'Strength Finds Me': A Military Mom on How She Gets Through It All

Long after my husband Horatio returned from his most recent 20-plus-month deployment, people still say they don’t know how we did it. Horatio gets looks of pity for having been away from his family for so long, and friends and acquaintances alike ask me how I made it through such a long time parenting solo, where I found the strength to endure the hard times. 

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They feel sad for what Horatio missed, but they often appear dumbfounded by how we made it through back home, the boys and I, without him. I frequently get asked how I found the strength, and I'll admit, sometimes it was hard to find. But when I think of those times -- the moments I myself wondered how we'd make it to the end of the deployment -- I'm able to say, "I'm a woman; strength found me."

We casually went about our daily routines most of the time. Going through the motions was pretty easy most days, but it would only take a small blip in the system to upset the rhythm of our weeks. Illness, homework projects, storm damage, excessive snow, a broken appliance -- any of these could easily upset the apple cart and throw our life into chaos.

An occasional night of labored breathing episodes for Bob or Harold (both of whom have reactive airway disease) or a stomach virus that set in at midnight would lead to a series of sleep-deprived days and lower my tolerance for everything else, especially anything out of the ordinary. Weeks like those were more than a challenge, and at times I thought I might collapse under the pressure of it all. But somehow, as I said, strength found me when I thought I was clean out of it.

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Upon reflection, it’s easy to see the hand of a higher power in our life. Harold had an accident a few days before Horatio departed for the start of the deployment. After dinner one night in early December 2010, he tumbled, backward, down the stairs and hit his head on the corner of the baseboard. After a few moments of quiet, he wailed, then drifted off to sleep, awoke, and vomited -- clear indicators of a concussion.

I rushed him to the hospital, where doctors examined him and observed him for four hours. Horatio held down the fort at home. I was extremely grateful that if it had to happen, it happened before Horatio left. The presence of a second parent was essential at that moment, not just logistically, but emotionally as well. I wondered what I’d do if it happened when I was parenting solo.

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Thankfully, I didn’t have to find out what I would do because, thank G-d, we had no ER visits during the more than year and a half I was alone at the helm -- a fact that seemed out of the realm of possibilities back then, when I thought about our house full of boys, surviving during a period of nearly two years. I know I have many dear friends I could have called upon in a moment of need, but I am happy that I did not have to ask for the help. Knowing the help was there was enough to sustain my sanity during the hard times of lonely deployment.

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We lived in the Washington, DC, area longer than we’ve lived anywhere else during our 20 years of marriage. We put down roots and became part of our great community. We have dear friends, some of whom are now our chosen family; we made our house a home. We love it there.

Home is where the Navy sends us, though, and now we are half a world away in Asia. Times can be tough and the road is not always smooth -- we face earthquakes, typhoons, illness, power outages, food shortages, and more -- but strength finds me, and we all get through it. I don’t dwell on the negative; there’s no point. I sometimes find myself momentarily stuck in a sludge of self-pity, but then strength finds me. As the commander in chief at home, it’s my job to not just survive, but thrive. Sometimes I have to wait a bit longer than others, but strength always finds me.

 

Erin Henderschedt shared this post from The Deployment Diatribes with CafeMom as part of our monthlong tribute to moms for Mother's Day. Erin is the Navy wife and mother of four behind the Deployment Diatribes and Been There, Done That Mom. You can "like" her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter, @BTDTMom.


Images via Erin Henderschedt; design by Anne Meadows

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