The Modern Military Parent

My husband has a crazy work schedule. He’s up at O dark thirty, goes to the gym and then off to work. He doesn’t return, most nights, until late. For the most part, I can deal with this lifestyle as my neighbors are always game for a glass of wine in the evening while the kids burn off some energy. But lately he’s also traveling a lot, in and out of various countries and states. Sometimes he goes for a few days and sometimes it’s for two weeks. I work from home and my girls are involved in sports and after-school activities. Life is full.

Here’s the thing I’ve come to realize. In my humble opinion, my girls and I are able to deal much better with my husband’s absence when he is gone for long stretches of time. From a parenting perspective, deployments have their advantages. Here’s why.

The last time my husband deployed, we spent a few weeks getting ready for his time away. All the honey-do tasks were completed. The vegetable garden was planted, the backyard sprinklers all functioned, light bulbs were changed and the cars were in good shape. He spent lots of quality time with the girls playing at the park, riding bikes and reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Even the girls’ teachers were aware that he was leaving and they paid special attention to my daughters during this time, watching for signs of stress or concern. It was a team effort and we were ready. When it came time for him to deploy, the girls and I were set. He was gone for six months and we made it through without a hitch. We missed him, of course, but we had fun events scheduled throughout the time he was gone and there were lots of other families going through the same thing. There were other kids my girls could commiserate with, teachers and family members were well aware of my husband’s absence and everyone made sure to check in on us.

Now with my husband’s shorter trips, it’s less of an “it takes a village” mentality and more like every man for himself!  During his most recent trip the garage door opener broke, the oven crapped out, my daughter ended up at urgent care with a forehead cut that needed glue and my car’s air conditioner died.

“When is daddy going on his next trip?” asked my 10-year-old recently. I didn’t know the answer. Even if I did, his visits to Japan and St. Louis have often changed at the last minute. And when he finally does get a trip set, it’s a whirlwind of preparation – a far cry from the strategic deployment planning I was once so good at.

The upsides? He’s accumulating airline miles and there’s a good chance the girls and I can tag along on an upcoming trip. In the meantime however, it’s clear I need to make some changes.  I need to get better at rolling with his fickle schedule and helping my girls understand why their dad has to travel. I find myself playing catch up rather than trying to get ahead by planning meals, mini adventures to keep us busy and keeping our village (teachers, friends and family) up to date so they can jump in and help.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful my spouse isn’t deploying and in harm’s way. And I’m extremely thankful for the men and women on our front lines and their families back home. Perhaps I took my military village for granted. My husband is still an inactive ready reservist, by the way. Let’s hope the military doesn’t settle the score.

Molly Blake is a freelance writer. Her husband recently retired after serving 20 years in the United States Marine Corps. She attended the University of Dayton and writes about issues affecting military families and other parenting issues. Follow her on twitter @mblakewrites.

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