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Guest post by Megan at To Love a Soldier
I wake up to the shrill sound of that horribly annoying ring and I smile. It is 6 a.m. and he is calling. “Good afternoon! How is your day so far?” There is no noise on the other end.
“Please work, please work, please work,” I think to myself.
Then I hear it, a voice that has become all too familiar to me, “The call could not be completed. Please try again later.” I jump out of bed and begin to pull up the sheets, flatten out the comforter and smooth over the coverlet. I grab the throw pillows from the empty side of the bed when the phone rings again.
“Hello?” I say, truly asking. White noise. “Hello?” I ask again knowing there won’t be an answer.
I touch “end call” and place the remainder of the pillows in their places. I head into the bathroom, start the water and place the phone next to the shower, it rings one more time. “Hello?” I ask again.
Static. I put the phone on the hamper lid and step into the steam.
The way I see it, Military spouses have two choices when our loved one is deployed: pull up the covers over our head or smooth out the comforter. A year is a long time — and this is how long my husband will be gone from myself and our two boys. For them, for me and for him, I choose to get out of bed.
There is so much that goes into a day when you are the mother of a two-year-old and a nine-month-old and all of this becomes so much greater when your husband is in Kandahar. My focus is on these things: keeping this family strong and together and helping fellow military wives do the same.
There are many things we can do to make the time go by faster, to make the homecoming seem closer. I try to focus on what can be done and what must be done to thrive in this very special life. It can be overwhelming, it can be stressful, it can be heart-breaking; but it can be so incredibly rewarding and full of joy.
It is easy to get lost in the struggle, to become broken in the battle and to grow tired of the heart-break. But each day brings us closer and each day can make us stronger. Here is how I do it:
It is quite possibly the most important step of each day along this journey. And I don’t mean wake up at 8 a.m. and lie in bed waiting for him to call and then maybe go watch TV and eat a bowl of cereal. Seriously, wake up! My number one goal is to wake up before my children because if I wake up after them my entire day changes.
You should know that I am not a morning person. I am a triple-shot-venti-give-me-as-much-espresso-as-you got-if-you-want-me-to-speak-clearly kind of person! But I cannot tell you how much better I feel each day if I am up and showered before my kids start babbling or my son sits on the potty still wearing his pj’s (forgetting that all too important step, yet again!).
And if I get to wake up to the sound of my soldier’s voice, it is already a blessed day. But if I stay in bed and wait for that phone call, I could be waiting for a long time.
Send an Email
I know, I know. How technology-dependent have we become? Well, very. And at this point, I don’t answer emails, mainly because I probably only have a couple minutes (if that) before my kiddos are up and moving like they’ve had three shots of espresso and because I don’t want people to begin to think that I will be up and ready to answer their questions at 6 a.m. every morning.
I check my email for one reason: to see if he sent me a message. If he did, he is probably frustrated with the phone system and apologizing for the call not going through (as though it is his fault at all). If he didn’t I know that his plate is even fuller than usual so I email him a few encouraging words, an “I love you” and a “stay safe” and log out.
Enter the Craziness
Yup, there’s my two-year-old, sitting on the potty, pants on, smiling. Luckily, since I have been up and showered, I catch him in time. Pants down, diaper off, M&M looming before him and I hear the babbling in the other room. I open the door and there is my 9-month-old, standing in his crib laughing at me. I wish my husband could see that smile.
This is important for me because there are 18 soldiers (other than my own) who have their families depend on me to be their link to them during this deployment. Their parents, their spouses, their children, their fiancees, all have my information if they need me. I do not, for a moment, take that responsibility lightly.
I check to see if any questions have come up and I answer them quickly through an email if appropriate or a phone call depending on the time and taking into account the four different time zones there are family members in. This will bring me into perhaps one of the most important things for a Military Wife to remember…
Reach Out for Support
We cannot get through this alone. Okay fine, you can, if you want to be mediocre, if you want to just make it through and if you want to burn out somewhere down the line. But to be a strong support to my soldier, to be a good mother to our children, to take care of myself, I need to recognize that support is nothing but good.
I can only speak for the Army as far as personal experience, but there are so many incredible resources at our disposal during deployments. There are so many people who can help along the way — to do the simple things or to manage the hard things.
Every Army post has an MWR and ACS building/center that can be a major life-line for a military spouse. Use them! I cannot stress this enough. Any welcome center on a military installation can direct you to this building or center and when you enter you will find a plethora of information and people to help you to understand it. (Army OneSource is the online version).
This is also a great way to know what amazing free shows, deals and events are being offered for military families in your area. My children saw Disney on Ice: Toy Story 3 free because of information like this! You won’t know about it if you don’t reach out.
Set a Goal
Deadlines make everything go by so much faster and to have a deadline for something other than when your soldier will return home keeps your mind focused on other things. Many women run marathons, begin blogging, go back to school or volunteer.
To volunteer in the military community has been one of the most fulfilling things in my life. To support those in the same situation and to find support in them does nothing but strengthen the spirit.
Make Time Everyday for Daddy
My children have so many reminders of their Daddy. We aren’t able to Skype right now, so my husband has not seen our boys in about two months. But our boys have a Hallmark book that holds his voice, video recordings of him reading stories, a doll that is a likeness of him and each has a stuffed animal with his voice telling him goodnight.
Everyday we go through pictures, watch videos, talk about him and keep him present. This may be one of the most difficult things to juggle. We are like single parents when our soldiers are away — but at the same time we aren’t.
We are constantly trying to keep our soldiers part of their children’s lives and it can be so stressful. As a friend pointed out, it can make it difficult to enjoy the moments they are missing because we are constantly videoing, snapping pictures, taking notes and trying to keep them up-to-speed.
Let Him Know About Today
Each night I email my soldier with what went on that day and what amazing things are children did. I try to describe it as best as I can for him. This is a double-edged sword: I know he wants to know these things so very much but I also know how much it hurts him to know that he is missing these moments.
My son has crawled, sat up, pulled up and began to try to walk; when my soldier left he was rolling. When he returns, my son will be running.
I tell him about myself, too: what I did, what I hoped to do the next day. I also tell him how much I love him and how proud I am. I do this each day and I will continue to.
Make Time for You
I said how important and stressful it is to keep “daddy” present everyday. But it can be so very tiring, and it is so easy to get caught up in it. So everyday, when you put your children down to sleep, when the world has slowed for a moment, take that instant and breathe.
I write to my boys or I simply sit still. It is amazing the amount of emotions that run through the body if we sit still for a moment when they are gone. And I still say to take that moment and feel it. I do not think we should wallow in our heartache but I do think we should acknowledge it. To be present in it for a time is healthy, to overcome it is empowering. To hurt when they are gone does not make us weak, but to only hurt when they are gone will make us broken.
Read a book, find a blog of a military wife who lets you know that we all feel how you feel. We all hurt how you hurt. We all fear what you fear. Be empowered by the strength that exists within the band of sisters that surround you. Reboot. Recharge. Relax! You cannot be Mommy and Daddy everyday if you don’t.
I love this life. I miss my husband but I am so very proud of him. I want our children to be proud of him, too. If they see me sulk while their daddy is away, if they grow up with that image in their head, they will only remember that. They will not remember the pride, the love and the support.
I want them to understand the importance of his job as they age. I have to set the example by my actions as they grow. What our young children think of their fathers rests on our shoulders. There is so much we should do, everyday, to make sure that image is the same thing we see.
Stay strong. Stay committed. Persevere!