As a military family, you know all-too-well that there are times when you or your spouse will be called away for duty, often without much – or any – warning. As a service member, you might get called into the field. You might have to deploy, PCS (permanent change of station) or simply grab your bag and leave. As the spouse left behind, you have to CONSTANTLY be ready, knowing that your service partner could be called away at any time.
As a parent, deployment is a situation that becomes even more complicated because children have school; schedules and daily routines still have to be upheld. More importantly, their young minds have a hard time understanding why Mom or Dad is suddenly gone and can't be seen, or sometimes even communicated with.
However, when you are the parent left at home, whether you've had plenty of warning or given a day's notice of the deployment, there are a few ways you can help make life easier. Don't stress! Parenting is hard enough on its own. Accept the help of others and look for resources to make your daily life easier.
1. Lean on Your Support Network
You have others who are there to help. Neighbors and friends, even if they are only acquaintances, can be really helpful. Being in a military town, others will be aware of your situation even if they haven't lived it themselves.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. Look into hourly or after school childcare services to help provide you the additional time to do your tasks. As a military partner, you often get discounted or free childcare hours when a service member is away.
Research carpools, because parents often have an extra seat in their car or van. You will likely find that others offer rides once they know you're parenting alone. Do not dismiss this help! When others want to help make your life easier, let them and be thankful.
The time will come when you can offer to help them too. Don't let your pride get in the way and take help as it comes.
2. Programs and Services
There are childcare services on and off post that can help keep your kids busy, no matter their age. Enroll them in activities or care to help fill your time. Kids love the social interaction and activities. Don't feel guilty about utilizing these services; they are there to help you and the kids will enjoy extra playtime!
3, Emotional Support
Just because you might be stationed far away from your family and best friends, doesn't mean you can't ask for their support emotionally. Call them when you are having a bad day. Text them when you need a pick-me-up. Even when these important people can't be with you physically, they can help walk you through any tough situation.
4. Plan Ahead
Another way to ease your stress levels as the sole parent during a deployment is by planning ahead as much as possible. Prep your meals, pack lunches the night before, schedule out who's riding with who to the ball game, and so on. Planning ahead helps to avoid last minute stressors you just don’t need. You can even take steps like setting up automated bill payments or having your groceries delivered. Most of these services are free, and they take items off of your already long to-do list. The goal is to keep the days flowing as smoothly as possible. Over time, this will make your service partner’s time away go quickly and hopefully without major incident.
For more tips on deployment or school separations, read up on our blog at http://intersections.org/service-together