On Day 2 of the 4 Great Military Spouse Books for 4th of July Giveaway, I welcome fellow Air Force spouse Kristin Ayyar, mom of three kids and author of Countdown ‘til Daddy Comes Home. Her gorgeous new children’s book helps parents prepare kids for a parent’s upcoming deployment and offers loads of creative ideas for staying connected during long separations. I wish I’d had this book on my shelf six years ago when my first child was born during a long deployment!
I asked Kristin to share a bit about her own family’s experience with separation, reunion and how to stay connected. Here’s what she had to say:
My family is currently half way through my husband’s one-year deployment. This is our 3rd deployment but we have had over 200 days of TDY some years due to flying missions, schools and command requirements. The challenges have changed over the years due to my children’s ages and where we were living. I personally have found deployments easier when I have lived on base. Most people have been in your shoes and are more willing to help and support you. I think the biggest challenge is communication. I have had deployments and long separations with only a weekly call, then e-mail & weekly call and now currently Skype, texts, and e-mail and still staying connected is the biggest challenge.
2. Do repeated deployments get easier or not? Why?
That’s a hard one. I don’t know if they are necessarily easier but I think you do learn from your mistakes and will know what worked and what didn’t. You also have the confidence to know you will survive and thrive. The hardest part of repeated deployments is the cumulative loss of time together. Missing holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and special events all take a toll on our military families.
3. If you could give a new military spouse one piece of advice about deployment, what would it be?
When people say, call me if you need anything, ask them, what can I call you for? Can you fix the computer? Pick up my kids from school? Be called in the middle of the night of the night if you need to take one of your children to the ER? Then load all the contact information in your phone. I personally had a family medical crisis only days after my husband left for Afghanistan. Thankfully I had asked those questions and knew exactly who to call to watch my preschooler and take her to school while I took my son to the ER. My son spent 5 days in the PICU and because of my planning some of the most stressful and worrisome days of my life was less so because I knew who I could call. Have a plan!
4. What is your favorite way to keep in touch as a family during the service member’s absence?
Writing cards and letters. It is so nice to be able to re-read them and see my husband’s handwriting. E-mails just don’t have the same warmth. We have a special box where we keep all the cards and letters my husband has sent us so when can’t talk to him we re-read his cards. I try and make sure I send a card or letter at least once a week.
5. Did you find that your children were drawn to different keep-connected strategies? How so?
My teenagers are more comfortable with texting and e-mail although I do have them write their Dad every Friday after school. My 5 year old loves to draw pictures for her Daddy. We currently always have a USPS flat rate APO box on our dining room table and she knows to put anything she wants to send to Daddy in the box. My husband tapes her masterpieces on the wall of his room and office and she loves seeing them via Skype. I have a lot of great ideas on ways to stay connected on my website www.daddycountdown.com .
6. Do you think family members underestimate the challenge of reintegration after deployment? How do the things you do while you’re apart make it easier to come back together?
Absolutely! We have a policy that if there is an issue with something that my husband usually handles when he is home that he still makes the decisions even though he is thousands of miles away( if possible). A good example is our cars. We have had a few car issues (of course) since he has left and thankfully I have been able to describe them to him and he has told me to take it to the repair shop or wait until he gets home for his mid-tour. Our car dealer has even Skyped with him and discussed the repairs and charges. My husband is a car guy so this is important to him and it has also saved us a lot money. I probably would have said fix everything and my husband knows what really needs to be done immediately. Most importantly, he is still able to take care of us and feel needed. We also continue to have a policy to talk or e-mail each other if we want spend over a certain amount of money or if the kids are going to have consequences for something they have done wrong. The most important thing is try and keep the same roles in the home if possible so reintegration will be easier.
Now it’s your turn.
To enter the 4 Great Military Spouse Books for 4th of July giveaway, share your best tip for keeping connected with your spouse either during deployment or when ops tempt is insanely high. What works for you?Please post only one comment per day and come back tomorrow to enter again! (See the details here.)