Raising Multiple Kids During Deployment

Picture this—three kids, ages three and under. I was raising them alone while my husband was deployed to Afghanistan. It was noisy. It was stressful. It was exhausting. Deployments are never easy, but deployments with young children are especially difficult. If you have multiple kids during a deployment, you are forced to juggle the demands of solo-parenting with the non-stop needs of babies or toddlers. It is a frustrating situation that can push you to your breaking point. There will be times when you go to bed tired, then wake up tired, and wonder how you are going to get through another day. But you can get through it, because I did, and so do numerous military spouses every year. No one must go through deployment alone, and this is especially true if you are caring for multiple children. You are going to need a little help sometimes. There is nothing wrong with admitting that! Asking for help may feel awkward, but you would be amazed how many people want to help you. Here are some ways to reach out and find resources available to you.

Get help from family: Many military spouses are stationed far from family, so it isn’t always realistic for them to help during a deployment. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. Maybe the grandparents or a sibling can visit you for a few days to help with the kids. Or they may invite you for an extended stay back home during the holidays.

Phone a friend: Local friends can be a great help during deployment—whether they watch your kids while you run to the grocery store, keep you company during the slow days, or join you for a “Kids Eat Free” night at a local restaurant. Even friends who live far away can be a lifeline when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. You may not be able to communicate regularly with your service member, so it’s good to have at least one friend you can call for sympathy when the kids are driving you crazy.

Get childcare assistance: Granted, options for assistance vary depending how close you live to base. Near base, you may be able to use free or discounted childcare from the base CDC, in-home childcare providers, or military organizations such as Operation Help a Hero. Some base hospitals have a childcare room where you can leave your children during your own doctor appointments. If you need a resource farther from base, the YMCA is a good option. Using these resources to take an occasional break from the kids is worth the investment.

Hire extra support: When you are the only adult at home, you have to handle a lot at once. It’s okay to spend a little extra money hiring services that take stress off your shoulders. Talk to your spouse about a deployment budget ahead of time. Many military families hire extra help like babysitters, lawn care, snow removal, house cleaners, or grocery delivery during deployment. If it brings you peace of mind and makes parenting easier, it may be something to consider looking into.

Talk to a counselor: Every parent has moments where they struggle. The important thing is finding the strength to move through the struggles. If you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or at your wit’s end caring for your kids during deployment, then it is advisable to get some additional support from a counselor. Military One Source offers free, confidential counseling to service members or spouses. You can do counseling over the phone on your own schedule to get parenting support. It is also essential to take care of yourself during deployment, especially when little ones are depending on you. Self-care is much easier said than done when you are a solo parent, but these simple tactics will help you hold onto your sanity during deployment.

Get outside: Whether you take a walk with the stroller or bring kids to a park, fresh air and sunlight are good for your physical and mental health.

Find a habit that relaxes you: Some people relax with a cup of tea. For others, coloring in a coloring book is soothing. Find a hobby that helps you unwind and make it a part of your day whenever you can. Having 10 peaceful minutes to yourself each day can make a world of difference.

Exercise: Whether you use a gym with childcare or do workout videos at home, make time to keep yourself strong. You’ll need the extra energy to handle the kids!

Treat yourself: Give yourself tiny celebrations to look forward to. Small rewards like lunch with a friend, getting ice cream, buying a new shirt, or taking a long bath can help improve your outlook and give you motivation to get through the week.

Anyone would agree that going through deployment with multiple young children is no easy task. But when you take care of yourself and use all available resources, you will be equipped to handle the challenge!

Facing the Emotional Impact of PCS

When it is time to move on to your next station, it’s normal to have a lot of emotions associated with your upcoming move. Uprooting yourself, saying goodbye to friends, and navigating the logistics of a move every emotion from excitement to sadness. Exploring different options to help you handle these emotions can be beneficial to your family and your mental health.

