6 Reasons Why Deployments Can Be So Difficult With Small Children
Deployments with children are all I have ever known. When my husband joined the Army, we had a 13-month-old. My husband left for Germany, and we stayed behind waiting for our Command Sponsorship. This pushed me right into the solo parenting role and one I never expected I would be in.
Over the years, I have been through four deployments as well as plenty of other separations where I had to parent alone. I have always felt this was a bit of a deployment weakness for me. Being both mom and dad is hard, and when you have to do it over and over again, it wears on you.
There are many reasons why a deployment can be so difficult. They vary based on each person, their situation, and what they are currently going through. A spouse suffering from depression is going to have a different type of challenge during a deployment than a spouse who isn’t. But that doesn’t mean the second spouse isn’t fighting their own battles.
Here are six reasons why deployments can be so difficult with small children:
You do bedtime, every night
Every night you are the only one putting your kids to bed. You do all of the bedtime routines. You read all of the stories. You always get the last drink and last snack. It is all you. There isn’t anyone else who is going to be coming home after work that you can split the job with.
Over the months, this can start to get to you. You daydream about your spouse being able to do bedtime, to give you that break. You swear that you will never take that for granted again. And you put plans into place to help you during those hectic nighttime hours with your children.
You have to find a babysitter for everything
When my husband was home, he could always be there with the kids if I had somewhere to go during the weekends. If I had a ladies, night, I just needed to let him know. If friends wanted to meet for lunch on a Saturday, I would just let him know of my plans. If I wanted to run to the store for three items, I could do so without my children.
Once my husband left, that became an issue. If I wanted to do any of those things, I had to find a babysitter. Luckily I was able to find friends to help, I was able to use hourly care, and was able to find other ways to have someone watch my children when I needed to be somewhere, most of the time.
You have to take them all with you to shop
Shopping with all of your children can be very stressful. During deployments, you most likely have to take all of your kids with you to shop, at least some of the time. If you have children in a preschool program or can use hourly care, that can be the perfect time to do your shopping.
If you do need to take them all with you, make sure you do go over the rules and try to make the experience as easy as you can. Doing things like using a sling for a baby and put the toddler in the front of the cart so that you can free up space for the food you need can help you have a better experience. In the past, I have also traded babysitting with a friend so that we could both get our grocery shopping done quickly and without our kids.
Your children miss their parent too
While you are missing your spouse, your kids are missing their mom and dad, and when that happens, you might not know what to do to help them. Sometimes all you can do is hold them while they cry and let them know that the other parent is missing them too. Tools such as Daddy Dolls and having your spouse read books over video to them can help children during a deployment.
Know that different children will handle deployments differently, even within the same family. You might have one child who seems to take it all in stride and another who breaks down over the deployment every day. Figure out what will work for each child and do your best to remind them that the both you and the deployed parent love them very much.
Your spouse misses out on milestones
Whether it is your daughter taking her first steps or your son learning to talk, having your spouse miss milestones can be difficult. You can take photos and videos to share, but that isn’t the same. The best thing you can do is to write down when they things happen and share with your spouse and know that they will be home to experience other milestones in the future.
Things can be weird when they come back
When your spouse does get home from a deployment, parenting together can be strong. If your spouse left a 6-month-old who was barely starting to crawl and then comes home to an active toddler, things can be a little overwhelming for them. Even more than that, you probably have developed your routines and the way you do things with your child.
The best thing to do is talk about what life will be like for your children after they get back. You can go over expectations and the little details of having a child the age that you do before they come home. See if it would help your spouse to have you write out your regular schedule but also make room for them to add their way of parenting to your routines.
You should see eye to eye on the big parenting topics, but it is okay to do things a little differently when it comes to parenting your children. This naturally happens when both spouses are home as the child grows but can seem weird when one has been away for a long time.
When it comes to deployments and small children, you do the best that you can, you live each day as fully as you can, and you count down to the days when your solo parenting will come to an end.
What are your best tips for raising small children during a deployment?