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Deployment with two kids

This is my second to last deployment-related post! All we have left to share is a fun video. 😉 I had quite a few requests on how to juggle life with small kiddos while your partner is away on a deployment. Doing the solo parenting thing is no joke, but really once you find your groove, you get into a routine and it’s ok! I feel like it’s worth mentioning (again) that I was very fortunate to be around family during this deployment. I know it’s not always the case, but these are all things that would have helped if we stayed in Valdosta.

Deployment tips with two young kids

Here are some of the things that helped me deal with a deployment with two kids:

Ditch the countdown calendar. While he was gone, I didn’t want it to feel like we were just counting down until he was home. I didn’t want the girls to feel like we were waiting for something constantly and not be able to enjoy the moments. So we talked about when dad would be home (after Liv’s birthday), but never had an official countdown. I never focused on how long he’d be gone, but instead I tried to pump them up for things to look forward to along the way. We also enjoyed talking with him whenever possible + putting together his care packages.

Plan something fun each month. This is probably my #1 tip. Each month, we had something really fun to look forward to, whether it was a trip to Disney or San Diego, a holiday-related celebration (we celebrated every single major holiday and birthday while he was gone), or a show (like Music Man or Disney on Ice).

Take care of yourself, too. This one was definitely challenging, but something I tried to do while he was gone. For me, the major one is getting in my workouts because they help with my anxiety and make me feel good. Sometimes that meant paying a babysitter so I could lift some weights before working, but it was worth it. I booked a massage while he was gone (which was heaven) and a glorious spa day at Miraval. It’s really easy to get into the “mom is the only thing I do and am” mentality because it’s really ALL YOU, but taking a little time to watch a show I loved, planning nights with girlfriends, and being a little easier on myself was worth it.

Do things you wouldn’t normally do. I mentioned in a recent post that we had breakfast for dinner a lot! We also dined at restaurants more often, and for the last 2 months of deployment, I let the girls sleep in our bed every night. I wish I would have done that sooner because we all sleep better! (The rule is usually that they have to fall asleep in their room, but can come in during the night if they don’t wake us up. For the last couple months of deployment, I let them fall asleep in our bed and it was so much more peaceful. Now we’re working on UN-doing the fact that I let them sleep in our bed for so long, but in the moment, it was all about survival mode.)

Put together packages to send to your loved one. We had a lot of fun putting packages together to send to the Pilot. We’d send funny cards, the girls would draw pictures, and we’d include his favorite snacks and candy. Some of the things he requested: protein powder, jerky, gum, good coffee, trail mix, bars, and his favorite sweet treats (Swedish fish, Reese’s, sour watermelon candies, Milano cookies, etc.). We also sent him comfy jersey pajama pants, a heated blanket, a neck massager, and fun things to share with the guys at work, like a drone that they ended up flying around (they just covered the camera with tape), a sloth shooter, and Nerf guns.

Reap the benefits of technology! We are so fortunate to live in a world where WiFi connects us across countries. Since he had access to WiFi (which isn’t always the case. I feel very thankful that they had access to this!), we could video or voice chat through Facebook, and we’d send video messages through Marco Polo. I’m also SO, so thankful to the USO for their program that allows deployed service members to read to their children. He had some opportunities to go to their office, pick out a couple of books for the girls, and they’d record him reading the books. They’d send us the USB cards and the books for free, along with a little note from him. You guys. These digital storytimes were pure treasures. The first time we opened one and he popped up on my computer screen holding the same book that we held in our hands, it was everything in my power to not cry my face off. It was really special. He sent 4 or 5 different rounds of books over the 7-month span, and each time we watched one of these videos, the girls were glued to the screen. He’d also ask them questions while he was reading and they’d answer back, which was the cutest ever.

IMG 6480

Surround yourself with support and love to get you through the loneliness. I feel like whether you choose to go home or stay near your duty station (like I have previously), it’s so important to have a support system in place. Make sure you have childcare lined up, don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own, and plan activities with other people who are either compassionate and fun, or know exactly what you’re going through. This is what makes or breaks the deployment experience, and each time he’s been gone, I’ve been beyond thankful to have an incredible support system around me.

Some of the things that were challenging:

– Getting in all of my work stuff finished. Even with childcare a couple of times a week, many times I felt like I was struggling to complete the bare minimum in this space. I had to stay in bed with the girls until they fell asleep (we’re working on changing this), and P is a major night owl, so it was tricky. If I had loose ends to finish up for work, sometimes my work evening wouldn’t start until 10 or 10:30pm. That was for real. Thankfully, the Pilot is home and we can tag-team the bedtime duty. I felt like I dropped the ball a lot over the past 7 months and many times, I was just doing everything I could to create content and stay afloat. I just want to say thank you so much for reading and for sticking around. I don’t feel like I was the best blogger over the past 7 months… almost all of my energy was spent trying to be a great parent to our girls without my partner/best friend/love of my life around.

