The Yellow Ribbon Sisterhood
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Imagine… you and me, out for coffee, a privilege we have yet to experience in this lifetime. Two young mothers, fellow military wives, sisters in Christ, sharing a quiet morning together. The rest of our readers are simply eavesdroppers, other coffee-shop goers listening into our private conversation.
I’d like to talk to you, heart-to-heart, sister-to-sister, about deployment. A little bird told me that this is something you may have to experience in the coming months. I’m currently 2 ½ months into my second deployment in three years. And it has been an experience. I would like to give you some insight from someone who has “been there, done that.” I’d like to tell you what I’ve done wrong, what I’ve done right, and what I’m doing differently this time around.
So, *pausing to take a sip of coffee and a deep breath,* let’s begin.
I began the last deployment as a young, newly married wife away from home for the first time. My marriage was good but difficult, and I have to admit that I had a lot of trust issues. I think that in the back of my mind I wondered if our marriage would survive that year apart.
My husband left mid-July. My plan was to immerse myself in military wife activities, get a job, stay active in my church, and pray that time would fly until I was reunited with my husband. By Labor Day, I had landed a full-time job at a bank. I also began teaching piano lessons part-time from my home.
My husband called about 2 months into the deployment and told me that he was coming home for RnR in just a few short weeks. Talk about shock… I was thrilled and excited about seeing him so soon, but didn’t want to lose my job. I figured that I would need not only the income but also the busy-ness after he left to survive the rest of the deployment. RnR came…my husband was home for three weeks of the month of October. It was both amazingly wonderful and heartbreaking. I ended up only having a week off and had to work the rest of the time my husband was home. But, we made it through. November came and I was busy doing early Christmas shopping to get a box to my husband in time. I also celebrated Thanksgiving with a trip to my in-laws. Then came December and there was more hustle and bustle and Christmas cheer, along with my full-time job, to keep me busy! I spent a few days with my family for Christmas.
Then January hit…and it hit me like a ton of bricks. My husband was gone and would be for the next 6-10 months. I had nothing on the calendar to look forward to. Both my husband and I were dealing with depression. It had become difficult for us to talk because of my husband’s constant shift changes and my work schedule. I was exhausted from trying to juggle a full-time job, five piano students, and midnight IM sessions with my husband…and carrying around a ton of guilt that I was barely holding together. I would come home after a long day’s work and many times our instant message conversations were full of misunderstandings, miscommunications, and often turned into all-out fights. For the last 5 months I had been unable to go to any military-wife get-togethers or FRG meetings because of my work schedule, and was getting so tired (and even sick) that I was often missing out on church services.
I struggled this way for another month until finally I couldn’t take any more and made the decision to quit my job. That’s when things really started to turn around. I was able to start going to church again, FRG meetings, the Christian Military Wives group in my area, and military wives Bible study at a friend’s church. My schedule was flexible…I could sleep in if I needed to and had plenty of down time. It was amazing the difference it made. March, April, May, and June really seemed to speed by (from my memory). And then he was home!
This deployment I have approached much differently. I have decided to be as busy as I can without being over-committed, or as I have told some people, “I will be involved in anything, but responsible for nothing.” Having my little baby of course is also making the time fly by much more quickly. I am not over-tired, I can communicate freely with my husband, and still take time for myself. And so far, the time seems to be flying and I feel healthy.
Now that I have told you my experiences, I would like to briefly share with you some advice. Some of these things I’ve already hinted at.
1. Stay busy, but don’t get TOO busy. Remember your priorities. Just because your husband is overseas and you don’t know when or if you will get to talk, he is STILL your priority. Make sure your schedule is flexible enough that you are available whenever he wants/needs to talk to you.
2. Stay busy with the RIGHT things…things that matter and things that will lift you up. It’s tempting to fill up your schedule with this and that just for the sake of being busy…instead ask yourself if the things on your schedule are helping you and making you a better person, or are they just keeping you busy?
3. Take care of yourself, both physically AND emotionally. Mom’s need pampering…and moms who’s husbands are gone need even more. Give yourself a little bit of time every few days to just do something for yourself. Try leaving Adam with someone you trust, even if its just for a half hour to an hour, and you’d be amazed at how refreshed you will feel. This isn’t just something that would be good to do…this is a necessity and vital to your survival. (Yes, I said it…pedicures and chocolate CAN be necessities!) If you don’t take care of yourself you WILL burn out and your family and your relationships will suffer because of it.
4. ENJOY the deployment. (Wait did I just say that out loud?!?!?!) I know I have talked about this in some of my other posts and articles spread through cyberspace, but deployment provides you and Adam with a very unique opportunity to do things you would never do if your spouse were home. (And not because they are bad things…just things you would never have the opportunity to do.) When Russ was getting ready to deploy this second time, I was talking to my mom just mourning how much of Ezra’s life Russ was going to miss. She said something to the affect of “Aprille, look at this year as a precious time you get to spend JUST with Ezra. You will never get this back!” So for us, it’s things like cuddling in bed in our pjays til 10AM on a weekday just playing games like hiding under the covers.
5. Take advantage of the “Yellow Ribbon Sisterhood.” This is a term I just came up with today to describe the bond that we share as military wives. For me it’s CMW, my facebook sisters, FRG and my unit girls. Meet and get-together with other military wives as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help during this difficult time. And offer and help other military wives when you can. You don’t have to go through this alone. As you friend I want you to know that I’m here for you too, even if our coffee dates have to be virtual. 🙂
“I’m Aprille. I’m a 24-year-old proud stay-at-home wifey, been married for almost 3 years. My husband Russ is in the US Army. We are also have a precious baby boy, Ezra, who was born September 2010 and has an insane amount of hair! We are currently stationed at Fort Knox.”
You can visit Aprille at her site: Beautiful in His Time
This is the best advice I have ever heard.
This post is awesome!
We got married in the midst of pre-deployment training (my hubby is in the Army Reserves so there were about three months of training prior to him becoming activated) and the deployment started just a month after we got married. As of now, there isn't a deployment coming any time soon but I know I will have at least one child the next time my husband deploys.
I wish I would have had that advice prior to our first deployment, although I feel we handled it fairly well especially as newlyweds. But I will definitely turn back to this advice when the next deployment comes.
p.s. Kathryn I love the new blog look. And no, you do not have to go through the deployment alone!
Great post and advice!
As an Army wife of 7 years, gone through 2 deployments and a 2.5 year stint of mini-deployments (long explanation), I totally agree with everything you've said. That is great advice that every military wife should listen to. Thank you for sharing!
That's beautiful 🙂
I love Aprille & you too Kathryn! And by the way, I'm stealing that photo so I can share it and a link to this post on my blog! 🙂
That's funny, my husband left mid July, and had his R&R in October too! Sucked. I didn't even really miss him yet… he had been away on training longer than that multiple times! (he is Infantry)
It flew by watching Maks grow. I kept very busy with our church as well, taught Sunday School, was a leader for a youth group small group, and was in charge of our "Military Wall" in our church!
I think being apart actually made us love each other more. We joke now that we love each other better when we aren't actually together… :-p when we are together in person we annoy each other, but when he is away on field training I get tons of beautifully worded love texts lol but of course I am so excited for him to get home again and annoy me some more.
Great post and wonderful advice. I think that also making sure you have special things to look forward to throughout the year is a great idea. I imagine having an early R&R date and then the holidays could leave the second half of deployment feeling very empty.
Writing old-fashioned snail mail letters is also another wonderful way to connect and keep romance alive!
Thank you so much for stopping by the weekly linky–hope to see you tomorrow, too!