My day started with accidentally killing a chicken while moving the chicken tractor. Moving the chicken tractor is a two-person job, but there is only me and I make do. This morning, however, I made death. I didn’t realize I had a chicken trapped until I had already snapped its neck. Lovely.
This is what it is to be the one at home when a spouse is deployed. You’re alone. Every task falls on your shoulders, all of the grocery shopping and bill paying and car maintenance and parenting and disciplining and lawn mowing and weeding and decision making and cooking and fence moving and illnesses and emergencies and chores and trips to the vet and school events and driving kids around and everything, just everything… It is all you, all the time, and at the end of the day, there’s no hug. If you’re me, there’s usually a glass of wine or two to take the edge off the loneliness and fatigue, but I’d rather have a hug.
I have been wanting to write this post about deployment all summer but haven’t been quite sure how to go about it. The dead chicken brought it about.
The purpose of this post is not to whine, although it might come across that way. No, the purpose of what I am about to say is to raise awareness, because unless you’ve been on the home side of a deployment, there’s no way of knowing what it is like, and it is imperative that you do, because your troops can’t really do their jobs unless they are sure their families at home are okay. And deployments aren’t going to end any time soon. For all I know, they could increase, leaving more families at home with only one parent.
What it’s like to have your spouse gone
A deployment is a unique kind of loneliness for the one at home, in part because every task falls on your shoulders and you are obviously alone, but also because you can’t turn to your spouse for support. He or she is busy with other things, plus when you do communicate, you’re dealing with a time difference that means one of you is at the end of your day and tired. Most importantly, you can’t go to your spouse because they will only feel helpless knowing they can’t help with the lame dog, the truck that won’t start or the flooded basement (all things that have happened to me so far this deployment). They don’t need to feel helpless. They need to be focused on their jobs and their safety.
How can you help?
You can’t do anything about the loneliness, but you can make the deployment easier to bear for both the soldier and the spouse. If you know of a family with a deployed spouse, please consider reaching out to them with more than a “How’s so and so?” Military people are a proud bunch. They won’t ask for help. They will (pardon the pun) soldier on because it’s that kind of toughness that’s required to survive, whether you’re the one boots on the ground in the Middle East or the one who’s boots on the ground at home.
It can be really easy to make it easier for the one at home. I’m not asking you to volunteer 5 hours a week of your time, or anything. Just take 2 hours during the 6 or 12 month deployment, just once, to show support. Here are some ideas:
- Bring over a pizza to give the person a night off from cooking.
- Drop off some home-made cookies.
- Offer to mow the lawn.
- Run an errand for him or her, or pick up the kids from practice one day.
- Ask if there’s anything they need or anything you can do. Don’t worry. They will probably say “no” out of pride, but it will mean the world that you offered.
- Pray for the one deployed and don’t stop praying. (Pray for our leaders too, and for all of the troops overseas!)
- Ask how the one at home is doing. In many ways, it is harder to be the one at home. People will say, “How’s Bob?” but rarely “How’s Sharon?” when ironically Bob is doing better than Sharon. 🙂
- Offer up hugs. Hugs are necessary for everyone’s emotional and physical well being, especially when times are tougher. The good feelings from just one hug can last all day on a really bad day!
Think if everyone did just one small thing for the family at home, how supportive that would be!
The military people are good about checking on each other because they know what it is like, but we need to raise awareness among everyone else in order to really support our troops. I heard from a military friend whose family has been through multiple deployments that during one deployment not a single person checked on their family or asked how they were. That is shameful. That is like pretending nothing is different when everything is. Remember, it’s not just that you’re alone with all of the responsibilities on your shoulders. You’re also living in constant dread of what could happen while he or she is gone, listening to the news, hoping the president doesn’t bomb Syria, hoping nothing goes horribly wrong until your spouse is safely home.
If you really want to support your troops, support the ones at home. When our deployed soldiers can know all is okay at home, they can focus on their jobs. And they are doing one of the most important jobs: Protecting you, your freedom and your way of life!
Meanwhile at the farm
The dead chicken just sucks. It was horrible to realize what I’d done–causing an animal to suffer pain and fear–plus it bothers me that all the money spent on food and time spent moving that tractor around and keep them dry and warm, well, I just lost us money to boot.
Now, if I were a real farmer, I’d have cleaned up that chicken and plucked it and cooked it. But I don’t know how to clean it. Bob always does that part, and I only do the plucking and final cleaning. Nor do I have time to figure it out, because–as this post says earlier–everything is on my shoulders and I simply don’t have time.
At least it was fairly quick and it didn’t suffer too horribly long. I cried for far longer than the chicken suffered. And I apologize if this comes across as a whiney post and not the awareness raising one I was hoping to write. I am just too spent to not whine, I guess. 🙂
Thanks so much for being so transparent. It lends to more specificity in my prayers and also in my interactions with those in your situation. I also love to hear your heartfelt expressions on life as one and recognizing that you just can’t do it all, which is sometimes really hard to admit and be okay with. I love you even more for your lamentation over the chicken. 🙂
Ah, April, you are so sweet, my Prayer Warrior friend!! And the chicken…Bob called while I was writing that post and he says cheerily, “How are you?” and I just started bawling on the phone about the chicken. But him? He’s the better farmer. He’s all matter of fact about it while I’m guilt ridden LOL! 🙂
I happened upon your post thanks to Facebook’s “look at all the things your friends are liking” feature. (Not that I usually snoop at it, but for some reason this time I did. And I’m so glad!) For the past many months, my husband has been working pretty much from sunrise to sunset while I stay home caring for the farm, the kids, and all that comes with it. I thought I had the market on feeling isolated and on my own trying to take care of it all. Having read your post, I’m honestly ashamed for every time I’ve whined about it. I wish I could bring you some homemade cookies, or give you a night off from cooking. I know how much those would mean to me, too. But most of all, I wish I could give you that hug, and that offer to help even if you did turn me down. I have the utmost respect for what you and your husband are doing. Thank you for sharing this. I pray for our troops. I’m praying for their spouses now, too.