While one of the greatest perks of military life is seeing the world, the emotional impact of moving can be challenging. I was happy, looking forward to our adventure and future, but I was also anxious and sad. I would be leaving my family, my friends, my job, and my home. When I started experiencing these emotions, I knew that it was important for me to face them head-on because this is not the first time, I would have to make one of these moves. These are some of the things I found that can be done to help ease the emotional transition of moving.

Start by acknowledging that how you are feeling is normal. We make connections, plant roots, and adapt to our environments. We get attached, and that makes leaving hard. Knowing this and accepting how you feel is a first step to processing your move.

Take time to grieve for the people and things you will miss. We are PCSing soon, so this one hits home particularly hard for me. I cried my eyes out when it became official. Give yourself the space and time to be sad, if that’s what you need. Let the frustration and/or tears come. Find something to put the energy into, like a workout or a journaling session. Just don’t hold it in.

Try to focus on the positives of the move and where you are moving to. Moving is an opportunity to write a new chapter in your book, one that involves new friends, jobs, and a new home. Is the place you are moving to somewhere you’ve never been? What cool things are there to do? Who else do you know who might be going there? There are so many positive things that can come of a PCS!

Lastly, make the most of your time left in your old home. Spend time with the people that you love while you are finishing out your posting. Even though it can feel like an impossibly busy period of your life, you will not regret meeting up with your friends before you go. Make the time! Go to the playdate, get the pedicures, have the dinners. You will be so happy you did.

Transitions can be hard, but they can also be beautiful in so many ways. They are opportunities to grow, know ourselves more, and be truly grateful not only for what was and for what will be. Moving is part of our lives. Embrace it and all that comes with it!

MilLife Learning: Grow Your Knowledge as a MilSpouse

There is no one more impactful and valuable to a military community than an informed spouse. We all know the one, or maybe you are the one! This spouse has done their research and is a walking encyclopedia of nearly everything, and if they don’t have an answer to your question, they at least know someone who does. This spouse is seasoned, and amazing.

As a new MilSpouse, there is a world of information unbeknownst to me. So much about this life is traditionally learned on the fly, but luckily Military OneSource has taken on the challenge of putting this knowledge where everyone can easily access it with MilLife Learning. MilLife Learning, formerly My Training Hub, was rebranded in February 2019. It is a completely free online platform that allows users to take classes on a variety of topics supporting military life. Although these all have a military focused lens, everything can be applied to civilian life. There is an entire catalog of topics that Military OneSource is still expanding. Course lengths are anywhere from three minutes to four hours long. Topics include: community capacity building, completing the DD93, EFMP advocacy and communication, a “MilFam 101” series of modules, some great money matters tips, inclusive customer service, leveraging LinkedIn for milspouses, personal accountability, and planning your next PCS.

I work in Community Relations for a military nonprofit, so as my first course I decided to take the Community Capacity Building. I was excited that I could utilize the information from this class both my Army community and my professional community. Military OneSource understands the importance of making education a priority, especially when navigating a career as a military spouse. To get started with MilLife Learning, you’ll setup an account and create your profile. After a few easy steps, you can browse the courses. There is a preview of each course that shows you the title, a brief description, and the estimated length of time it will take to complete the course. You can enroll and take as many classes as you’d like, as well as pause a course when you need to. I started on the first of three modules for my course. The module started with a pre-assessment, which let me know both what I would be learning and what I already knew or didn’t know. The slides had just a few bullets and a photo, which acted as a good visual aid. A transcript of the slides is also available on the left-hand side. The modules also included case studies and some activities to keep you engaged and make sure you grasp the concepts. The final section had a downloadable worksheet focused on results-based planning. I split the fundamentals course over a few days. When I finished the third module, I took a post-assessment. You need at least an 80% to pass and can take it as many times as you need to. Upon completion of the course, MilLife Learning has a certificate waiting for you in your profile. This certificate can be added to your resume and LinkedIn.

Whether you take a course for your own benefit or to prepare yourself to go back to work, it is always a great idea to continue your education in some form. MilLife Learning has taken on the initiative to not only support military family life but also spouse careers. Their courses will have every spouse or military family member becoming the go-to in no time.

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