– The long days. When the Pilot was home, I could count on him to take over for a bit at the end of a day filled with meals, clean up, drop-offs, pick-ups, and after-school activities. During a deployment (or ever a long TDY, like when he was gone for 5 weeks last spring), the evening routine feels you feel like you’ve been handed a 5k at the end of your marathon. The dinner, bath time, and bedtime rituals make it an extra long day.

– Feeling lonely. I’m so fortunate have a great community of friends and family here in Tucson, but at the same time, after the girls were asleep at night, I felt lonely. The house felt dark and too quiet. I used this as an opportunity to watch TV that the Pilot would never be into, but I had no one to yell, “OMG did that really happen?!” with at the end of a basketball game or This Is Us. 🙂

– When things would break. Our toilet broke and I was like OH NO, but thankfully my mom had stopped by and literally fixed it in 30 seconds, so there ya go. We also had a couple of issues with our circuit popping out because I put too many Christmas lights into a single extension cord. Oops.

– Answering some of the “bigger questions” on my own. Liv asked me a couple of doozies while the Pilot was away, and in my mind I was like AHHHHHHHH. Then I just was as straightforward and honest as possible (and tried to not make it awkward or weird, just a normal thing) and she was happy with my answer. It literally ended up being NBD but I definitely panicked for a second.

If you’re going through a deployment, hang in there. You can do hard things and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel… even though sometimes it seems really freaking far away. I’m sending you so much love, strength, and a giant glass of wine.

xo

Gina

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26 Comments

  1. Theresa on February 12, 2019 at 7:31 am

    I don’t have kids. But that story time idea…GENIUS!!! That definitely sparked some emotion in me reading that!! Kudos to the military, or whoever came up with that.
    I’m also continually amazed by you. Cheers to you Gina, you’re an absolute badass.

    • Fitnessista on February 13, 2019 at 11:43 pm

      thank you so much, friend. i hope you know how much that means to me <3
      and yes, the story times were such a special treasure while he was gone!
      hope your week is going well

  2. Megan on February 12, 2019 at 8:18 am

    When things would break made me lol because this is so me. My husband isn’t military, but he does work for the government and he’s away for ~4 months right now. I’m 6 months pregnant & trying to hold down the fort with my almost 3 year old while he’s gone. Putting things together is notttttt my strong suit.. when my husband is home, I’m not even allowed to attempt because of how poorly it has gone in the past! Now when a toy breaks i panic for a second.. sometimes i fix it, sometimes i can’t & i just add it to the daddy pile for when he gets home.

    • Fitnessista on February 13, 2019 at 11:42 pm

      haha i’m the same way! i can read directions and figure things out, but if it’s something with the house (like a water leak or appliance breaking) i’m like AHHHHHH

  3. Brianne on February 12, 2019 at 8:42 am

    When I was a kid my dad was stationed in Korea for a year. We obviously didn’t have the technology we do now so I can’t imagine how difficult it was for my mom. And when my dad came home it took my younger sister a while to warm back up to him. (My poor dad!). I’m glad he’s home & that this was the last.

    • Fitnessista on February 13, 2019 at 11:42 pm

      thank you! yes, i’m so glad it was the last. i think it would just harder and harder as the girls get older

  4. Alaina on February 12, 2019 at 9:46 am

    You stop that saying you dropped the ball on this blog right now! You have done and continue to provide amazing posts that I truly enjoy reading daily. No sorries allowed. End of story!

    • Jenny on February 13, 2019 at 7:57 am

      Agreed! We never would have known you thought your content was anything less than the norm. You are amazing!

      • Fitnessista on February 13, 2019 at 11:36 pm

        that means a lot to me. thank you! <3

    • Fitnessista on February 13, 2019 at 11:41 pm

      thank you so much – i really appreciate all of your support and kindness <3

  5. Diana on February 12, 2019 at 11:36 am

    OK that made me want to find a way to donate to that program. That is incredible! It made me cry just reading it, so I have no idea how you held it together. I think storytime is the most precious part of our day each day and so important to kiddos. I figured the pilot was probably on deployment and kept being curious, but figured if you were not sharing it was for a reason. So glad the fam is back together in person for all the hugs and snuggles!

    • Fitnessista on February 13, 2019 at 11:41 pm

      yes! when we first got the package from USO, i immediately thought about how i wanted to support them. they’re really doing incredible things to connect military families. they even sent me a care package while he was gone that had a lot of amazing stuff in it (like a little s’well water bottle, a journal, lip gloss, cool hair ties, etc). i wasn’t expecting it at all and it was such a nice surprise!

