My husband and I co-parent well, and we have always been present as a team when it comes to our kids. Our two younger children were born when my husband was in a nondeployable position, and had never experienced a deployment before last year. So when my husband deployed at the beginning of 2020, normal routines were thrown out the window, and I had to compensate for the fact that my husband wasn’t going to be able to be as “hands-on” as he usually is. This meant forming new routines, everything from school prep to bedtime. Improvise, adapt, overcome, amirite?
The kids ended up adjusting even better to the new routines that I came up with while my husband was away. So when my husband came back later that year, he was thrown for a loop – and so were the kids. Without knowing it, he ended up disrupting every routine that they had gotten used to over the time he was gone. This made reintegration difficult, to say the least, and we had to go back to square one.
Thankfully, we managed to come together again and implement a routine that worked for us. And now that he’s gone again, we take steps to make sure he stays involved with as many aspects of parenting as possible. Here are some ways to help your deployed spouse stay involved in family life while they are away:
- Shared documents. I have a Google drive folder that I share with my husband while he’s deployed. It has new activity schedules, medications the kids take and when, and I even include a breakdown of the “new” daily routines I come up with while he’s away. If a change is made, it goes in the folder. This can be time consuming, but having everything in one spot that he can access to keep up with what we are doing – and what to expect when he gets home.
- Each child gets “their time” with Daddy. Thank goodness for today’s technology allowing us to stay in touch while my husband is deployed! Every time my husband calls, each child is allotted their own time to talk to their dad. This time depends on how often he calls and how long he can talk, but we let each child talk to him for at least ten minutes each (and more if needed, of course). This allows the kids to feel more connected with their dad and for them to share whatever they feel is important with him, so he doesn’t feel like he’s missing as much of their lives while he’s away. The kids also have Kid’s Messenger (which I closely monitor!) downloaded on their phones/tablets so that they can send their dad pictures, messages, and videos whenever they like.
- Daddy care packages. My husband came up with this brilliant idea this last deployment to give the kids something to look forward to each month he is away. He set up subscriptions to boxes of things each child likes, and he has them sent to them while he’s away. Everytime they receive their presents, they are reminded that it’s another month closer to daddy coming home – and most importantly, that he’s thinking of them.
- “Kisses” from Daddy. Every night before bedtime routines, each of our children gets a Hershey’s kiss as a “kiss from Daddy.” It’s a simple and fun way to let the kids know their daddy loves them – and counting down the kisses can double as a deployment countdown!
- Mommy/Daddy Only check-ins. My husband and I make it a point to set aside some time over FaceTime or Skype to discuss my week with the kids. If I have tried something new, I tell him. If something happened, we discuss it and I tell him how I dealt with it. If he has any opinions on what to do “next time”, he discusses it with me. This keeps him involved in the process of discipline and action and allows him a safe space to give me some insight into what he would do in the situation, too. These “check ins” are all about ensuring that we remain united as a team when it comes to the kids.