I prefer long-term deployments over short-term deployments. (Go ahead and gasp.) I’m not saying I love kicking my husband out the door. What I’m saying is that shorter separations have always been harder on me.
My husband has been assigned to three ships during our marriage and we’ve only been married seven and a half years. I’ve quickly learned the longer he stays in, the longer the deployments tend to become-- which I look forward to. Say what?!?!Short deployments toy with me. He swoops in and out in a matter of a few weeks and life quickly becomes chaotic on a routine basis.Here is how the deployment cycle works for our family:
Phase One – Pulling Away: The week before the departure date I begin to pull away. Yes…I tend to find anything and everything to bicker about. “What? You lost your toenail clippers that were bright orange?” “Are you kidding me? …You didn’t use the towel I left out for you…you got your own?” (You all know what I’m talking about, right? We become ridiculous when our emotions are heightened that week before they depart.)
Phase Two – Grief: I grieve. I’m not talking about crying to the point of looking like a “crazy,” but I do cry. I usually do it in the privacy of my own home and you won’t find me posting a mascara-run hot-mess selfie that depicts my sadness.
Phase Three – Anger: I get angry. Thoughts like “Why me?!” and, “Great…the toilet overflowed and now I have to be Mrs. Plunger Magee for the third time this year” visit my mind during this phase. Very often my anger is irrational, but it happens.
Phase Four – Survival: I enter survival mode. I figure out the new norm and learn to rock out single parenting and find a new form of happiness for the time being.
Phase Five – Countdown: I start to count down the last week before his homecoming. I get butterflies and think about what it will be like to shower without my toddler son opening the shower door to show me his newly built Lego boat three times during my morning shower.
Phase Five – Happiness: He’s back! We settle back in and figure out our new family norm.
So now think about those five phases and how long-term deployments work better for me. The phases are accelerated for the short-term deployments, so they shake my world up on a shorter time frame, bringing that much more chaos.
I’ve also noticed that with longer deployments you often have more people surround you who are willing to help you with your voids. People tend to think shorter-term deployments are easier and that you rarely need help. I’m here to tell you that for me, short-term deployments are extremely difficult and I personally do need help during both deployment types.
All that said, we really don’t have a choice as to where our spouse will be placed, or for how long. I’ve learned that I’ve just got to make it work. So whether it’s a short-term or long-term deployment, I try to stick with the 24-12-6 rule.
Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging. Here is how we make the return transitions work:
24 hours – For 24 hours my husband is the observer in our house. He watches to see how I’ve been running things and listens to what he’s missed. I also listen to his stories (at least what he can share). He doesn’t play an active role in discipline with our kiddo and only backs what I created while he was away.
12 hours – I take a break for 12 hours. I go spoil myself and spend much needed time on me. I also try to give him time to readjust to his new routine. And yes…at times that means he can chill on the couch and watch ESPN uninterrupted.
6 days – There is no expectation or pressure in our house to have a norm for at least six days. There is an adjustment period every time. I remember I used to be confused about why he needed occasional naps throughout the day, but then I learned that while he was deployed he drove the ship late at night and his body was used to sleeping during the day. So for six days we try to roll with whatever each other needs (physically, mentally, and spiritually).
For us, sticking with the 24-12-6 works. It may seem crazy and a little Type A (but…uh…I am), but it works for us. It gets trickier with short-term deployments, but it still works. Let’s be honest though, deployments are hard no matter the length of time. All in all, you have to find what works for your family. As soon as you have it figured out, my guess is you will be assigned to a shore/desk duty and, well…a new learning curve will begin.
Jessica Bertsch is a proud Coastie wife and mom of a 2-year-old. In her “spare” time she runs Powerhouse Planning, LLC www.powerhouseplanning.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.