If there is one thing military spouses are prepared for it is deployment. There are how-to-survive guides all over the internet, events at your local military installation and, of course, the news. Deployment is everywhere. And while staying sane during a deployment is important, there is another aspect to the military life that happens way more often and can be way more stress.
The temporary duty. Field time.
These short bursts of your spouse being gone, sometimes just on the other side of the installation but unable to communicate, are surprisingly difficult. These happen when your service member needs to attend a school or conference, if they get tagged for a rotation at one of the national training centers or even just going to the woods for a couple weeks.
And they can drive you crazy.
We once had a year where my husband was gone for nearly nine months, spread out over a few weeks here, a few weeks there. Getting into a routine was nearly impossible.
There are three things that I found over the years help my children and me keep the balance at home when their dad is away.
Make a PlanA meal plan, that is. Few things are harder than cooking balanced meals when one of the adults is missing from the house. Kids are picky, they do not eat as much and there are always leftovers. I have eaten fast food too many times without a plan, so now, we plan.
In the coming weeks before a trip, I make up freezer meals that can be either slow cooked all day or quickly cooked in an electric pressure cooker. I pick meals that are more kid-friendly and are meals that they are more likely to eat without a fight. I also like to stock up on macaroni and cheese because sometimes, it is all we can handle. My husband likes to help prepare these because it is something he can do ahead of time to ease the stress of being solo that is one hundred percent heading my way.
Stay BusyIf the trip falls during the school year, you will be busy with school and homework so that is not too tricky. It is the weekend when there are suddenly more hours in the day and the kids are yelling during every single one of them. Planning trips to the local zoo or aquarium are a fun bonus when Dad is away.
If the weather is poor, check to see if there is an indoor trampoline place. There is a local business here that has an indoor play house with bouncy castles and is always a win on a rainy day. If you want to do some art enrichment, a trip to a ceramic paint and take place will keep everyone busy and they will have a fun new decoration for their room -- or make a "welcome home" gift!
Make a DateChances are, your spouse is not going to their temporary duty alone so reach out to the other spouses and plan for a playdate or two. Weekend picnics are great for the kids to hang out, dinner can be a potluck and you will get some much needed adult interaction.
With your spouse gone and your kids either in school or too young to talk to, you may find yourself getting chatty with the commissary cashier. Having playdates are good for you, maybe more so than your kids! If your unit has an active family readiness group, now is the time to hold get-togethers or if you are a part of the spouse's club on post, there are always events going on that you can attend to make friends.
Temporary duties are a huge factor of military life. They can happen at any time and can be up to 6 months long! With some prior planning and a little help from your friends, you can make the weeks fly by without losing your mind. I love meal prepping with my husband before he leaves because then, it is like he is still involved in our nightly meals even though he is away. It is the little things in life that really make the military journey worth it.