by Regan McDonald
If you are as lucky as I am, your husband is your best friend. As wonderful as that is, it makes separation dually difficult when he is plucked out of your life by a deployment. Whether the deployment is planned or he is called away for a sudden training session, he could be gone for two weeks or two years and sometimes you never know which. No matter how long he will be gone, it will be tough for you and your family. How you deal with the separation will have a huge effect on how happy you will be while he is gone.
Rather than spend that time crying yourself to sleep and wondering if he misses you, I’d like to introduce you to your new best friend – YOU! I know it sounds corny, but this is a great time to reconnect with yourself. When my husband left for six months for Basic Training and Officers Training School, I spent the first two weeks either crying or holding the phone waiting for it to ring. Then, I dusted myself off and decided to make the best of the time.
Take Advantage of Your Me-Time
Everyone will tell you this, but solitude can actually be a great thing. Order a couple magazine subscriptions or join a by-mail DVD rental program. Anything that helps you count down the time (10 People magazines and he’ll be home!) will be a constant encouragement. I asked my husband to make a list of DVDs he wanted me to see and I added those to my DVD queue. This gave me even more to write him about when I got writer’s block or my life got a little dull. By the time he got home, we had plenty to talk about!
The local library can be a real asset. (And it’s free!) Not only can you get books and polish off that bestseller list, but you can also join a book club or borrow travel videos and plan your next vacation. Once you narrow your vacation choices down, you can send your husband some information from the internet and you can both start planning and dreaming together. Won’t he be impressed!
Do Something Just for You
Take tennis lessons, join a yoga class, learn how to cook Thai food at your local University – Do something that will make you feel confident and that will break up your week. Even getting a part-time job at a favorite clothing store and using that money for a new wardrobe will make you feel like a million bucks!
I joined a women’s gym the week after my husband left and quickly met some interesting people and worked on toning up for his big return. Working out will keep your attitude positive and will help you sleep through the night until you get used to being alone. The added bonus is that you might just make it a healthy habit while getting ready for the dreaded swimsuit season! My goal is to be able to keep up with my husband when he takes his morning run.
Look for a group to join. Finding a community church can be an excellent resource. Not only are you instantly in a supportive family, but you also have cost-free child-care for at least one hour of week when you can socialize with other adults. I always try to join the church choir or the ladies ministry which usually meets during the week. Anything that helps to break up the monotony of the week is the key.
If you aren’t interested in church, you can try a community chorus/symphony or you can volunteer your time at a museum or hospital. Many hospitals look for volunteers to hold newborn babies or deliver flowers. You will find that doing something for someone you don’t know will make you feel great about yourself.
If it is Summer time, this is a great time to join a pool club or a YMCA to help your children deal with the separation. Many YMCAs have low-cost day camps for their members which will provide your children with new friends and scheduled fun activities. This is especially great for kids who are new to the area. Often, the kids they meet at the YMCA or at the pool or church are the same kids they will be in school with in the coming school year.
Work on a Degree
You can take many classes toward your Undergrad or Graduate degree through online distance education or at your city’s community college or University. I found classes at my Alma Mater through distance education that allowed me to take a Graduate class every 6 weeks. As often as our fellas are deployed, you can earn a degree in no time at all. This will also assist you in finding a job or nailing down that career you always dreamed of having.
Many schools offer special financial aid for Military members and their spouses. Be sure to ask about these programs. If you work, your company may have a tuition benefit that will reimburse you for a class or two. Depending on your state of residence, you may also be eligible for in-state tuition no matter how long you have lived in your state. Many colleges and universities have residency exemptions for military members and their dependents.
Take a Break from Your Meds
If you are on prescription birth control, take a break! Many doctors recommend taking a break from birth control pills for a period every year or two. You will notice a change in your outlook and your hormones will usually become much more manageable. Plus, you are doing something positive for your body. Don’t forget to start them back up a month or two before your hubby returns!
Plan a trip, or a series of little trips. Whether you are going shopping a couple hours away with some girl friends, or going to see your Mom, a trip is a great way to rejuvenate yourself. You can even go back to your previous assignment post and reconnect with your old buddies! It really helps to break up those long lonely weekends when you feel like Monday will never come.
I took advantage of a short weekend cruise to the Bahamas and went with my Mom. I planned it to be during a weekend that was a half-way point to when I got to see my husband. It was an excellent way to distract myself from the length of time we were apart. For $250, you have an all-expenses paid trip to paradise. Even your dear hubby can’t complain about that price!!
Hopefully, these ideas will help you feel a little less lonely and will also help the time fly by. As military wives, we are providing a service to the country, the military and to our beloved husbands, even if we don’t get credit for it. Keep your chin held high! Your sacrifices are not going unnoticed. Your fellow military spouses are in the same boat, and guess what – We’re rooting for you!!