By Elaine Brye
You are trying to manage a deployment and hold down the home front. Is your mother-in-law driving you crazy? Is she needy and overbearing? Do you dread picking up the phone or logging onto Facebook because she’s right there?
I can be that mom.
With four kids serving and deploying, sometimes I just want to go back to when I could lock them all in the backyard. Those were the days when I had complete control over where they went and could protect them. Or at least I thought I could! We certainly had our share of bumps and breaks and trips to the emergency room, but I was the one who made the decisions and tried to keep everyone safe.
Fast forward several decades: Everyone is a grown-up serving our nation. They fly jets, helos, launch rockets, and deploy to places all around the globe with pistols strapped to their thighs. This is tough for a mom who sometimes still sees them as four-year-olds trying to climb a tree that is definitely too high.
There is no manual for learning to let go (that is until I attempted to write one in my book Be Safe, Love Mom: A Military Mom’s Stories of Courage, Comfort and Surviving Life on the Homefront). Moms struggle as we watch our children move up, up, and away and–here is the kicker–we cannot protect them anymore.
We may become overbearing, nosy, and nagging because we miss our connection with our children. Quite honestly, sometimes we are scared to death. We are also so very proud at the same time. I call it the tightrope between pride and fear.
Keep us in the loop
Spouses are a huge help when it comes to managing in-laws… especially when deployment communication is limited. I value my kids’ marriages. I know that spouse communication is the most important and I preach that to other mothers. But as a spouse, if you can send some crumbs of info my way I am eternally grateful. When we have some information it calms our fears. (Not knowing is the worst.) How is my child feeling? Do they need anything? Let me send something. I am a mom and I want to help. Harness that maternal energy for good.
Remind your spouse
You can encourage your deployed spouse to call their parents every so often. Have they called their mom lately? We will cherish texts and Facebook messages, but we have been listening to our child’s voice from their first cry in the delivery room. A two-minute call is worth a million texts (in this mom’s opinion). Of course, that is not always possible and we will take what we can get.
Create a connection
Help your mother-in-law feel connected. Losing the bond with child because of time and distance is so lonely. We miss them. I don’t expect a text a day. In fact, I never talked to my mom that much when I was a young adult–however the older I got, the more I did talk to her! A little goes a long way and a picture of proof of life can make my week.
Being the parent of an adult is much harder than that of a toddler. We all have new roles and sometimes we can mess things up as we learn to value our children as our equals. Relationships can be tricky and it can be exacerbated when our children go to war. The hypervigilance I feel until I know my child is safe is a weight that wears me down. The best cure for me is to be in the loop and have opportunities to help lighten the load for my child and my child’s spouse. It’s what motivates me as a mom.
I know it’s not easy to balance everything. Just remember it is because we love you both so much. Call your mother-in-law every once in a while. Pass on current info. And Mom, do your part. They are grown men and women. You can stay connected without being a pain. Remember we are all in this together. We can do our part to support you and your family in a healthy way. One team, one fight. It’s how we stand strong on the home front.
Elaine Lowry Brye, an avid supporter of and advocate for military families, served as a longtime moderator for the USNA-Parents listserv and was one of the founding organizers of its parent community website and Facebook page. She became a national figure when she introduced Michelle Obama at the 2012 Democratic Convention. She lives with her husband in western Montana. In Be Safe, Love Mom: A Military Mom’s Stories of Courage, Comfort, and Surviving Life on the Home Front, Elaine weaves stories from her own life as a military mom and those of other parents with advice, anecdotes, and wisdom to help guide other moms and dads on the long and bumpy road of having a child in uniform.