It might seem strange to have the words deployment and happy in the same sentence. However, when the holidays are involved, strategies need to be put in place to ensure you make the most of them.
Living through a deployment right now, I have discovered that how the deployment is going depends on the following:
- a) where you are in the deployment cycle and
- b) your state of mind.
I have had the opportunity to experience three Christmases where I was ringmaster for the holidays, while my husband was deployed. The first one was a disaster. I was alone in a city with no family. For the second, I had my in-laws stay with us, and it was good and busy. I had help as my in-laws cooked and helped with the kids. The most recent Christmas deployment I kept it simple, hence, the decorate your home in six simple steps article (read it here). However, that being said I was up til 5 a.m. on Christmas Eve wrapping gifts.
Experience has taught me that this part of the deployment cycle could break my marriage. Emotions can run high as the days dwindle away before deployment day approaches. As a couple, we have had huge fights over the most minor things during this time. Here are some tips to avoid conflict as you prepare for deployment.
Slow Down: The holidays are a busy time, so make sure you take time to slow down and spend time as a couple. That being said, try to be flexible and not rigid. I know – it is a big ask, especially being military.
Be Patient: As Daisaku Ikeda writes, “with love and patience, nothing is impossible.” So, while there may be a feeling of frustration over the impending deployment, be patient with each other and acknowledge how you are feeling.
Be Healthy: Make sure you take care of yourself. While the holidays are busy with lots of treats and sweets, take care of yourself. Getting enough sleep and being active are two great stress-busters.
Try to Laugh: When life seems unbearable, try to laugh about it. Bouts of laughter can boost the immune system, relax muscles, lower anxiety, release tension, strengthen relationships and defuse conflict, allowing people to operate as a team successfully.
When your spouse is deployed
For me, the first two months (July and August) of the current deployment were brutal, and the next two (September and October) were bearable, with fleeting moments of joy. And as I prepare for the last two months, the finish line is insight. So, here are some tips to get you through celebrating the holidays on your own.
Know your limits: Try not to tackle too much. You can burn out, and life can be difficult if you are not in a good space. Not knowing my limits is my Achilles tendon. I always take on too much. Just don’t do that!
Keep up your family traditions: However, keep them manageable
Pinterest holiday not needed: You do not need a Pinterest holiday. Kids remember good times. Good food and good laughs make pleasant memories.
Team up: Do you have a deployment buddy to celebrate the holidays with? Having a fireteam partner or wingman is always a great way to make the holidays pass by quickly, especially with another military family, because they understand what you are going through.
Say YES: When invited to Christmas parties, say yes and go. Remember, you don’t need to do the dishes or clean up after everyone. All you need to do is show up.
Give back: Donate toys and clothes to toy drives, community shelters, or charities in your area.
Hosting an event: If you decide to host an event, why not have it catered or make it a potluck? On the other hand, if you are fixed on doing it on your own, why not prepare and freeze your food? Then on the day of, just heat or reheat and serve.
Volunteer: If your kids are older and you are a “deployment veteran,” why not volunteer at your spouse’s unit or local Military Family Resource Centre?
Also, check out this article, 7 Strategies to Ensure You Enjoy the Holidays.
Integrating as a family over the holidays may take some time. All family, all the time may be overwhelming for everyone involved, and again, patience and understanding may be the key to a successful reintegration.
Be open and honest:
- Make sure you keep the lines of communication open with each other.
- If attending functions or family events, consider having a code word to let each other know when one of you is ready to leave.
- Try to avoid being people pleasers and be honest and understanding with each other.
Spend time together: Spend time as a family doing family activities. Sitting down and planning activities and putting them into a calendar, so everyone is on the same page is a great way to avoid confusion for everyone involved.
Resist criticism: Avoid the temptation to criticize each other. Whether it is the way one spouse shoveled the snow or the other spouse puts dishes away in the wrong place, there is no need to criticize each other. Instead, aim to work together as a team.
Kids and Christmas cheer: Children may be ramped up at this time of year. With Santa coming, sugary treats everywhere, and a parent home who has been away, children may be running at a higher energy level. Again, be patient with them. This is literally the best time of the year for them.
Whatever state of deployment you are in, remember to be gentle with yourself, try to laugh, even if it is at yourself, and do not over-task yourself. And know that you may need to let go of some things, including your expectations, to enjoy what is in front of you.