1001 Tips for Military Families – Tip #465

Focusing In – Tip # 465

When my husband was away I focused on spending time with my kids.  I became my son’s soccer team manager (had no idea what I was getting myself into but best thing I have done with him), went to my daughter’s practices and swim meets, drove them to school once a week, had sleepovers, took them out on the weekends and just made sure I was present and available.  This seemed to have worked for them (although this did not stop them from missing their Dad and nor was it intended to) but I am writing more about what it did for me.

While I was truly exhausted by this latest deployment, I think it was by far the easiest.  Initially, I had put this down to my kids being older and able to help a little more.   I have since realized there was more to it mainly because having to ask for something to be done 10 times does not make it easier.  Often it was easier to just do it myself and they had more complex thinking, knew more about what was going on in the world and had real life problems with friends, school, etc.

The bottom line is that I learned to focus in on what was important – the kids and making sure I was okay too.  I did this by setting new limits at work, I was honest with friends and family when I couldn’t do things and took care of myself in a way that I hadn’t before.

Lessons Learned:

  • I stopped emailing people after hours and on the weekends whenever possible.  This practice alone reduced my workload by at least 20%
  • I got into a good sleep routine.  There were nights I even went to bed when the kids did!
  • I made family holidays different and relaxing events and reduced our commitments.  We also tried to have different experiences over significant holidays or events to distract a little from the fact that their Dad wasn’t there to enjoy it with us
  • I put away my cell phone, computer and didn’t answer the phone during meal times and after dinner when we were talking and hanging out.  I made us the focus of this time.
  • I never let a day go by without finding something to appreciate or laugh about.  While deployments are hard there are many other things that are much harder.  Overall, we lead a privileged life with a home to come to, food on the table and people that love us.  We looked at the world feeling fortunate and grateful rather than spending a moment of it complaining about what we don’t have.
  • I remained organized throughout the deployment and this really saved my sanity and numerous times it also allowed me to take a nap or have time for myself.  I had a paper copy of a calendar for the family to reference, one on my computer and phone, when I cooked meals I usually made double and froze them for an easy meal the next time, etc.
  • We created fun To Do Lists of 100 things to do by a certain time (see blog about those here: http://wp.me/p10tfJ-Fq  ).  These kept us doing fun things and challenging ourselves but also ensured we had a pyjama day or lazy day thrown in too
  • I missed my not being able to go out as much with friends and having a husband who would take over so that I could go and do my thing but I also discovered that true friends understand. They will also be right there waiting for you when you are done with the crazy deployment!

Doing some or all of these things can really alter the way you approach and how you cope through a deployment.  I am not suggesting that everyone has to give up going out as much (perhaps that is how you unwind) or that you need to always go to bed when your kids do either.  Deployments aren’t fun or relaxing but they can be made a lot easier when you focus on the ‘Big Rocks’.  Stephen Covey has a great video that I often use with teenagers about focusing on what is important but it applies to us all and this deployment I really looked at what my big rocks were.  Here is the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_N_uvq41Pg

For more information about our books, resources and blog go to: www.whileyouwereaway.org

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2 Responses

  1. These are tips that I wish so many would follow. There’s so much unnecessary stress that is caused simply by people feeling obligated to reach beyond their means. I have a military lifestyle blog, so I’m always looking for new talking points and I haven’t come across this one until now. Great post!

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