What Happens After Deployment: Life as a Military Mom

There are somethings to be said about becoming a mother when you are an active duty soldier.  You are excited and blessed.  Then you realize you will miss out on things because of your required duties.  You may miss some of your child’s milestones, learning to walk, their first words, birthdays and holiday’s.   There is always a lot of explaining to do when you have to go away for any extended amount of time.  When you return home you have to try to fit back into their daily routines.

Nothing about being a mom is easy.  No one said it would be.  To this day my youngest still clings to me when I go out of the house even if it’s just to the store.  He was just 2 when I deployed to Afghanistan for a year.  One can not explain the emotions you feel when you leave your child at such a crucial stage in development.  My oldest was just about to start school.  I remember when I came home she was very excited to see me and it was if time stood still in her mind until I returned.  But, for my son….he took a bit to warm back up to me.  He was mad that I left him.  I was crushed.

AFTER DEPLOYMENT THREE YEARS LATER: VETERAN MOM

tumblr_m6upyvY0Zh1rxphcxo1_500-200x300Even though I have been retired from the Army for almost 2 years now.  The memories of my time in the Army and deployment still affect me.  I know they still affect my children.  I wouldn’t trade the knowledge and experiences I learned in the Army, but I would have loved to be with my kids and husband more. There is something about learning who your family is again after a deployment.

People say war and military life changes people.  I would have to agree.  There is still a piece of me that I am working to get back after all of that.  I don’t like to talk about my service so much because of the painful memories but, then I realize that getting it out and not holding it in is the path to healing.

I may not have been on the front lines like my brothers in Arms but, I saw somethings and experienced things that I would really like to erase from my memories.  I would love to be able to go to a store on a busy day and not feel anxious.  I would love to be able to drive at night without thinking something is going to happen.  I would love to feel more attached to people and not detached from things that I used to enjoy. I would like to sleep soundly and not have dreams that wake me up.  These are all things I am working on, on a daily basis.

What do the things above have to do with being a Mom?  These are things that most Mom’s don’t have to even think about.  It’s really hard explaining to your kids why you don’t want to go to events that have a lot of people in them.  Or why you are so tired.  Fake it till you make it…doesn’t really work as a Mother.  You have to be strong for your kids to help them develop into great adults.  Encourage them to do what they want to do, even if it doesn’t line up with what you want.  Listen to them.  For your absence affected them more than you could ever imagine.  My daughter got so used to me sending her gifts when I was deployed that when I returned that is how she associated that I loved her.  Explaining to a 6 year old (at the time) that Mommy loves you even when I don’t buy you things…was not an easy task.   My youngest took 2 whole days before he would let me hold and cuddle him.  Now 3 years later…he has separation anxiety so bad that he throws huge fits when I leave him.  Explaining to a child that don’t worry mommy will never leave you again is easier said than done.

REMEMBER YOU ARE NOT ALONE: MOM

The biggest thing I can say is don’t try to do everything yourself.  Stop and ask for help from your spouse, your immediate family and closest friends.

Here are 4 things you can do to help you move on:

1) Don’t internalize your feelings– If you can’t talk to your loved ones just yet about your experiences or feeling.  Talk to a counselor.  Yes do it.  I don’t know what it is about talking to an impartial party about what you are going through that really helps the healing process.  If you are veteran contact your local Vet Center for Free counseling services. If still active duty get a referral from your PCM (primary care manager) to talk to a Behavioral Health Counselor.

2) Get out and do things that scare the crud out of you– Now I am not talking doing risky things. But, go to the store at peak times once in awhile.  Go to an event that has more than 20 people at it.  Work on addressing the things that bother you whatever they may be. Baby steps…do one thing a week that you have been avoiding.

3) Talk to your Kids about their feelings– This may be a given. But, at least once a week talk to  your kids about the time Mommy was away and ask them how they felt.  This will address any anxiety about their experience and you then can work on healing together. Let them know that their feelings matter.

4) Have Date Night With Your Spouse– Now, I didn’t address this much in the post but, learning how your spouse is doing after your absence is just as important.  You lost time with them that you can never take back as well.  And I know from my experience it’s like learning who they are all over again.  Be supportive because they went through a time that they had ups and downs and missed you like crazy.  Being sensitive to their needs is just as important as your own. Having a healthy marriage is important for your kids just as it is important for you.

Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive.

~Jamais Cascio

With anything in life and being a parent it’s not going to be easy.  But, learning that you can come back and be resilient in the face of adversity is crucial to your recovery of the emotions that control you.

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