First Week of Deployment

The problem: You are facing a military deployment. Why you should read this: It will tell you what to expect and how to cope with the first week of deployment (whether this is your 1st or your 10th)!

Military deployments are never easy. Whether or not you have been through one before, each deployment has its own challenges. We recently began deployment #7 for my husband. Each deployment, I find myself going through the same emotions and routines at the beginning. It takes a little while to get back on your feet, but here’s how to do it!

What to Expect from the first week of deployment:

Mental and emotional exhaustion: The time leading up to a deployment is stressful for everyone. Even when you’ve had months to prepare, it is an emotional roller coaster. Add in the disruption to your schedule, the house being torn apart to pack, and last-minute errands that you rush around to complete… at some point your body and mind just need to crash. The day your spouse leaves is full of tears and heartache. Once they are gone, you may feel overwhelmed and exhausted. This is normal, and it will pass.

“You may feel overwhelmed and exhausted. This is normal, and it will pass.” ~The Seasoned Spouse

Cleaning up all. the. things.: Does your service member pack the way mine does? Step 1: get out all the gear and spread it everywhere. Step 2: put the things he needs into his bags. Step 3: leave everything else all over the floor. Please tell me I’m not alone here! Once he leaves, it takes me a few days to get the house back in order. But there is also something therapeutic about cleaning up and organizing. I actually look forward to it, and it helps me see some small positives to him being gone. (Hey, I won’t have to do his laundry for a few months!)

Cancelling plans and adjusting bills: This is an important thing to do during the first week of deployment. Using a service member’s deployment orders, you can suspend or cancel many subscription plans without penalty. Make sure you have your spouse’s permission first! I always remove him from our driver’s insurance, adjust our phone data plan, and review the credit card for automatic monthly subscriptions that we no longer need. You can save a lot of money unsubscribing to things that your spouse won’t need while they are deployed! Remember to adjust these things back again at the end of deployment.

Use these tips to save money during the first week of deployment! Click To Tweet

Things will go wrong: Unfortunately, this can’t be avoided. The deployment curse, also known as Murphy’s Law for deployments, will find you. Someone is going to get sick, or there will be trouble with the car, or something will break at home. Try not to stress too much about these things. Just handle one thing at a time. If you have an emergency plan in place, these challenges are easier to handle.

What to expect and how to cope at the beginning of a military deployment

Ways to cope with the first week of deployment:

Even though I know that deployment is a huge challenge, I also know that you are going to get through it! Everyone eventually gets into a routine and finds a way. Here’s how to jump start that so you can get through the part where you are crying each night.

Here's how every #milspouse can cope with the first week of #deployment: Click To Tweet

Make social plans: It’s great to have a friend on call for the first day or the first weekend that you are alone. It doesn’t matter if it is another military spouse or a high school friend back home. You need someone who will get you out of the house and keep you company, even if you just get coffee together. Try to think about this before deployment starts–who will be your go-to person when you’re having a bad day?

“Who will be your go-to person when you’re having a bad day?” ~The Seasoned Spouse

Stock your fridge: Before he deploys, my husband likes to visit all his favorite restaurants. This can play havoc with my weight and my overall health. Then when he leaves, I have no motivation to cook. Pizza delivery, anyone? Too much fast food can mess with your sleep, your emotions, and your well-being. So plan ahead to stock your fridge and freezer with easy, healthy food. I’m not saying you need to eat kale salad everyday! But if you have some frozen meals you can microwave or some pre-cooked chicken breasts to throw in a wrap, then you are more likely to eat healthy food at home.

Pace yourself: Deployment is a marathon, not a sprint. You probably have some personal goals for this deployment and maybe a bucket list of things you want to do. That’s great! Just don’t try to do it all in the first month. If you sign up for too much or get overwhelmed, you may just give up and end up doing nothing at all. Try to tackle one thing at a time, slow and steady.

Relax: Take a breath. This will be hard, but it’s not impossible. You need to have some go-to things that make you happy and calm you down when you’re having a bad day. Whether that is wine and Netflix, going shopping, or just a hot bath, plan to take care of yourself so you have the strength to get through this!

What is your best tip for getting through the first week of deployment?

Normal military life? What’s that?

To the military spouse still waiting for normal military life…

My husband is always packing bags, but he never quite unpacks them.

A few weeks ago, my husband returned from a month-long training mission. Each month before that, he was gone for a week to train. A year ago, he had just returned from a seven-month deployment. Soon, he will be leaving for another long deployment. We will spend at least three years living in this house. But during all that time, I’m not sure my husband will ever spend a complete month sleeping at home. It’s a mind-boggling way to live.

