It’s not a four-letter word, but the word “deployment” surely evokes dread in military spouses. The anxiety suffered by military spouses before, during, and after deployments often goes unnoticed, unless you’ve been through it yourself. There’s a fine line between staying positive and needing an outlet. Thankfully, we have more access to connections and support than ever before, with support groups offering tips and organizations of all sizes providing quality resources.
The Bigger Picture
When your partner leaves for 3, 6, 9, or 12+ months, there are certain steps military spouses need to take to prepare for the deployment that may not be considered by many. They have to prepare their network at work, make sure their kids understand what’s happening, and make list after list of all that needs to be done and accounted for surrounding the deployment. It’s stressful, to say the least.
Depending on who the employer is, military spouses with kids who have demanding schedules may find it more difficult to balance work and life. Some employers simply don’t understand the extra support required for a military spouse during a deployment. It can be difficult enough for a military spouse to land a job and grow within their desired career field and throwing a deployment in the mix further challenges the delicate balance of work, life, and kids. It’s a unique position, especially when the vast majority of military spouses don’t live near family or loved ones that they can lean on for support as easily.
Preparing kids is a whole different ballpark. They need a lot of emotional reassurance and may have questions that are hard to answer. It’s important to be as open and honest with them throughout the deployment cycle. Here’s a great article to help with preparing kids for deployments.
The conversations military spouses must have with their supervisors, colleagues, and children are not easy. They start well before the deployment and don’t stop when their partner returns. There’s a transitioning period that can be trickier to navigate than the actual deployment.
Here are some tips for military spouses to help ease and organize life surrounding a deployment:
- Paperwork – Get all of your paperwork in order, keep it in a safe place, and know where it is. Putting it all into one folder should help. Have a copy of your partner’s orders.
- Power of Attorney – Among your paperwork, should be a POA document so you can access your partner’s accounts should the need arise.
- Communication Expectations – Discuss your expectations for the frequency of communication. Depending on the deployment, it may not be as often as you’d like.
- Childcare Plan – You may want to connect with those in the military community to form a backup plan for your children in case you have an emergency. Every duty station has resources and military spouse groups for you to get acquainted with.
- Budget – Your partner will most likely have an increase in pay due to the deployment, discuss what to do with the extra income. Do you spend it on childcare, pay off debt, or put it away?
- Routine – Even if you don’t have kids, keeping a routine will help pass the time.
- Contact list – You should know who to call in the case of any (common) event. Make a list of numbers, such as landlords, plumbers, and locksmiths to have on hand just in case.
- Care packages – It may be a good idea to get a feel for what your partner will want to be sent in care packages. It’s always fun and sweet to send out sentimental gifts, but practical packages are important. Have your partner talk to others who have deployed to that location to get an idea of what they’ll want.
There is an abundance of resources available for military families going through a deployment. Some that should be at top of mind are:
- Red Cross Messages – Call 877-272-7337 in case of an emergency to get a message to your partner.
- Military Once Source – Take advantage of the 10 free counseling sessions per year.
- Blue Star Families – Offers general deployment resources, such as books, worksheets, and videos.
- Care Packages – Some companies offer premade care packages you can order.
- Facebook Groups – Your duty station most likely has a Facebook Page for military spouses in your area, but you can also join nationwide groups, such as How to MilSpouse.
The Bottom Line for Military Spouses
It’s understandable when military spouses want to procrastinate on the deployment-related discussions. It’s only a reminder that their partner will be gone, in potential danger, for months. It’s encouraged to face it head-on. Get everyone on the same page, or as close to the same page as possible. Take advantage of the resources and support offered and establish a game plan. You’ll feel more prepared when the time does come, it can cause less stress during the deployment, and make the transition for your partner back home easier.