It's been said many, many times that the toughest job in the military is the one that falls on the spouses and children of deployed soldiers.
Maybe it's almost a cliche, but I don't think that makes it any less true. Yes, we've got the stress, the anxiety, and the Groundhog Day effect going on, but we're with our unit, the folks we know, and we're (theoretically, at least) doing the jobs we were trained to do.
Our families, meanwhile, are going about their business but with a void at home that they'd probably rather not think about or talk about, but can't help from keeping on their mind. Always. For 365 days, which I'm learning can be quite a lengthy period. Unlike this, they don't really know what's going on *over here* even though we have a generally good picture of what's going on *over there.* That can't be easy for them.
And when I think back on stressful professional and personal situations, the toughest times have always come when I was doing something alone, or at least perceived it to be that way. That's what a lot of military spouses go through on deployments, day after day after day after...you get the idea.
Even with a large extended family to offer some help, my wife definitely has the challenging, full-time/all-the-time job of raising an infant while I'm off on the mobilization. The large family is a great help, but the tricky thing there is that most of them have things going on that keep them busy...like lots of other little kids to watch after.
But the one key player for us this deployment has been my wife's younger sister, who has been living at our home and helping out a metric ton with babysitting, general support, and a presence which goes a long way.
This really sank in for me when she went away to California to visit some other family members, leaving my wife alone with our daughter. I noticed the tone of frustration that came through in some e-mails and over the phone, and when I tried to calm everything down as only someone 8000 miles away can, what I heard back was a feeling of "This sucks...I'm here dealing with the screaming and crying (which I could hear through the phone) and it just won't stop."
Then, when her sister came back, everything went back to the way it was -- she's not thrilled to be dealing with all of this right now, but the day-to-day aspect was manageable again.
I don't think it comes down to any secret formula or special skill, but it's the general presence of a loving, caring sister and aunt in the house that conveys an unspoken message of 'You're not alone in this' that calms everything down and allays fears.
And that, in turn, puts me back at ease, which I appreciate tremendously.
Less than five months now 'til the replacements come...hooah!