easier could go on and on, but the most important thing is to keep a positive attitude throughout it all and get out of the house as often as possible.