Back in the day, before my little Savanna was even born, when she was still just hanging out waiting to make her entrance, I wrote a message to myself. A list. A letter. I wrote it when I was calm and clear-minded, knowing it would come in handy at times when I was feeling less than calm and less than clear-minded.
Here it is.
Now, I feel moved to write a similar list, one that I hope will be of use to anyone who needs it, whenever they need it, but most especially for my own reference--just like that pre-third-baby list.
Instead of a Postpartum Reminder, though, this will be an Absence Reminder, for when Phill is gone--and to you others out there, for when your husband is gone for whatever reason. (For us, it's usually for Army reasons, obviously)
[Phill is right now in San Antonio until the 21st of May, and that has prompted me to write this.]
You are strong and capable. Don't allow anything to make you feel otherwise.
Focus on the things that will enhance those qualities of strength and capability. This is not a time to let spiritual strengthening, exercise, and healthy eating habits fall off the map.
Consider the practices that bring peace to your home. Grasp these things tightly and don't let go.
When you feel grumpy, sad, or frustrated, go to work. That is to say, do something. Go outside. Clean. Cuddle your children. Read a book you love. Pray. No wallowing. It's completely useless. (Trust me....I know. I've tried it. Lotsa times. Doesn't work.)
Plan something to look forward to at according times throughout your husband's absence. For me, this means planning time with friends after my kids are in bed (usually we just sit in my living room and laugh, cry, and talk into the night), planning fun activities with the kids (we love to go to the mall for pretzel bites and the quarter games), or planning simple projects (finishing Savvy's dresser so y'all can FINALLY see pictures!). If you feel bored, go about becoming UNbored. It's up to you.
Give some allowance to your children. That is, allowance for some increased emotions, some increased outright naughtiness, some increased energy and some increased needs. This is definitely a time to practice forgiveness.
Forget yourself. This applies more to those whose husbands are gone for long periods of time. But "a long time" can mean different things for everyone. A night, a week, a month, a year--no comparison is helpful, just know that when he is gone for that Long Time, depression is a real possibility. My dad sent me an email not too long ago.
I was thinking about you this morning and feel to share a perfect, works every time, sure fire, honest to gosh, no kidding method to fight off depression.
Prayerfully find someone who is worse off than you or has some challenge to live with that you don't. When you find that person you go out of your way to improve their day by some act of service. It could be a note, a candy bar, holding a door for that person or something they will never know you did. (according to the Navajo that is the only real gift, a gift given in secret).
After you do that, then measure how you feel about yourself. If no improvement, then do it again for someone else. These actions won't take long to change your entire outlook. Mothers have the perfect opportunity since their little ones are so naturally needy.
P.S. That's how I kept perspective on long deployments to the "not-so-touristy" places in the world or after hearing that I was not promotable to the next higher rank. There was always someone to serve.
If you need to cry, cry. If you feel as if you can't do anything right, it's okay. It is okay. There is no need to achieve perfection--only a need to continue putting in an effort. Cry, pull out most of your hair, eat a pound of chocolate, or find yourself quietly singing some creepy random lullaby as you wash dish detergent out of the cat's hair--but just DO NOT GIVE UP.
Last of all, and probably most important:
ASK FOR HELP.
From a neighbor, a friend, your husband (yes, he can help over the phone), and very especially those who have offered to help. It is okay to need help. Let's say it all together: IT IS OKAY TO NEED HELP. (My sweet sister Abby will probably remind me of this one when I call her blubbering at 4:00p.m., the craziest part of our day.)
It is okay to fall to pieces. Just don't lose hope that you can be put together again.
It's all about the bounce-back.