Kids with the stomach flu, car with a flat tire, and no groceries in the house? Must mean your spouse is deployed! We caught up with a deployment pro, Dolores Killeen, while her husband gears up for another deployment. Dolores, a mother of two and triathlete, shared some tips and tricks with our readers before a six-month venture into the demanding, stressful period where she is both mom and dad to their 9 and 8 year olds sons. An Air Force spouse for 11 years and seasoned deployment veteran after another six month deployment along with countless TDYs, Dolores sheds some light on her motivation for staying positive, focused and active during her spouse’s deployment.
How do you prepare for your spouse’s deployments?
I am not really sure there is anyway to truly prepare for a deployment besides checking off the boxes of getting all your paperwork in order and preparing power of attorney. No matter how much you prepare, you are never really ready when the garage door breaks, the barbecue explodes and your kids get food poisoning all in the same week when you are a single parent! We try our hardest just to have the paper work in order and then grin and bear it through all of the other unexpected Murphy’s Law-type events that will take place! Anything that can wrong, will go wrong.
How do you prepare your children?
When they were younger it seemed easier because we really didn’t talk about it much except that “daddy was going bye-bye.” Now that they are older and really understand what is going on and where their dad is going it seems a bit trickier. Military kids are resilient, and I believe in not “over-talking” about the topic. They just want to know when dad is leaving and when he is coming back and how many extra chores they will acquire! My oldest seems to be taking pride in being the man of the house when dad is gone and taking care of his mama and little brother!
When you’re in the middle of a deployment, how do you keep yourself occupied?
Ha! Staying occupied is not a problem in our house! My boys are very active in tennis, football, and baseball. If I am not playing taxi cab to our boys then you will find me working at our local running store, volunteering at their school or lacing up my shoes and RUNNING. The question would be a lot harder to answer if it was “how do you relax during the deployment?”
Do you rely mostly on friends, family, or other military spouses for support?
Supportive friends are the key in surviving a deployment and just surviving our crazy military life in general. Most of my friends are military wives–it seems we just get each other on a different level, we have a common bond! I would love to rely on family support but being that my closest family member is 1,500 miles away my friends become my family! Friends are always around when I have a sick kid and the other needs to go to school, or just listen to me have a breakdown and offer me a glass of wine!
How do you keep morale up for your boys? Do they understand what their father is doing/where he’s going?
Military life is all our boys know so morale isn’t tough to keep up. They really do know that their dad and most of their friends’ dads are the true definition of a hero. They don’t need to look up to rock stars or ball players because they have a neighborhood full of heroes. I try to keep them away from the news while their dad is gone but if they happen to hear something that is going on over there, we have an open door policy on questions. I will never lie to them, I will just comfort them and assure them that their father is doing all he can to come home to us!
How do you keep your own morale up?
It’s easy to let your own needs slip through the cracks while being mom and dad. My boys are in school full time so I get plenty of time to run/bike/swim. My husband is also putting up a mock cross fit gym in our garage so I can get my strength workouts in at home which, in the end, keeps my mental strength going.
What is the hardest part of deployments for you?
The evenings are hard. When the boys are off in bed and I just want to curl up on the couch next to my best friend and talk to him about my day–that’s when it hits me the hardest.
What is the hardest part of deployments for your children?
I think for my boys it’s the little things. The tuck-ins at night with their special hand shake and kisses, watching sports on tv and family movie nights. The big events like holidays seem to go well for the kids since family comes in and I over compensate for their dad being gone.
What is the hardest part of deployments for your spouse?
My husband is a very hands on dad, he misses just about everything. From teaching them things to discipline and enjoying their accomplishments in school and sports. He loves hearing things that are going on but I know inside it eats him up that he isn’t there along side them.
What, if any, is the best part of a deployment for you? For your children? For your spouse?
For me, it’s the homecoming…. just thinking about it gives me chills, it’s the most amazing feeling in the world to see your husband get off that plane for the first time and feel him embracing all three of us in his arms. I think, for my husband, it’s a sense of pride in knowing that his family can function without him. I know that sounds sad to say but in a man’s eyes its nice to know that your wife and kids can do it ALL solo! The boys love the presents that dad (aka mom) sends them every month just so they know he is thinking of them (I usually just pick up stuff at a store and then my husband mails a card to go with it).
What advice would you give to other spouses gearing up for a deployment?
Don’t keep thinking about the “what if’s”; you have no control of what is going to take place during the deployment on his end or yours. Just embrace each obstacle if and when it comes.
How do you (or how will you) celebrate the end of your spouse’s deployment?
Last time we were living in Arizona so we drove to California and spent time at Disneyland and Legoland. Then we sent the kids to my parents in California and stayed at a bed and breakfast near where we were married. This time I am not sure because when he gets back we will be gearing up for a PCS. I would like to take a week and go on a cruise or an all inclusive family vacation and unplug from life and get to know the four of us as a family again.
What tips can you give to spouses to make the transition from a two-parent home to a one-parent home during a deployment?
Line up your friends for help and babysitters if needed. You will always find yourself in a jam where you could use another adult for help so make sure you have someone that is always willing to help out. Also, take time for yourself, it’s so hard doing it ALL. And let the small stuff go, it will still be there. Outsource…if you need to hire a yard guy or a house keeper don’t be afraid to!
Do you have any organizational tips to simplify your life as a “single parent”?
I am the queen of organization even when my husband isn’t deployed. I meal plan on the weekends and prep meals so that when we are crazy busy during the week we can still eat healthy. At night I even prep my kids breakfast in the morning and pack lunches. My advice would be take each week at a time, have a plan, and attack it. I look out our monthly calendar and line everything up so that it goes smoothly–or at least try to make it to go smoothly.
How do you stay motivated during a deployment?
My boys are my motivation. Military kids are amazing, they endure so much in their lives while living at home those 18 years, more then anyone can imagine. They will say goodbye to more friends in 18 years then the average person does in a lifetime. So when I have a day where I want to throw myself on the floor and pitch a fit, I just think of them!