I felt so alone and overwhelmed when my husband was deployed. He was suddenly gone and my world changed and I was the solo one in charge of the house, the yard, the kid, the EVERYTHING. We’ve been through several deployments before, but this one was different because we had a child and had recently moved to an older house where something was always in need of fixing. The news hit me like a load of weight on my shoulders that would settle there for the next 10 months.
Friends and family were quick to check on me, ask how I was doing, and offer help “if I needed anything.” Problem was I had no idea what I needed, and I’m terrible at asking for help in the first place. So I asked for nothing, told everyone I was fine, and just pushed through the misery. I figured I’d done this before, I can do it again.
My father passed away this summer and I was so touched by the way friends helped out bringing food and watching my son so I could make travel plans. I realized I do have people around me that are willing to help, but they just had no idea how. Most people have dealt with death before, and they know what to do in that situation. But people have no idea how to help with a deployment. They haven’t been through it, and can’t relate.
I’m now at the end of this deployment, and felt like I barely made it through without losing my mind. So I wanted to share a list of ways you can help a mom friend if their spouse is deployed. It’s hard to admit you need it and ask for help. Don’t wait for them to come to you with something specific. Don’t rely on the standard “Let me know if you need anything.” They won’t tell you they could use help with everything! And maybe not everyone could use everything on this list, but it’s a good reference if you are trying to figure out how to really help out a friend and don’t know where to start.
10 Ways to Help a Mom When Their Spouse is Deployed
1) Bring Food
One of the first things that suffered when my husband left was our dinner routine. I went from making delicious gourmet meals to heating up a frozen waffle for dinner. I didn’t feel like making food when nobody was going to eat it but me. My four-year-old would be happy if I gave him plain noodles every night, and there was nobody to keep him entertained while I cooked so I just wasn’t able make dinner even if I wanted to. When some friends put together a Meal Train for me when my dad passed away, it was amazing. Friends popped in all week to say hi and drop off food. I realized how much I could have used something like that the first week or so of deployment.
2) Yard Help
My husband was the one who took care of our yard work. The one thing I did ask for before he left was some sort of yard care arrangement but it didn’t happen. So suddenly I needed to take care of our jungle of a yard. Instead of hiring someone myself, I stubbornly decided to do it all on my own (this is a running theme for me) and I got on Amazon and ordered myself some lightweight yard tools I could use easier than his heavy gas powered machinery. I would have loved to have someone just do something simple like weed eat our one patch of grass or trim the bushes back. It would have been less thing on my plate.
3) Offer Child Care
This is a big one. Solo parenting is tough, and not having a break from it all is even tougher. Babysitters get expensive so I didn’t want to keep hiring someone to come over just so I could get away for a moment and hear myself think. Call your friend and invite their child over for a play date and let them know they can stay home. Sometimes you just want a moment to yourself.
4) Lend Your Husband/Handyman
I was lucky to have this one covered by my helpful neighbors and a good friend of my husbands. I can change light bulbs and do basic handy house stuff, but there are some things I just didn’t feel I could tackle on my own. Like the time I pressed the button to check our generator and the battery blew up. I was thankful I had people to call for help.
5) Invite Them to Kid-Friendly Activities
Inviting your friend out is great, but it’s not always easy or affordable to hire a babysitter. It makes it much easier when they can get out of the house and bring the kid along too. Restaurants with play areas, parks, activity centers, museums, the zoo…it’s all more fun to do with friends.
6) Give the Gift of Grocery Delivery
One of the best things I did was sign up for Shipt. There’s several shopping services like this, but Shipt usually has specials where you can gift someone a year for as low as $49 and as long as the order is over $35, delivery is free. It’s SO much easier than trying to take a child to the grocery store. And a life-saver when you have a sick kid and need medication but don’t want to drag them to the store. It’s also great for Sunday nights when you suddenly realize you need lunch supplies but the kids are already in bed.
7) Help With Self-Care
It’s easy to let personal things slide when you have too much to do and everything else seems more important that having pretty toes. And once you add in the cost of a sitter, a simple pedicure gets pretty pricey. My well-meaning husband once gave me a gift certificate for a fancy spa. It sat in a drawer for two years because I didn’t have time to use it. If you consider giving a gift certificate for a spa procedure, also consider offering to watch their child for a couple hours so they can actually use it.
8) Share Your Babysitter
It’s not easy to find people you trust. Also, many military families live far from relatives and don’t have family they can turn to if they suddenly need child care. If you have a wonderful babysitter, share her contact info with your friend. The more resources we have available to contact in an emergency child-watching situation, the better.
9) Clean House
For a couple wonderful months, I treated myself to a great house cleaner that was recommended by my neighbor. If you have a great house cleaning resource, share it! Or if you are feeling extra generous, ask about sending them over as a gift. A nice clean house feels great, and it’s even nicer when someone else does it.
10) Just Say Hi
This one is the most simple and it doesn’t cost a thing. Send a text, make a call, even a Facebook post…just reach out and let your friend know you are thinking of them. I can tell you from experience that during my lowest, saddest moments, it was the people that made an effort to connect with me that helped me get through it. I had a few moments where I reached out on Facebook and every person who commented and connected made me feel better.
If anyone reading this is going through a deployment and needs someone to talk to about it, please feel free to comment or message me. And if anyone has any other suggestions to add to the list, I’d love to hear them!