How I Survived a Deployment with a Job, School, & Two Kids
As deployment time nears, it’s time for me to get back into “deployment survival mode” as a military spouse.
I think back to the last deployment, and I had so much more on my plate – but, in all honesty, it wasn’t a bad deployment. I wasn’t miserable the entire time, nor did I constantly mope around waiting for him to return.
Yeah, sure, I had hard days just like anyone else, but it wasn’t terrible.
Why? Because I was productive, and I kept busy. It made the time go by so much quicker.
Yes, I was stressed (probably to an unhealthy degree), but not because of my husband being away, but because I just had SO much going on.
I was teaching full time, and it was my first year teaching (for any fellow teachers, you know how difficult the first year is.)
Plus, I was in graduate school, finishing up my master’s degree, which means I had to write a huge thesis-type paper and video project to submit to the board.
And, I had two kids: a baby under 1, and my elementary-aged child.
On top of that, I live in an area where I don’t have family, and don’t really know many people.
So how on Earth did I do it? It wasn’t easy, but I SURVIVED! And really, I grew so much as a person as I witnessed my own strength and resilience. I was full on adulting, for sure.
I didn’t think I could do it, but I did. Here’s what helped:
1. KEEP BUSY
The busier you are, the less time you have to mope around. And, time goes by soooo slow if you’re not keeping yourself busy. This is a simple tip, and one a lot of military spouses will tell you, but it’s true.
Fill your time with things to do, and it’ll keep you distracted, so time will pass much quicker. And, you’ll be productive.
Now, don’t think you should overwhelm yourself with things to do. Don’t be as busy as I was, if you can help it (I didn’t really have a choice). But definitely pick up a side hustle, or a new hobby to keep yourself occupied.
2. SYSTEMIZE YOUR DAY.
Having a system in place for everyday tasks that need to get done helps tremendously. My life during deployments becomes very routine, and it helps in two ways.
First, it makes sure I get everything done effectively. Second, it keeps me on track with a schedule.
For example, during the weekday, each hour of my day was filled with a task. In the morning, I had a certain time to get myself ready, then I had to get my kids ready. I would then drop them off at school/daycare, and head in to work. Once I got out of work, I would pick up the kids, then go home and have an hour of “free” time with them. Next, I’d start dinner, while my daughter did her homework. After, they’d be bathed and have outfits set out for the next day. Then, another hour or so of “free” time while I cleaned up and packed their lunches/diaper bag for the next day. After putting them to bed, I’d have my own free time, so I’d use this time to watch TV while I graded papers/lesson planned, showered, and went to bed. On weekends, I would do laundry and meal prep for the following week.
3. HIRE HELP
If your budget allows, hire some help for small tasks. In order to work full-time, I had to hire a caregiver for my baby. I also hired a housecleaner every few weeks.
If I didn’t make space for that in our budget, my house would’ve been an absolute mess because there is no way I would’ve been able to keep up with everything else I had to do, and clean up after two kids and myself.
Having the extra hired help made my life so much easier during deployment, since my husband’s help was absent while he was away.
Get in touch with other military spouses that are in your position for support – whether it’s just having someone you can vent to, or someone you can rely on in emergency situations.
A good way to meet other spouses is to get involved in your soldier’s unit, and FRG groups. It’s a good idea to attend FRG meetings and pre-deployment meetings, not just for the information, but to meet some spouses that’ll be going through the same thing.
Make time for mental health! I use journaling as my therapy – trust me, it has kept me sane throughout my life. Sometimes you just need someone to listen, and that’s what a journal can do!
Write in it when you just need to vent, or express your thoughts and feelings. There’s something so freeing about getting your words on paper when describing how you feel.
Try it – you’ll feel a lot better when you aren’t holding in all of your emotions. You can even use it to write down some of the day’s events that you want to reflect back on and share with your spouse.
6. TAKE VACATIONS
Go home for the holidays, or even a 4-day weekend. Visiting family and friends can be relaxing, especially because you’ll have some help for a few days. Or, have family come out and visit you.
Every school break, I went home. All the traveling helped me to not feel so lonely, and I had something “short term” to look forward to. It made time go by a lot quicker. I also flew my grandma out for a few weeks to visit, and help me out, so that I could go to the library on the weekends to finish my graduate school assignments.
7. SHOP ONLINE
From clothing to groceries, get it done online. It saved me a world of headache.
I dreaded the thought of going to the mall with two kids – how ever would I manage to try clothes on? While, yes, it is do-able, it can also be very stressful with kids. So why not take advantage of online shopping?
When the seasons changed and we needed new winter coats and boots, I shopped online and had it delivered right to my door. Since my baby grew out of clothes quickly, I bought her entire wardrobe online and didn’t have to leave the house once.
I even did my grocery shopping online with Walmart’s Grocery Pickup. On Fridays, I would make my grocery list, schedule a pick-up time, then have the groceries delivered to my car without having to get my kids out in the cold. LIFE SAVER.
8. WELLNESS DAYS
If you can afford it, take a day off from work. I tried to do this at least every couple of months.
The way I saw it was as a mental health day. I needed a day where I could take the kids to school and daycare, and have a day off to myself.
It was convenient so that I could get errands done without having to drag the kids along, and it helped save my sanity, so that I could just relax and do something for myself in solitude.
These eight things are crucial to my success on deployments. If you’re a military spouse, and you’ve experienced deployments, you know the struggle is all too real – especially when you have your own job and school, PLUS little ones.
Whereas before you have your spouse’s helping hands, now you’re pretty much doing it all alone as a single parent for the deployment.
It’s hard, and it really boils down to being organized and having certain systems in place – not just to get everyday tasks done, but to ensure you’re also taking care of your own health and wellness.
If you are working and going to school, I recommend having open communication with your supervisors and coworkers. Let them know that you’re currently doing it all by yourself, so that they can be understanding when emergencies arise, or sick days are required, and you’re needing to take off work early.