When the service member is always coming and going, military life doesn't feel Normal. Click To Tweet

Military life has many frustrations. High among the list of complaints from military spouses is that the service member is always coming or going, which makes it difficult to settle into any regular household routine. When he is home, there are certain constants in home life–cooking dinner, bedtime for children, watching a show together, family time on weekends, etc. When the service member is gone for deployments, training, or any TDY assignment, then those routines change. The solo parent has a harder time cooking dinner. Bedtime routines take longer with only one adult juggling all the responsibilities. Weekends are no fun when you are missing part of the family. And the evening silence when your spouse is away can be deafening.

“When your spouse is away, the evening silence can be deafening.” ~The Seasoned Spouse

In ten years of military marriage (and seven years of dating him before that!), my husband and I have experienced plenty of time apart. He is currently preparing for his 7th deployment. Besides that, there have been numerous months away for training or classes. So I should be used to our changing routines. I should be used to managing the house on my own when he is gone. I should be a ‘Seasoned Spouse’ who makes all this look easy, right?

But it isn’t easy.

Every time he leaves, we adjust again. And each time it’s different. The kids are different ages, or there are more of them. (Adding a baby during a deployment is a huge adjustment that I have been through twice now!) We live in a different house, have different friends, or are living farther from family than we were during a previous deployment. The resources available on each military base are different too. So even though we have been through it before, we are about to re-invent the wheel. Again.

Every year is a new kind of ‘Normal’

In between deployments, there are weeks or sometimes months at a time when he is generally home for dinner and seems to have a ‘normal’ job. We can make social plans for the weekend, attend events at the children’s school together, and work on projects around the house together. We plan vacations and spend time with family visitors. But of all my years of experience with military life, those peaceful months would hardly be considered a normal measure of our marriage. Those are the highlights, and sometimes they feel too few and far between.

When he is deployed, my life is quite different. I go into super-productive mode. I workout more. I keep the house cleaner because he isn’t around to throw gear all over the place. I plan things more: I can plan my meals and control my diet. I plan fun events for the kids and hang out with friends. I plan phone dates and Skype dates with family members. I am tired. I am often lonely. But I feel productive, like I am doing my best. That is my ‘normal’ life during deployment. It is NOT the highlight of our military experience, but that feeling of working hard and pushing yourself even when you’re running on empty seems to represent the typical experience of military life. I think most military spouses have experienced that kind of ‘normal.’

As soon as military life feels normal... it changes. Again. Click To Tweet

When we are in the middle of a PCS move, ‘normal’ is completely different again. We clean out and throw away. We order take-out. We visit family, say goodbye to friends, and Google info about our next home. We live out of suitcases–in hotels, guest rooms, and childhood bedrooms. We are in transition. All we have is our family, so we cling to each other until we are all getting on each other’s nerves. That’s normal too, right?

When we lived overseas, we had a totally different kind of normal. We adjusted to another language and another culture. Restaurants opened at different hours and served different food, but we eventually found that normal. We visited new places, took more plane rides, and went for numerous walks along our town’s beaches. Our normal life overseas was happy, fun, and enriched with great food and cultural activities.

For a military spouse waiting for life to feel "normal," you must realize there is nothing normal about military life.

There is no such thing as normal military life

My point here is that there may never be a ‘normal’ to your military life. My mom used to tell me that “Normal is only a setting on your dryer!” Although she wasn’t a military spouse, she was completely right about military life. There is no such thing as normal. Once we get used to one duty station or one stage of life, we start all over again with something new. Military life is full of different stages. Each one is different from the next, but none of them can be considered normal.

“Normal is only a setting on your dryer.” ~The Seasoned Spouse

This is an important lesson for a military marriage. Military life is such a roller coaster ride, full of ups and downs. I often receive questions from readers about how they can survive their current stage of military life. Maybe it is pre-deployment and they are stressed and arguing with their spouse about everything. Or maybe it is during deployment and they feel distant or disconnected, even when they have good communication. Sometimes it is after a deployment, when the service member just doesn’t fit in. People wonder, “How can we make this work?” My response is often the same. I tell them that this is only a stage. Wait a bit, and things will change. Don’t expect your life to be like this forever. Don’t think that this temporary stage will be normal for the rest of your military marriage. Because it won’t be. A year from now, life will be completely different… just wait and see.

Do you ever feel like you are still waiting for normal, even after years of a military relationship?