When it rains in military life, it pours-- so you better go find an "umbrella." When my husband deployed, I was faced with a family crisis. We had just moved from Maxwell AFB to a nice little neighborhood in Virginia and started to settle in. My kids were just babies, Erik 18-months and Abby 6-weeks.
Within three months of being there, Chip informed me that he would deploy in a few months. “No problem,” I said to myself. “I can do this.”
A month after he deployed, my son Erik had to be hospitalized – severe pneumonia. Abby and I were also sick. I didn’t know anyone around me. There wasn’t a base that we belonged to because he worked out of the Pentagon. I didn’t know his boss’s number, or even name for that matter. And I couldn’t call my husband because he was in a secure location.
I was riding in the ambulance before I thought of a single person I could call for help. There was a nice family up the street that I, by happenstance, asked for their number when Chip first left.
I called the fellow mother to reach out for help. I couldn’t focus on anything, and I couldn’t take care of my son with a 9 month old on my hip. My neighbor met me at the hospital and took Abbey.
My neighbor was my umbrella in that storm. She sheltered me so I could do what I had to do. I didn’t see my sweet baby for three very long days. All I could do was hope they were taking good care of her. I had to trust a stranger.
I did all of this while my husband was calling to have our daily chat. All I wanted to do was pour my tears, my anger and my fear into the phone at him, but I couldn’t. He couldn’t do anything to help me and it would only make him feel helpless. I was alone and had to deal with it.
Erik recovered after about a week, my neighbor who took care of Abby was my new best friend. My family rallied around me for the next month. I was forced to create my support network by asking for help. The experience, however traumatic, made me realize that it could have been much different. Asking for help was the only way for me to manage the crisis.
I think it goes without saying that it takes an “umbrella” of support to raise military kids. Reach out to your neighbors if you think they are in need. You may be calling in the knick of time or just at the right moment to prevent a tragedy.
If your spouse is up for deployment or currently in a deployment, start developing your “umbrellas.” Ask for help when needed, talk to the Key Spouse when she calls (and return her messages) and more importantly, accept help when offered. Don’t wait until a crisis happens to learn who you can count on.
Then turn around and BE an “umbrella.” Because when it rains in military life, it pours—and sometimes that is what brings us together.