Updated: May 23
Hello Fellow Military Spouses, I am hoping to add to your arsenal of preparation as you are getting ready or already are experiencing a deployment without your spouse.
First and foremost, I am cheering you on. What you are up against is rough and there really is nothing quite like it.
You are already doing something that is extremely difficult and you are here looking for ways to stay strong and to keep going. Then you are in the right place.
During my year-long deployment with three kids under the age of 4, I had to develop strategies to help me not only make it, but THRIVE. My goal is to help you do the same. Today I will share my top 5 strategies with you as a military spouse.
Ready?! Okay! Let’s dive in.
Strategy #1: Have a Plan A, B, and C
Your energy levels are going to experience a huge range from completely functioning to low and barely making it. You may be a, “get it all done and then relax" kind of person or a, “I’ll wait and see how I feel” person. There will be times in the deployment when you will feel either of these.
Be willing to create a plan for energy levels. An “A Day” is when you are at your best, you have slept well, there is energy inside of you and you are ready to take on the day.
A “B Day” is when you feel a little drained and you desire to take it easy.
A “C Day” is when you are barely making it with low energy. You feel you need to recharge and renew yourself.
Each day needs to have a general outline of activities and things you will and won’t do with what energy you have. The purpose is to recover back to “A”.
The key is to keep yourself moving through the deployment with momentum. This is a marathon - not a sprint- and you are going to need to keep regular upkeep of your energy, your personal health, and your mental health if you are going to really thrive. However, even if you are doing proper and regular self-care and personal maintenance, you will still experience energy fatigue. It’s normal and it is important to plan for the deficit.
Take time to give yourself grace and to accept that you cannot do everything. Creating an A, B, and C Day means you gauge how you are doing and act accordingly.
Note for “A Days” Please do not push or over work yourself on these days. Pace yourself. You have the energy, it feels great, you’re going to be getting A LOT done. Yet hear me out, take it one thing at a time and max out at 5 items completed. You will thank me because the next day you will still have energy and you won’t have to choose a “B Day option”. If you do an “A Day” properly, your energy will naturally regenerate as you create consistency that will literally build momentum that compounds.
Strategy #2: Lines of Defense
First and foremost, know yourself. Are you a social or home body? Deployment will ask a lot of you emotionally, physically, and mentally. Seek to meet these personal and interpersonal demands by applying my strategy called “lines of defense”.
Christine Caine shares in her book Unashamed that “Pain shared is pain divided”. Having 5 people you can talk to or outlets that you can utilize to process and completely work through things is essential. Your spouse may or may not be available to talk and they have a different mission that they need to execute. Where you can, of course, connect and share with your spouse what is going on.
What are Lines of Defense?
Lines of defense are designed to be there for you when you really need help. Your list can consist of people, personal practices like yoga, meditation, hygge, etc. Your line of defense can even be places. The key is to make sure they support and help you keep the momentum going during the deployment.
Here is my lines of defense:
God, spending time finding Him daily in my life
Scripture study and seeking answers to my challenges
Journal writing: pouring out my thoughts and working through them visually.
Calling my friend Elise, she gets me better than anyone and I know she is real with me
Switch it up: go to a park, eat at a restaurant, to go a new museum, take a drive.
Start today and make your own “Lines of Defense”.
Strategy #3: Create Consistency
It is important to create consistency that supports the life you are trying to build. Have a rhythm that keeps your home clean and the basics needs of your life going.
Every Sunday Evening is meal prep for the week
Every Tuesday is pizza night, on a blanket in the front room
Every Saturday night eat dinner with candles
When the laundry bin is full, I wash, fold, and put away the load
When the meal is over, I rise and put them directly in the dishwasher
Every morning I make my bed and then say my prayers asking for support for this day. Whatever comes, I will do my best.
Every morning I use my shower as a cue that I am taking care of myself and that I am ready for the day.
You will have your own needs and there will be things that will cultivate consistency. Choose to create those habits and have fun with it. Life is what you make out of it, so choose what you create.
