The doorbell rang.
A heavy burden instantly lifted from my shoulders. It had been an astronomically rough day. My kids were fighting. I felt overloaded with housework. It had been a while since I’d heard from my husband, and the vacuum quit working. I couldn’t figure out what happened.
Why is it that things always break when our spouses are deployed? Murphy’s law seems to take over as soon as they leave and throws every lemon from the basket. For some reason, making lemonade doesn’t seem as easy to do during deployments.
Instead, I cry.
I wiped away the tears that refused to stop all day and plastered a smile on my face before opening the door to find the most beautiful sight I had seen all day.
There, in front of me, was a pair of hands holding two hot pizzas.
I barely even noticed the delivery boy as he handed the pizzas over. I signed the receipt and thanked him and quickly shut the door before the dam of grateful tears started spilling out. As I placed the pizza on the table to let the kids dig in, I texted a dear friend: Thank you for thinking of us tonight! You have no idea how much this is appreciated!
You see, my friend doesn’t even live near us. She lives about two hours away, but she knew my husband was deployed and wanted to help in some way. So, she went online and had pizza delivered.
It is things like what my friend did, that can make a world of difference to someone whose spouse is deployed.
I’ve had friends and family ask how they can help during deployments. Some of them live nearby, while most of them live several states away. Being so far from family can weigh on us military spouses mentally and emotionally. Our support system that we’ve always clung to while growing up is scattered about, so we do our best to grab onto the support that we have around us.
If fortunate enough, we have time to build up our “village” before our service members deploy. But, we could end up in a situation where we’ve just PCS’ed to a new location and our spouse deploys shortly afterward. Then, we’re left to try to figure things out and quickly make friends before we lose hope of receiving help.
But, the opportunity to help is not as distant as the miles between you and the military spouse you wish to help.
Perhaps you aren’t even closely related to a military spouse, but you might be in the same neighborhood as one. You might even be next door to one. Maybe you are in yoga class together or go to the same church.
You know that his or her service member is deployed, and you want to help.
So, how can you help? The number of things you can do for the family of deployed personnel is only as limited as your means and resources. There are things you can offer whether you are near or far.
1. Offer to make them dinner or have dinner delivered to them.
Having one less meal to worry about is an amazing thing for a spouse who is trying to play the roles of both mommy and daddy and keeping everything under control. A meal might seem like a small thing, but it is a big deal to us! If you live close by, maybe offer to make them dinner. If you live far away, you could look up restaurants that deliver in their area and have dinner delivered to their home. I know of few spouses who would turn down a pizza!
2. Cut their grass or do other yard work that might get overlooked.
One of the former churches we attended had a group that would specifically focus on doing yard work for the spouses of those who were deployed. That ministry was such a blessing to those families! But, you don’t have to wait for your church or local charity to do this. Doing yard work or simply cutting grass is something you can do too! Sometimes, spouses are working and don’t have the time, or they are taking care of multiple children and don’t have the energy. Yard work is often one of those things that gets neglected and having it done by someone else can be a wonderful encouragement.
3. Bring them some coffee or even send a gift card for one.
A simple coffee from a local coffee shop can brighten anyone’s day, especially someone who is trying to juggle so many responsibilities and keep her head above water. The wonderful thing about this is that it’s not very costly, and you are guaranteed to elicit a smile that day! My family that lives clear across the country has sent coffee gift cards, which I absolutely loved. It was a small gesture that provided much encouragement, not to mention a boost of energy.
4. Be available to talk.
While you’re bringing over that coffee, why not stay and chat for a bit? Being without your spouse brings a lot of loneliness and craving for companionship. Those who have children often feel isolated because they are busy caring for their littles and try to pick and choose which events will bring the least stress. Make yourself available to talk, whether that be in person or on the phone. Sometimes, all we need in a stressful time is just a listening ear, understanding heart, and encouraging words. Let that spouse know that he or she can do it and is doing a great job. An hour or two of conversation goes a long way!
5. Offer to babysit for a few hours.
This one is huge! Those with children have taken on the roles of both parents, and a break is rarely availed to them. This is not to steal attention away from single parents, which is a very real situation. But, in wanting to help those with deployed spouses, offering a few hours for them to recharge can be one of the best ways to live out that help.
6. Go grocery shopping for them.
Grocery shopping with kiddos can be incredibly stressful and that stress multiplies when having to do it by ourselves. There have been many times when I’ve pushed one cart full of kids while pulling another cart full of groceries. The typical grocery trip takes me no less than two hours. It’s an all-day venture that I have to mentally prep myself for, as anything can happen during that grocery trip.
I recently had a fellow military spouse who doesn’t have children offer to do grocery shopping for me. She said to just give her the list and whatever money was needed to cover the grocery expenses. This might seem like something a spouse would never take you up on, but if he or she knows he can trust you, it is a great way to assist with a task that would normally be overwhelming and daunting! You could even simply offer to go with them and help with the children, so that they can have a much less stressful grocery trip.
The number of ways to help spouses of the deployed is pretty limitless if you let yourself become creative. Think of things you might do in your every day that would be a bit more stressful for someone whose spouse is away and see if you can fulfill that need.
If it weren’t for the number of people who offer help and encouragement whenever my husband is away for duty, whether that be deployments or training, I might be a lot more stressed and definitely a lot more tired. We often try to pretend we are super moms and dads, but deep down, we could always use a little help.
Please don’t wait for that military spouse to ask for help, as it’s not an easy thing to do.
Lend a helping hand and know that a heart full of gratitude will always be waiting on the other end.
Lydia is a Marine wife, mom of three boys and a girl, and has a major in English. She is a freelance writer and influencer for several social networks. She also blogs at The Few, The Proud, and This Marine Wife, where she shares her life as a military wife and offers encouragement to moms in the trenches. Her blog touches on managing the chaos and includes many DIY projects, home design, and recipes. She loves meeting new people, and you can always find her with a cup of coffee in hand. Feel free to connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter and bring some coffee, while you’re at it!