  6. Suzanne on February 12, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you so much for these posts. I’m pregnant and my husband is Air Force. He hasn’t been deployed since we’ve been married, but I know it’s probably in our future. I really appreciate seeing your perspective. I got a little misty eyed reading about the USO program 🙂 And, for what it’s worth, I’ve still really enjoyed your blog content during the past seven months! You are killing it!

    • Fitnessista on February 13, 2019 at 11:40 pm

      thank you so much. congrats to you on your pregnancy, too!

  7. Vera on February 12, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    Gina, you did not drop the ball on the blog even once – you did amazing! You are the first blog I go to every day. Always amazing content.

    • Fitnessista on February 13, 2019 at 11:39 pm

      you are the sweetest. thank you so much for the sweet comment and for being here <2

  8. Stephanie S. on February 12, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    I just wanted to echo the other comments – you didn’t drop the ball at all! I think you kept the blog going very well and created a lot of great content (I always love your full-length videos!!). I still very much enjoyed reading your blog during the Pilot’s deployment 🙂 I can completely see how the days would feel so long. I have a 9 week old and it makes the biggest difference that my husband helps out with her when he gets home from work, and he typically is the one who goes up to soothe her at night before he and I go to bed if she is fussy or wakes up. There’s something about those couple/few hours that make the day seem so much longer when I’m on my own some nights! You are a rock star 😀

    • Fitnessista on February 13, 2019 at 11:39 pm

      thank you so much, friend. more videos on the way, too!
      and YES. the days are so long when it’s all you. so glad to have some backup again 😉

  9. Tracy on February 12, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    Just want you to know that it didn’t seem like you were doing the bare minimum in blogging at all! I think you’ve done a great job with the blog (and podcast!). The content has been above par. If this is your bare minimum, I’m excited to see what’s to come in the future 🙂

    • Fitnessista on February 13, 2019 at 11:39 pm

      thank you, friend. i really appreciate it <3

  10. Sarah on February 12, 2019 at 6:45 pm

    Aw Gina, this immediately made me think of this poem I just saw on Cup of Jo:

    The Raincoat
    by Ada Limón

    When the doctor suggested surgery
    and a brace for all my youngest years,
    my parents scrambled to take me
    to massage therapy, deep tissue work,
    osteopathy, and soon my crooked spine
    unspooled a bit, I could breathe again,
    and move more in a body unclouded
    by pain. My mom would tell me to sing
    songs to her the whole forty-five minute
    drive to Middle Two Rock Road and forty-
    five minutes back from physical therapy.
    She’d say, even my voice sounded unfettered
    by my spine afterward. So I sang and sang,
    because I thought she liked it. I never
    asked her what she gave up to drive me,
    or how her day was before this chore. Today,
    at her age, I was driving myself home from yet
    another spine appointment, singing along
    to some maudlin but solid song on the radio,
    and I saw a mom take her raincoat off
    and give it to her young daughter when
    a storm took over the afternoon. My god,
    I thought, my whole life I’ve been under her
    raincoat thinking it was somehow a marvel
    that I never got wet.
    .
    .
    .
    Isn’t that so beautiful? I’m happy your sweet family is back together. <3

    • Fitnessista on February 13, 2019 at 11:38 pm

      that poem made me cry the biggest tears. thank you for sharing that gift with me <3

  11. Katie on February 12, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    Yes, I’m chiming in to say too that you absolutely did NOT drop the ball on the blog during this time! I’ve been a longtime reader (6+ years, where has the time gone?!) and if anything, your content has only been stronger. I’ve loved following along and I just listened to your podcast with the Pilot and loved it. You guys sound like such a great team together. Don’t sell yourself short, you are accomplishing awesome things!!

    • Fitnessista on February 13, 2019 at 11:38 pm

      thank you. i really appreciate the kind words! so many times i was like, “what am i even doing?!” and felt like i was scrambling. so thank you for reading and being here and for your sweet feedback. <3

  12. connie on February 14, 2019 at 10:18 pm

    I’ll reiterate, no balls were dropped! you are a warrior.

  13. Amanda P. on February 15, 2019 at 8:50 am

    My husband was on a cruise a few weeks ago and our pipes froze. I was talking to him through Facebook messenger under the house at 6 a.m in 10 degree weather trying to figure out what to do. Anything that can break or go wrong seems to be when he’s out of town. One time, I ended up in the Emergency Room thinking I was going to face emergency surgery…but luckily everything turned out ok.
    Major props to you and all you do and I’m pretty sure that most of us that read your blog on a regular basis really do understand that your life and your girls take priority….which it should.

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