Friday, March 11, 2011

Support Systems Are Crucial

When I look back at the 2 deployments I went through with my husband in the Army Reserves, I think of how it would have been easier if I was near my family or had lived on or near a military base. That is one of the disadvantages of being a reservist's wife. You aren't living on or near a military base. You lack the support system and community of other spouses that are experiences and coping with the same things are you.

One of the biggest problems I had was trying to establish a support system when my husband was deployed. I live about 5 hours away from all of my family members and most of my friends work full time. I'm not able to rely on anyone but myself.

During the first deployment, I only had to look after myself. I was going to school full-time and that kept me busy. There was still a need I needed to fulfill. The need of wanting to be around people that understood my situation. Luckily for me, my husband's reserve unit was only about an hour away. I had linked up with the family readiness group (family support group). I even became the treasurer of the group and handled their finances. It helped to keep me busy. We made care packages and had fundraisers a couple times a month. The men and women associated with the Family Readiness/Support group were wonderful individuals. Some were the spouses and others were the parents of a soldier that was deployed with my husband. It was so helpful and kept me from sinking into a depression.

The second deployment was different. I had 2 children to care for. I had to quit my job because daycare was going to run us $300 per week. I would probably only be bringing home less than that, so I decided that I would stay home. It's traumatic enough for a 5 month old and a 3 year old to understand let alone cope with one parent being gone for a year or more. The last thing they need is for the other parent to barely be around. So I decided to stay home and be a full time mom to my little ones.

I have never regretting that decision. I'm so happy I was there for them when they needed me the most. Yes, it was difficult.  I was literally living the life of a single mom and being their "everything". I learned to mow the grass, take care of the yard, and use various power tools. These are the things that my husband usually did around the house, but they became my job when he left.

Still, during that second deployment I still started out with no real support system. My friends worked full-time and my family still lived 5 hours away. My husband had been cross-leveled to a unit in Alabama and we live in Florida, so The Family Readiness Group was out of the question. I had no babysitters and no mommy friends that I could hang out with and confide in. So, I went searching on the internet for some places in which I could find support. I first typed in Military Support Group and surprisingly enough, my local military support group came up.

Here's the link for the Military Support Group of Alachua County (in North Central Florida)

They are an amazing group and they send out about 150 care packages a month to the soldiers that are deployed.

Next, I needed some adult interaction. I love my kids so much. There is nothing I wouldn't do for them, but I need some adult conversation every now and again. Since I didn't have a babysitter, I had to bring them with me. There was no way I could find someone to watch my kids while I went out with my friends. So again I searched on the internet and found another amazing group for my local area, Alachua County Mamas. At the time they had about 150 moms plus their kids.

Here's the link:

They had a play date almost everyday of the week. We participated in tons of them and the kids loved it. We really looked forward to every event. Plus, the cost to join was so inexpensive.

It would have been nice to be near my family during these deployments, but current circumstances prevented it. You get so little time when you find out you or your spouse is getting deployed that there is barely enough time to prepare. So you sometimes need to stay put, but one thing you don't have to settle with is being alone. There are a lot of people out there that are going through the same thing you are and can help. Search the internet for your local area and see what you can find!

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