Tips for New Moms: Survive and Thrive Through Your Partner’s Deployment
By Tania Lynch, MSN, MPH & Jess Logan, LCSW
The inevitable has happened, and your partner has been called for deployment. There is no great time for this to happen, and despite it being the “life you signed up for” as your relatives graciously put it, you’re still in a bit of a panic. Sound familiar? Maybe it’s because you’re A. pregnant B. home with a newborn, or C. dealing with an unruly toddler. Life is hard enough when you’re both at home, and now you’re expected to do this all solo? It’s enough to overwhelm even the most skilled and confident Supermoms! Here are some tried-and-true survival tips from those who have been through it.
- Line Up Support
This is an “all-hands-on-deck” moment in your life. Push away those thoughts that you will be fine on your own and that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Call those friends and family members who have been waiting for an excuse to visit, especially those who will truly support and help you and won’t require a lot of you. Go to a spouse’s coffee or join the mommy and me group you have been thinking about. Reach out to the military resources available, such as the family readiness group, who is always organizing events and is there to help when needed. Get the names of some good babysitters. Join online support groups. Tell everyone you know that you may need some extra assistance, and keep track of those who offer to help. Even if you never need any of it, if you’re in a crunch, the reassurance that you have the resources will be invaluable.
- Get Organized
Keep things as simple as you can. Planning ahead of time for how you are going to manage tasks day to day can be helpful. What does your partner usually provide that will be missing, and how can you plan to fill those gaps? Deployment is a great time to outsource some day to day responsibilities. If you can afford it, have a housecleaner come once a month. Utilize a grocery delivery service. Have a friend come and help with laundry. Ask a neighborhood kid to walk your dog. Social media is a great way to find people to fill those needs. If things don’t get done the way they usually do, forgive yourself! You have a great excuse for having a messy home.
- Stay connected
Send care packages. Write letters. Call or Skype if you’re able to. Get a web-based text app, like WhatsApp or Kakao Talk. If your partner is completely out of contact, keep a journal to share with them when they return. Talk to your partner about the big things and the mundane things. You may have been advised to not burden your partner with your day to day struggles while deployed. However, if this is something you talk to them about when they are home, then they may want to hear about what you are going through, even when deployed. It can be grounding for them and they can keep up to date on the changes at home. More importantly, it allows them to still be an emotional support to you.
- Find Your Strengths
Maybe you let your partner handle certain things because “they’re better at it” or you’ve just gotten into habits over time. This is a great excuse to reconnect with your own abilities. It is a time to grow your confidence and remember that you were fully capable of managing your own life before you met your partner. Don’t worry if things go wrong. They will go wrong! What is important is how you react to those challenges. You can do this!
- Prioritize Self-Care
Do the things that you know help make to you feel your best. Make the time for regular exercise, cook yourself healthy meals, engage in regular stress-relieving activities, such as meditation or morning reflections. If your partner is in a conflict zone, stay away from the news. Every story will bring on an extra level of stress that you don’t need right now. Also, take this time to have some fun. Get a regular sitter or coordinate a babysitting swap and make dates with your friends or even yourself. Take an acting class or crafting class, go on a hike or spend some time at the beach. This is a temporary moment in your life, and you can embrace it. Give yourself permission to still have fun, even though your partner is away.
If you are feeling overwhelmed beyond what friends and family can help you with, reach out to a professional. What you are going through is incredibly challenging and brings up lots of emotions. Therapy can help you sort through these emotions, help you identify your strengths and discover good strategies for coping with this time. There is no shame in asking for help along the way!