Things To Do During Deployments
I am by no means an expert in coping with deployments, but over the past eight years I have learned some tips and tricks that help me manage. To clarify, I started out my army spouse journey without kids and have now had two along the way so I can share tips for both situations.
Get a Pet
If you like animals and don’t already have a pet – get one! I got a puppy just before my husband left for his first deployment. It filled a lot of my free time and got me out on hikes, to parks, and dog-friendly restaurants throughout the deployment! I was in a new city and making adult friendships is HARD so anything that helps get you out and about is so helpful!
Gym Membership / Exercise Routine
Get a gym membership. You may not get gung-ho about working out but it is a social place that you can go to and decompress. Whether that’s just jumping on the treadmill (my go-to) or doing a full circuit workout and relaxing in the sauna after is a way to fill excess time that you would normally spend with your significant other S.O. See how I maintain this now with kids below.
DIY / Design
House projects! I re-tiled our fireplace during our first deployment. It was a PROJECT and one that I had never done before. But, it helped me mentally and physically do something productive. I love DIYing and it is satisfying once you are done. I learned a TON during the process that I ended up getting to teach my husband at our next house when we retiled that fireplace. It was stressful but it gave me a purpose, direction, and killed a lot of time when I would get home from the office.
Get a job! I worked full-time at a doctor’s office as a receptionist while I was waiting to get my MCAT results and decide if I truly wanted to pursue my MD (in the end I decided against it. I will publish a post about this later.) Whether you want to work full-time or just part-time, a job will help you establish your independence, particularly when you have a lot of free time during deployments if you don’t have kids or if all of them are in school already!. Also, and most importantly, it can help you make friends outside of the military! I love my military family, we are very close even with the attrition on my husband’s team, but having a separate group of people to interact with helps you escape the army bubble and get involved in more activities!
Try out new things! You have so much free time, especially without kids. Try not to sit around watching Netflix with all of it. Try gardening, painting/drawing, woodworking, photography, DIY, crafting, scrapbooking…even blogging!
Standing Weekly / Monthly Get Togethers
It is arguably so much harder to find extra time when you have kids during a deployment. You literally never get a break. Even as a working-mom, I find it hard to find time to do even the little things, and activities just take that much longer because you are doing everything. Changing all of the diapers, getting everyone dressed, packing the diaper bag with diapers, wipes, bottles, snacks, drinks, toys…the list goes on. BUT, what I have done for the past couple of deployments is create a standing “pizza night” with my girlfriend whose husband is also on the same schedule as mine. So the guys deploy together and then we get together every Friday night with our kids and hang out, have a cocktail and eat pizza. We both look forward to it and it helps set us off for the weekend.
Also, my husband is on a team of roughly twelve so we have a small group of ladies to hold get togethers. Typically, during deployments we plan to get together as a larger group with all of our kids about once a month. It helps us all feel a little sane, share information (everyone hears something different usually) and get support with anything you need! So many of the amazing women I have had the pleasure of knowing through this have been so helpful if I need a sitter for a bit, someone to vent to, plan playdates, and we all try to return the favors when we can.
Church / Weekend Activity
Depending on the time of year the deployment is during (our deployments are only 6 months) filling weekend spaces can be difficult. I try to bring the kids to church every Sunday. That is something that gets us out of the house and is our main activity for the day (sad but true). Taking two under 2 to church by yourself is hard, but the community is typically so amazing and helpful/understanding that you feel an overwhelming sense of support. We don’t make it every week, sometimes naps just aren’t aligning with mass times and inevitably, you will be in survival mode for most of the deployment. Give yourself grace with what mentally makes you feel better. If you can make it one week but don’t make it for 5 months after that, I think that is absolutely okay. Solo parenting is HARD! You can’t always do it all, but taking some time to reflect on what you’re grateful for, maybe read a passage out of the bible, or even listening to a self-growth podcast if religion isn’t your thing! You can find some comfort in feeling like you reflected on yourself, others, your family, as well as things that you are in control of and things you are not.
While I was pregnant during one of our deployments, I took full advantage of lent and set an exercise and reading challenge. I told myself I had to get on the treadmill for a minimum of 20 minutes every day (I also did a 30-day challenge with my SIL and some of her friends to do a 30-day pregnancy workout challenge) or go on a long walk outside, as well as read every day (even if it was just one page!). I ended up enjoying it so much that I have continued to set 30-day challenges or just general challenges for myself whether it is during a deployment or not.
Wat do you do to pass the time during deployments?