A family story: After watching the Chosen, I wanted to create my own “Shabbat” on Saturday evenings to welcome in the Sabbath. I would make a delicious and special dinner every Saturday night. I would encourage my kids to help and we would create food together. Then I would go and get dressed up and light candles on the table. I got out nice plates and I would even buy juice to celebrate. Then, we would share the scripture story from Genesis about the creation of the world and sing a song together.
It brought the spirit of God into our home, I would feel elegant, put together, and edified both physically with the delicious food, spiritually with reading the word of God, and mentally I would feel that even if the week was hard at least I did this one thing to bring us all closer and to prepare myself to worship on the Sabbath day.
This tradition kept me going week after week through the deployment, choose to make rituals and fun things something that carries you through too. It became a special time, and my kids look back on it with happiness.
Strategy #4: Create family bonds
My understanding is that if we fight, we sink. I had a “no fighting” policy. I didn’t tolerate anything that would pull us apart, cause rifts, or even allow any discord within the family unit. There was just no space for that kind of crap.
Instead, I would focus on developing their ability to communicate and express themselves without physically attacking their siblings. I would create positive feedback loops where I would openly praise the good behavior and directly address the wrong behavior either privately or with brief, calm words “That is not okay, stop please”.
Connect with what your kids love. At the time my kids like Paw Patrol and Super Readers. Both of these do something with a team cheer of sorts. So I created my own team cheer.
In the car, before we would go anywhere, I would turn around in the front seat and get everyone excited. First I would share what we are up to that day. Second, what is required. For example, “be good and stay close to mommy”. And thirdly, I would hold out my fist and say “TEAM ANDREWS” and each would hit my fist with their fist and then together we would meet in the middle and say “POWER UP!” with gusto and a roll up with our fists to the air.
I then used this “TEAM ANDREWS” power fist to motivate and to acknowledge anything good my kids did throughout the trip and to share that they really are a part of the team. Love is what we go through together.
This practice built unity and connection.
I believe what Jocko Willink says in Extreme Ownership, “It’s not about what you preach, it’s about what you tolerate.”
On deployment, your family needs to stick together. Together you rise or sink, let that be always the case.
Strategy #5: Focus on the good and you will see the joy.
When you first start the deployment, 365 days (or however long your soldier will be gone) looks extremely daunting. Your brain cannot even fathom what a year will look like, you can barely understand the concept of three months. It feels very illusive and out of reach which makes the time feel ENDLESS.
If you, like me, feel just how daunting task that is before you, you are not alone.
This strategy requires you to have faith and to focus on what you CAN do.
Choose each day to focus on the things that are going right and good instead of what is falling apart or what is lacking.
If this means making a gratitude wall or journal or something else to get your head in the right frame of mind then do it. Take time to see the good through all the crazy.
John Maxwell teaches, “what you focus on increases” I would like to shift that to what you focus on EXPANDS. There will not be enough of you, you will not ever be both mom and dad, or be able to reach every demand of your life. Yet when you focus on the here and now and what you CAN do, you change to expand and reach the need. Embrace that and switch to the mindset of “What CAN I do?” Then commit and do it.
Focus had a second part to it – JOY. I believe what got me through more than anything was my persistent persevering thought “Look for the joy”.
As I prepared for the deployment, I was praying – hard. I was pouring out my heart and I was struggling to wrap my head around this whole mountain I was supposed to climb. I remember praying and I felt these words enter my heart
“God already sees the joy of who you are going to become because of this deployment”.
No matter what trial you are going through, God already sees the joy of what is possible for you. I promise you he will not leave you during this time, in fact, He will send people, angels, and experiences that will build you and guide you to understand that He is right there with you. And that is invaluable.
Rely on God and see the joy. Seek joy and focus on the good. You will find it and the deployment will be a time of growth for you as it has for me.
Which one of these strategies do you feel would work in your home? As a military spouse, which strategy are you wanting to try out? Share in the comments below! God bless!