With the recent advances in technology and ease of blogging, more and more military spouses are turning to the Internet for support.
There are any number of military spouse blogs out there. Here are excerpts from one entitled MOAA Spouse, which was recently featured in an article by the Armed Forces Journal entitled, “They also serve”. http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2008/02/3290607
Cycles of Deployment and Reconnecting
Did you know that the experiences we are going through as spouses of deployed service members have been scientifically quantified? What’s being “discovered” is that the different emotions and cycles family members go through are not as unique as we would like to believe. While each family has their own special circumstance, there also exist many commonalities to deployments across the board.
Academics and policy experts have expended a fair amount of time and energy to let us know that the emotional cycle of an extended deployment is divided into several stages. Depending on what camp you fall into, there are either: 5 stages (pre-deployment, deployment, sustainment, re-deployment, and post-deployment) or 7 (anticipation of departure, detachment and withdrawal, emotional disorganization, recovery and stabilization, anticipation of a return, return adjustment and renegotiation and finally, reintegration and stabilization).
The two page fact sheet on the “New emotional cycles of deployment” is worth checking out. The one nugget I took away was the reminder that, “The emotions you experience during the cycles of deployment are a normal reaction to an abnormal situation unique to the military.”
From a family member’s point of view, what I find most interesting about all these studies is that if they were able to quantify and identify the different stages of a deployment, what we all go through is not so unique. And for many different reasons, that’s a good thing. Once the emotional roller coaster and familial disruptions become shared experiences and accepted norms, we all begin to understand that we truly aren’t in this alone.
One thing I don’t believe they stressed enough is that, we expend so much energy coping during the deployment stage, we sometimes forget that the emotional turmoil that a family goes through post-deployment is no less tumultuous than in the other four stages. The post-deployment cycle is loaded with opportunities for missteps.
Think about it – as the spouse left behind, you’ve spent x number of months or years becoming self-sufficient, handling everything on your own. The kids have gotten used to not having mom or dad there for the routine, the milestones. All of a sudden mom or dad is home; ready to pick up where they left off, not understanding that those relationships need to be rebuilt to a certain extent. The intimacy as a couple, the acceptance as a member of the family again may not be immediate. Everyone’s going to have to work a little harder to be inclusive. Maintaining open lines of communication and managing expectations on all sides is of the utmost importance.
Before you rush off to develop and graph a plan of action, understand that it’s not as clinical as it sounds. Strong military families are resilient, kids are accepting. Post-deployment reintegration is an area where with a little patience, everyone can be a winner.
Facing our own post-deployment cycle (soon, we hope), I’ve started looking around at how other people handle reconnecting. What I’ll do over the next several weeks is share with you other tips for reconnecting as a family. Here’s one to get you started:
One of my co-workers regularly spends a lot of quality time with her young nieces and nephews. To keep it manageable and ensure that they maximize the time they have together, she’s come up with an ingenious gift for them.
Every Christmas, she gives them a book of Aunt Julie coupons good for things such as: a sleepover, an evening out, bowling, etc….They’re able to cash them in whenever they want, but they expire at the end of the year, so there’s a fair amount of motivation on the children’s part to initiate that visit with Aunt Julie.
For the mom or dad coming back from deployment, this idea has great potential. With multiple children in the mix, it may be difficult to reconnect with each on an individual basis. The natural inclination would be to schedule some “mandatory fun” time for the entire family. It doesn’t take an expert on child psychology to understand how well that’s not going to go over!
I like the coupon idea because it puts things in the child’s court and lets them set the pace. The returning parent makes a sincere effort to reconnect and allows the child to drive the agenda from then on. The child decides when they want their one-on-one time with mom or dad, and their importance is reinforced when mom or dad takes time out of their busy schedule to accommodate them.
The road to reconnecting is a long and rocky one. Why not give the kids the ability to navigate it on their own terms?
Dirty Little Secrets
A few months ago, I was checking out www.spousebuzz.com and read with much interest a post regarding “dirty little secrets” we all have and tricks we utilize to weather deployments.
It was very comforting to learn that to a certain extent, we all seek to survive separations in our own little dysfunctional ways. Some dirty little secrets I’ll admit to:
• We do laundry only when we run out of clothes or dishtowels.
• We eat out….a lot.
• I will pay for just about any service I can pawn off on someone else.
• My husband set up automatic bill pay before he left, so I only open mail once every month or so. (Great, unless you receive time sensitive mail and inadvertently neglect to open it until it’s almost too late!)
• I’ve only sent out 40 of our 120 Christmas cards that need to go out, the others will go under the umbrella of St. Patrick’s Day greetings. Some have already gone as Valentine’s Day cards!
The dirtiest little secret I have is that my husband is a pilot and I hate to fly; more than just a few of our friends have pointed out the irony in that. When I say I hate to fly, I don’t mean in the generic “hate” way, I mean, I have honest to goodness anxiety attacks and cannot understand why someone would willingly jump on an airplane.
My husband has known he has wanted to fly since he was 3 years old, and he is happiest when doing the thing he loves most in the world. When the nightly news constantly reports on the helicopters that are possibly being shot down, I have nightmares about him flying around Pakistan and other parts unknown and sometimes get so worked up that I make myself physically ill. I cope the only way I know how: by compartmentalizing and talking to other spouses who understand.
I know that our husbands do what they do because they love it, and they love their country, but I wonder if they ever suspect how much we may hate what they do (in our weakest moments), but support them because we understand it’s part and parcel of the total package.
To read more of this blog go to: http://www.moaaspouseblog.blogspot.com