Dear Ms. Vicki, My husband is on his third deployment and I’m not the "Ooorah" spouse that I should be. I have too much to do and I am overwhelmed. I work, cook, clean and take care of my children. I’m the football and soccer mom, car pool driver, cheerleader for my husband and rescuer for my friends.
But I am tired and frustrated. So much so that I scream and yell constantly at my children. I am ashamed of myself and of who I have become. It doesn’t help that I’ve also gained 15 pounds in the past four months. I am a mess!
My screaming is out of control. My 4-year-old said, “You’re Mommy Monster.” I cried uncontrollably because my son was right. I’ve become a Mommy Monster and I don’t know how to change it.
Sincerely, Mommy Monster
Dear Mommy Monster,
Coping with deployments can be stressful because you have an increased responsibility and have taken on many other roles. Everyone is different and every deployment is different.
I learned that each deployment did not get better for me; it became increasingly difficult even as my sons grew older. As a result, I had to continually tweak and update my wellness plan that including family, friends, relaxation, exercise and spiritual support, too.
Reading your letter tells me that you are overwhelmed. Conversely, this is not the time to be overly critical of you. Maya Angelou said when we know better, we do better.
First, you must give yourself permission to stop and think, take a deep breath and exhale before you start screaming uncontrollably. Let it go.You don’t have to react to everything your children do. You have to ignore some of their behavior. Remember, your children are learning how to control their stress by watching you. Take a look at the other quick tips below:
- Prioritize your many roles and responsibilities. You cannot be everything to everyone. You have to give yourself permission to say "NO." Think about allowing your children to play one sport or participate in only one activity instead of many activities at any given time. Enjoy your children by spending time at home without so many distractions. This would provide a great consistent schedule for your children and help create good healthy discipline.
- Consider hiring a housekeeper. Even if it’s only twice a month you would be surprised to learn how much a professional housekeeper will do in your home for a minimal amount of money. Honestly, you deserve the help.
- Reach out to supportive people who are understanding and not judgmental. Military friends and the military community provide great support, but we have to remember that many spouses are experiencing the same stress. Studies show that stress can be contagious. With this in mind, we have to reach out to others too. My coworkers have been lifesavers for me when I was coping with long deployments, and handling my many roles and responsibilities.
- Go to bed 15 minutes earlier and wake up 15 minutes before your children. You need to get a good night’s sleep and waking up before your children will give you time to organize and plan your day and even meditate.
- Find the time to exercise even if it’s only 20 minutes a day. Interestingly, research reports that exercise can have some of the same effects as an anti-depressant and relieve stress, too. My suggestion is to take a relaxing stroll right after work before you pick up the children from the after school program or the babysitter. You deserve some “me” time.
- Remember spiritual support. Consult with your pastor, priest or other clergy member to help you through this tough time. Worship services can be powerful and provide much strength.
- Try parenting support.The New Parent Support Program is a great program that provides prevention and education services regarding child rearing like quick classes and home visits. The program is geared towards new parents of infant children. However, I see no reason why they would not provide some assistance to you. They offer the 1-2-3 Magic class, videos and books that I believe are very helpful to parents. Contact your family services office and ask to speak to someone who works with this program.
- Keep in touch with your husband. Many spouses both male and female said they did not want to burden the deployed service member. In my experience, service members want to be included. Because of this, I think you should allow your husband to be supportive to you, too.
- Discuss your stress and symptoms with your primary care physician. They may have other suggestions and can provide more medical intervention that can be beneficial to you. Everyone should have a yearly physical to include lab work to simply rule out other medical problems that we are unaware of.
Stay in touch and let me know what happens next.
Sincerely, Ms. Vicki