Ah, Wendy! You made me cry…again…but in a good way. 🙂 Do not be ashamed of having whined! I already own that shame. I think I have a market on it! I have joked that if whining or worrying were Olympic sports, I’d have a gold medal! You are so very sweet and I am sorry for your burden too, and I’d take you cookies if I could. Thank you for your prayers for our troops and their spouses both. You’re an angel.
This is my first time visiting, but I’m a farm girl who mostly does things alone too, although I do have my husband at the end of the day. Your post really struck a chord with me. Thank you for the sacrifices you and your husband make for all of us. I wish I could offer more concrete help, but just know that you are not alone, and you’re appreciated. 🙂
Coco, sweet and encouraging notes go a long ways, thank you! Just keep your ears and eyes open for a military family in your area who could maybe use a plate of cookies. That’s doing lots! 🙂
Not the least bit whiney. You have come across as an amazing, independent, caring woman that just could do with a hug and a friendly ear from time to time. I understand the need to remind people the remember to ask how you are doing once in a while. It’s not that you are being forever needy, it’s just that every now and then you do need someone to ask how you are going and if thee is anything they can do to help. And to just sit and listen to you when you do have one of those rare days everything has just gotten the better of you.
Love and hugs to you I hope this message finds you on a better day. If not, will a virtual hug help?
Ah, JoAnne, you are kind! Thank you!
Hang in there. It sounds like you have a real handle on things, even though some times you are not so sure. I can vaguely relate as I was a single mom for a while, but I did not have anyone to miss like you do. Praying for all. 😀
Thanks, Mary! All prayers for all deployed (and families) accepted all the time. 🙂
Thanks for sharing and for the enlightenment. We don’t personally know anyone who has a deployed spouse but we often think about how hard that must be for military families. Thank you BOTH for your service to our country! I can relate to having a chicken killed as our dog killed one, but it was totally our fault. I have been a single mom and understand that if you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. But I still can’t even imagine all that you have resting on your shoulders My hubby and were apart for just two months three years ago while transitioning back home to Texas from Colorado. A big part of us moving back was to be near family again (his, as I don’t have any anymore). I tell you that was the most miserable two months! I came home and cried every Friday night. And the close by family? Didn’t call me once or invite me over. So I have the tiniest inkling how alone you can feel. Again, thank you both for your service and I would hug you, bring supper, hand over some chocolates and pop the next cork and start pouring for you if I could!!
Cheryl, I am glad you were enlightened! That was my goal. You might not know anyone now, but might in the future who could use some support. 🙂 I have fought a battle even at our church when trying to raise awareness. So thank you! I am sorry about the family not reaching out to you when you were alone. I don’t get that, but in a way I think it’s a sign of the times, how isolated we are from each other in modern day society. And what a sweet thought, the supper, chocolates and cork popping, thank you!! 🙂
I will pray for you– I have 3 military children and a mil son in law. And I also have a little urban “farm” (ish, thing) with chickens in the backyard. I learned to butcher chickens watching Joel Saladin do it on Youtube on my phone while yelling “Pause it, right there!!” Many hugs and prayers. <3
Amy, I will pray for your family right back! And you are heads above me on the chicken thing (and cracking me up with the visual of you yelling at your phone LOL!). I left that up to Bob to learn how to do. Now I realize I needed to learn too. I just pray he comes home safe and sound so he can do the butchering from now on. 🙂 Thank you for the hugs and prayers, and for the record, Joel Salatin is my farming hero!!
Dear Sharon, I hate to admit that I am one of those friends that have not asked how you are! Nor Bob and not your daughter and step son if I remember right. My brain is on vacation. ; ) I am so sorry you had to take care of your poor chicken all by yourself. I want to thank you for helping remind me that I’m not the ONLY one. Prayers to you and yours always. Love, Mona PS- love ready about you.
Oh, Mona, I am just trying to raise awareness among people about military families, that is all. 🙂 Love you!
Thank you for sharing. Our prayers are for you: those who serve and those who wait.
Thank you, Georgina!
Sharon – I am sending you the biggest hug right now. I so appreciate you sharing what it’s really like for deployed families. Those of us that haven’t experienced that just don’t know. We know you’re lonely but I don’t think we can truly feel the weight of each day. I love that you offered ideas that on the surface seem so simple. But…deep down, they are truly a thing that will get someone through another day. You’re right that we can’t fix the lonely part, but we can sure help folks know they’re not alone! You are NOT alone.
Mavis, got your hug, thank you. 🙂
as a grown adult “navy brat” who remembers deployment from the perspective of a child, thank you!
People need to “gut get” what support looks/feels/sounds like – remembering that supporting the adults is supporting the children. And really know their groups (teachers, scout leaders, coaches, team parents, etc.) so they can avoid inadvertently adding to the pressures.
And as a deeply pro-indenpendent food sourcing advocate – right on, lady!
Peg, thank you for validating the post! I am glad it was right on! 🙂