Thursday, June 17, 2010

Support on the Home Front

My latest Blue Star Families post:
 
Support on the Home Front
 

Last week my in-laws visited to offer some relief from my deployment-induced single parenting duties. I took advantage of every second I had to myself. I practically skipped through the aisles of Wal-Mart as I dropped items into a cart that held no screeching toddler. I lounged in my backyard with my laptop, savoring the silence while my children savored Shrek at the movie theatre. But it wasn’t until I disrobed for my full-body massage that I finally allowed myself to admit how much stress the deployment has been piling on me. And as I felt the knots in my back being kneaded away, I realized that I haven’t been utilizing my support system enough. I can’t get through this deployment on my own.


When I first joined the silent ranks of military spouses, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Our first PSC move went smoothly, and we loved our duty station. My husband worked fairly regular hours and his travel was limited and short. Other than the trip that caused him to almost miss the premature birth of our first child, his military career wasn’t affecting my life a whole lot. Until he got deployed.


Within the first few weeks of the deployment, I got a taste of what being married to the military really meant. I felt I had finally earned my official initiation into the military spouse club. Unfortunately, instead of feeling like a member of a unified club, I felt alone. Besides my family, I had no support system whatsoever. I had no spouse support groups to turn to, and I had only a handful of military friends. My local civilian friends, who couldn’t empathize with what I was going through, gradually stopped calling. As a relatively new military spouse, I wasn’t aware of any organizations that could help me, and I was too overwhelmed and intimidated to seek them out. It was a lonesome, gloomy time for me, and I seriously questioned my ability to sustain this lifestyle for the long term.


Thankfully, this deployment is different. I’m older and more accustomed to military life. Most of my friends are fellow military spouses who can commiserate with my ups and downs and point me in the right direction for support services. I have a widespread support network in cyberspace through blogs and Facebook, as well as organizations like Blue Star Families and Military OneSource. And even though I haven’t attended any family support group outings, at least I know they’re available.


Although I’m more aware of where to seek assistance, my biggest obstacle is learning to use it. I don’t like asking for help. Sure I call my family and close friends when I need to air my grievances about the deployment. But what else am I doing to control my stress levels? I have to remind myself that I can’t wait for family to send in the reinforcements before I take time out for myself. I have reliable baby-sitters. I have free child care at the YMCA while I sweat out the stress. And now I have a magical massage therapist (whose fees I strongly believe should be covered under TRICARE as mental health treatment). There’s nothing wrong with pampering myself every now and then. After all, if I’m frustrated and tense, I can’t effectively do my job as a double duty parent.


As military spouses, we need all the help we can get, especially during deployments. While we’re on the home front supporting our service members, we need to make sure others are supporting us. My husband may be gone, but I know I’m not alone. I finally feel like a member of the elite military spouse club. Now who wants to volunteer to baby-sit so I can book my next massage?


 

14 comments:

  1. You're the second person I've seen write on this topic today. Always good advice.

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  2. Thanks for the great advice!! So glad you got some much needed time alone! A massage sounds fabulous =)

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  3. Now that I have a three week old, learning to ask for help is one of the most important things that I need to. THank you for writing about this, I know if I dont look after myself too Im no use to anyone so I need encouragement from ladies like you!

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  4. This is perfect! I'm in that first stage. still fairly new, trying to wend my way and desperate to find a balance of civilian and military but having zero understanding from the firstly. Its frustrating to say the least but I know when D day comes its going to even harder. Better buck up and learn quick huh? Great post.

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  5. Great post - I am sure many Moms relatively new to military life will benefit from reading this.

    As for your in-laws visit I am glad you got some help and time to treat yourself to a massage!

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  6. Oooh!! Oooh! I do. I do. I wish I lived closer so I could really help out. I'm glad that you got a chance to get a little recovery me-time. And the massage sounds phenomenal. You should totally hire a babysitter and book one at least every other month.

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  7. Well said. we are all guilty of trying to be Super Mom and it is HARD to ask for help- even when it is readily available. It's that whole "I am a strong independent military wife thing and I can do this myself" mentality. I feel bad when I ask for help- though most people are more than happy to help. Good for you to take time to take care of yourself. After all- "If Mamma ain't happy, noone's happy!"
    (Oh and I agree 1000% about massages being covered under Tricare.)

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  8. This was a wonderful post. It is so difficult to ask for help while your spouse is deployed. I dont think my non-military friends understand the loneliness that comes with deployments, or know what to do to help. It is partially because of this that I have made friends with so many military spouses. They can relate to what Im going through and offer support. Like you, I have to remember to ask for it when I need it!

    I too, think massages should be covered under Tricare!

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  9. this was me to an extent - minus kids.

    the first 9 years of Jason's life in the Air Force meant lots of TDY's, but no deployments. For the most part, it was like a civlian sales job :)

    Then, a deployment out of nowhere, and me alone in a location we both hated. Minimal friends, and minimal support.

    I am so glad you got a break! Take your advice to heart and lean a little on your supports, it's ok.

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  10. Just let us know when...

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  11. You are so right! We need all the help we can get and we need to stick together!!! I think once you are able to solidify good relationships with other military wives who share with you thesame feeling with deployments and such, it makes it a whole lot easier.

    I am yet to handle a deployment, but I know when the time comes, I will survive, because of people like you.

    Musings Of An Army Wife

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  12. I mentioned this is my weekly feature!!!

    http://musingsofanarmywife.blogspot.com/2010/06/mil-blog-tours-weekly-feature-of-good_19.html

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  13. i'd say meee ... cept i'm all the waaay over here in the CAribbean.

    As always, thanks for sharing. I'm listening :)

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