(sheri & emily)
Supermoms come from many different walks of life. Stacy is a Supermom. Her husband is in the military, and Stacy and their 2 children have traveled the world with him. Sheri recently interviewed Stacy about her life as a supermom.
Tell us about your family.
My husband Chris and I met in college when I was 19 and he was 23. We got married when I was 21 and he was 24 and we have been married for over 10 years, but he has only been around for about 5 of them due to deployments or training/schools. After being married for a few years we had our daughter Anna and 4 1/2 years later our son Jesse. We have moved 5, soon to be 6, times within the U.S. and overseas. Anna is currently 7 and Jesse is 3 and we are now preparing to move to Germany.
When you had your daughter your husband was deployed, is that right? How was that experience for you, having your first pregnancy without your husband?
Chris was actually there for Anna's birth, but he was deployed the whole pregnancy. I got pregnant when he was home for a visit about 4 months into the deployment, so when he came home I was 8 months pregnant. It was hard not having him around for the pregnancy, especially when you read the books, and go to classes alone, and they're talking about pampering your wife during this time, etc. Also being emotional didn't help make the deployment any easier! It was nice to have him back for the delivery and he was wonderful about pampering me when he got back and during the delivery. He was also a great help with our daughter both in the hospital and at home.
Chris has been deployed to Iraq once and Afghanistan twice. How did you cope with being the only parent while he was away?
When Chris was in Iraq I was pregnant with Anna, which wasn't ideal, but it was a lot easier than it is now that we have kids. His first deployment to Afghanistan was when they changed deployment lengths from 12 months to 15, and Chris got to be a part of group they send ahead, and then he took command of a company while deployed that had been one of the last to get there, so they were the last to return, turning the 15 month deployment into a 17 month one for him. When he left Anna was almost 1 1/2, and when he came back she was almost 3. Going through the terrible twos alone was not fun! I had a wonderful group of friends, whose husbands were also deployed, that I was able to rely on. We helped each other out with babysitting, getting to Dr. appointments, dealing with sick kids, etc. We also lived in Italy at the time so we all travelled a lot together, had girls nights out, and sleepovers with all the kids in tow. I probably wouldn't have survived without them!
The second deployment for Chris was only 6 months, and I was pregnant with Jesse when he left and Anna was 4. It went a lot easier because Anna was out of the terrible twos, and I still had a good amount of friends there, though some had moved. The main challenge for that deployment was that we were going to have to move right when Chris returned and that was right when Jesse was due, so I ended up having to move by myself with Anna, and pregnant, before he got back. He missed the birth, but he was on his way back from the deployment, and we were able to Skype with him during the delivery while he was at a stop in Germany.
Anna has always been a "Daddy's Girl" so she would talk to him on the phone, and we would Skype with him to make the deployments easier on her, and he and I. She would help me put together care packages and get presents for him for Christmases and his birthdays. She really dealt with it very well, and I was very impressed with her.
Does it make it harder having a spouse in the military when you have children?
Yes, it definitely makes the moves more challenging! I try to make sure their rooms are basically the same every place we live so at least that is familiar to them. The older they get the easier it is getting, but I know that will get harder when they get even older and have close friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc. We do what we can to make things go smoothly for them, and at the end of they day they have had life experiences that many kids don't get and have coping mechanisms that a lot of kids may not have either, which will only make them stronger, more well rounded individuals.
In your daughter’s life you have moved 4 times already and are getting ready to move again. These moves are to different cultures and countries. How do you manage to make the transitions as easy as possible on her?
We just try to get them excited about moving somewhere new any way we can, if they have a friend already there we let them know, we find out all the fun things to do there, remind them of how fun it will be to make new friends, etc. With Anna this next move to Germany is already exciting for her since she spent the majority of her life, so far, in Europe. It was Italy so it's not exactly the same, but a lot of the things she loved there will also be in Germany so she is excited. Jesse has no idea what is going on, but he feeds off her excitement so it makes it a little easier on us. Like I said before, I just try to make whatever home we move into feel like home to them as quickly as possible by making their rooms the same everywhere and most of the home layout similar.
When we visited you at the base we were blown away by the strength all of the moms showed while facing their husbands deployment and raising their children by themselves. How do you keep your strength and stability in the midst of that?
Being in the military is like [having] another family, and we rely heavily on each other both when the men are home and when they are away because anyone one in the military knows that even when they are home, they are rarely actually home. We find strength in our children and trying to be there for them and make the time go by fast for them.
Stability... well, we never really have that, and we have learned to not need it. I know that sounds bad, but it really isn't! We can move at the drop of the hat, pack our husbands for a deployment with an hours notice, balance everyone in our home's schedules without the help of our husband because they can rarely help, etc. Stability is a luxury, and in the military luxuries are overrated.
Was Chris able to be there for the birth of Jesse?
He wasn't there, but I knew he wouldn't be, so I was able to plan for that. I am blessed with a wonderful family who is always there to help when I call. I was able to stay with my parents while I waited for Chris to return from the deployment, so I had Jesse while I was staying with them, and Chris joined us a couple weeks after. We stayed with them until we found a house, and then we moved. It was really great, and it made everything so much easier.
How do you explain to your children what Chris' job is that takes him away from the family for long periods of time?
It is easier than it seems. They see him in uniform daily when he is home, so they know he is in the Army. [W]hen he goes for training we tell them where he's going and how long he'll be gone. When he's in school it's the same, but usually longer than training. When he deploys, we tell them he's deploying, or going to war, and that we need to pray that he's safe and send him lots of love. I know that it would be easier and less scary to sugar-coat things for them, but then how would I explain if something bad did happen? I feel like it's easier for them to know he's in danger, that way if anything arises, they aren't caught off guard. It makes goodbyes more teary, but they are prepared.
Do you have a hard time adjusting from being the sole active parent when he is away to joint parenting when he comes home?
I manage the household, so the only adjustment I have is that I have to cut the grass and clean up the dog's mess, which I am happy to hand over the second he gets home! Since he is gone so much, we find it easier for me to manage everything, but it doesn't make it any less lonely. I do enjoy having him around when he can be, but when he can't we do just fine. I just try to have "me" time whenever I can get it and watch a movie I want to see or take a nice long bath, read a good book (though that always takes forever when he's gone!)
Do you have advice for new moms who have husbands in the military?
Find friends wherever you go and keep them! I have friends in many duty stations, and while it is important to have friends where you are, it is just as important to have friends afar. You can rely on your local friends in ways you can't with ones far away, but you can also rely on ones far away in ways you can't with local ones. Friends and family are very important in helping you cope with your crazy, military life. I guess I will revoke my previous statement and say that friends and family are the only stability you need in the military, that is the only stability you will be afforded so cherish it. They will be the ones to help when you're having a hard time and they will be the ones to have fun with when you do get the rare break from you kids, or even when you don't and you have to bring the kids with you.
What are some of your favorite tips for parents when moving to new places with little ones?
This too shall pass. Just kidding, but seriously! You can do everything "right" and things still may not go the way you'd hoped. Every move is different, and they will react differently at every age. Just do your best and remind yourself that they will get used to it/over it before you know it. You're not a bad parent, no matter what they say, [and] they will learn, in time, that moving isn't the worst thing in the world. In fact, in today's military, I don't think kids get as upset about moving, so long as no one is deploying!
Thanks Stacy for sharing with us!