“I can’t believe I’ve run out of things to talk about after only 10 minutes.”
Now this is a thing I find myself saying a lot. Being a deployed member there is only so much you can say about your day at work. Remember though, just because you might not have a lot to talk about, that doesn’t mean that your wife or children don’t have things to talk about.
I realised the other day that this trip is not all about me. My family is doing it tough back home too and sometimes my wife has only the baby to talk to when she is home alone. So I imagine that getting a call from me is a welcome relief as it’s another adult to talk to! I make sure that I take the time to listen to all the news she has to give me even if it takes an hour. Not only is it going to give a big relief to my wife to talk to another grown up but it also does me good. It brings me back down to earth and reminds me that there is more to life than work at the moment.
A call home can mean so much to your kids also, especially if it is via video. They get to see their dad and talk to you as if you where standing there right in front of them. So make sure you put a lot of effort into talking to your children because it will mean the world to them. Not only that, it gives you a chance to see how much they are growing and changing. Having an 8 month old at home means I see massive differences every time I get to video chat with my daughter. One day she is crawling and the next she is taking unassisted steps and saying different words! So savor the moment with your kids while you have them on the phone, as sometimes you might not know when you will get the chance to speak to them again!
I’m grateful that we live in an age where home is just a phone call away. Back in the day when others would have been overseas, letters where the only form of contact between families. Sometimes taking up to two months to send and receive a letter would have been a real effort on a family.
So even if you have no news, give home a call, just to see how its going. You might be surprised what good it can do.
“Bloody hell its hot here”
I’m pretty certain I’ve said that line every time I call my wife. She usually responds with, well its bloody cold here. I never get sympathy!
The first few weeks on your trip can sometimes be the toughest as well as the most exciting. You’re in a new location, you want to get stuck into your work and you want to explore the area and see whats what. But once the work is done, and you sit in your bedroom you can’t help but think about your family back home and wonder what they are up to.
This first period of your trip is a real adjustment phase and it can be difficult. At home I would usually relax after work with my wife and daughter, watch a bit of TV, maybe go for a walk around the neighborhood. But now that I am away I don’t have the luxury of being able to just relax with them. It can be tough sometimes, but I find that keeping yourself busy is the key.
Here are a few ways I coped during my first few weeks:
- Fitness! Head over to the gym for an hour or so. Had a rough day at work and can’t vent to anyone? Good! Use that at the gym. Not only will this help get rid of your frustration, you’ll also get fit, and who doesn’t want to get fit.
- Binge watch some TV. Now hopefully you will have a laptop and hard drive full of movies and TV shows to watch. If not, ask around, someone will have a hard drive full of movies. Get engrossed in a TV series that you haven’t seen before. Even better, get your wife to watch along at home. It gives you another thing to talk about with your better half! (Just don’t get caught watching ahead, and no spoilers)
- Study! I’m currently studying high school maths and I find that this is a really helpful way to take your mind off work and missing family.
- Socialise with work colleagues. Just because you have finished work doesn’t mean you cant hang out with them after work. Grab dinner with them, go the gym, play sports. This will help you get to know your work mates better and will also increase team effort during work hours.
- Contact Home! If you get a chance to contact home, then do it! Ask how everything is going or if there is anything you can do to help at home. Have a chat to the kids and see how their life is going.
Being alone and missing family can be really tough. But if you do a few of the examples listed above it will make that first adjusting period of your trip a little bit more bearable.
“I wonder what the wife is going to think about this one! 4 months away with the possibility of it being 5 and missing out on my Daughters first birthday. Bugger.”
That’s exactly what I thought when I was told that I would be deploying with a month and a half to prepare. So how do you prepare?
Now I am quite lucky as my daughter is only 8 months old, so telling her I was leaving wasn’t that hard. She just smiled at me and grunted in her usual fashion. Now the wife on the other hand, that’s a different ball game.
At first when I told her, I don’t think she was too happy. I mean if the shoe was on the other foot and she left for 4 months I don’t think I would be happy either. She has to balance looking after a baby, running a photography business, studying psychology and looking after the house! Not to mention somewhere in there she has to find a bit of time to herself! So I do feel quite bad about leaving.
(Between you and me I think she is just a bit jealous that ill be getting a full nights sleep compared to her waking up every 3-4 hours to deal with the baby! Which I understand completely and honestly I do feel a bit bad!)
I remind her that it is only 4 months and that time will fly by and I’ll be back before you know it. Thankfully in my case I have access to internet so that makes communication with back home a breeze!
Now with that sorted I have to think, what can I do around the house before I go to make things easier for my wife. My list was as follows:
- Fix things around the house that need fixing! If you can fix it, fix it! Don’t leave it too late or you might end up having to organise a contractor to come and fix it and we all know how much that can end up costing. So even if it takes a few hours of your day, just fix it and save your wife the trouble of sorting it out later.
- Mow the Lawn! I know it sounds silly, but your wife will love you for it as its one less chore for her worry about until a later date. Plus it will make your house look good before you leave.
- Sort out your finances. Try to ensure that any unpaid bills are taken care of, or at least plan a budget to help pay off some of those bills. Last time I was deployed I found it very easy to make a quick budget using excel which helped me pay off a few big bills and even save a bit of extra money!
- Make sure she knows how to contact you in an emergency. This one is a big one. If your wife has an emergency back home and urgently needs to contact you, or any family members for that matter, make sure she has a list of phone numbers and email addresses to make it as easy as possible. The last thing you want is for her to be all alone in an emergency.
- Plan some alone time with your family. I cannot stress this enough, put aside your other hobbies and spend some quality time with them. They aren’t going to see you for a long time and that can be tough on them. The last thing they want is for you to be sat there playing games or going out with your mates. Instead go out for dinner, go to the park, just spend time with them! In my case I went for a picnic with some pizzas and my family. We didn’t even go far, we only went 5 minutes around the corner! But it was the best way to spend my last few nights with them.
Finding out you are leaving can be very tough on you and your family. Sometimes it might not be the best news for your wife or children, but if you take the time to prepare, it might just make you leaving a bit smoother for them. Remind them that you love them, the trip wont be forever and that you will talk to them whenever you can. Also, a few presents before you leave wouldn’t hurt either.