On Being a SAHM When Your Husband is Gone…A Lot {Part 1}

This post is part of our motherhood series. See all the posts here.

I am laying in the hospital bed. I am emailing my husband, who is on a ship somewhere in the Persian Gulf. He is encouraging me and comforting me as best he can while I am without him, in the hospital. Did I mention I was in the hospital? My husband was not there? Ok. So I was there and my 16 month old was at my mother’s house. My mom and sister were taking care of her while I was unable to. I knew it was going to be hard to be there without him and without my little girl but I had no idea just how hard. I would soon find out.

Nurses were with me the whole time. My family came to visit and make sure I was okay. I had seen the doctor a few times but hadn’t had an in depth discussion with him yet. The doctor finally returned to the room. I had set my phone down and was no longer talking to my husband via email. I was on my own. The doctor looked at me and said “take a deep breath and we will start pushing…are you ready?” I said “Yes!”

He then said, “Okay! Where is your husband? Is he on his way?”

Words cannot express the screaming and crying and hysteria that took over that delivery room. My actual delivery lasted for about 5 minutes. I pushed so hard because I was crying so hard! The nurse punched the doctor’s arm and said “You shouldn’t have said that to her!” He did feel awful and he apologized, but it was too late. I could NOT get a hold of myself.

My husband was deployed. I was by myself. I was currently pushing a new life out of my body while I had a 16 month old life back at home.

Oh my gosh. What had I gotten myself in to?

I can’t do this! I can’t make it alone. Emails don’t “relieve” you in the middle of the night when you are so tired you can barely get the baby back to the bassinet after nursing. Once-a-month phone calls don’t comfort a one and a half year old when she skins her knee and you are out of commission and recovering from delivery. Nothing can replace the comfort of having your husband there with you to tackle “life”, but there are plenty of ways you can make it through.

Mama, you aren’t the first and you won’t be the last. You will get through these times. Weaker women than you have done it. Say it with me: I will get through this!

I am lazy, unfocused, unmotivated and not very creative when it comes to filling the time from breakfast to bedtime. I miss my husband. I am totally aware of every single thing he “usually” does that I am doing-things he should be doing!

However, somehow, what I feel and what actually happens are on totally opposite ends of the spectrum.

I get things done, finish what I start and come up with fun toddler activities even if I haven’t read any great ideas on a blog. Most days (honestly, not all days) it is bedtime before I know it and time for me to tuck my littles into bed for their nigh-nights. The house gets straightened up (usually), the kids get fed healthy food and mama get’s rest and relaxation once the kiddos go to bed.

How does this happen? I arm myself. I don’t try to do it alone. Trying to do it alone leaves you depressed. It leaves you tired, angry, bitter and just plain boring.

Those don’t sound like characteristics of a wife, mother, daughter or friend that I would want to have!

My husband and I set our family up for success by providing me with the opportunity to be a stay at home mom. If I was working outside the house while my husband was gone I truly can’t imagine how it would have affected my children. When one spouse is gone, the other needs to be more present. Not just to pick up from daycare and put down for bed. Your child is likely used to getting love and snuggles and learning lessons from the two of you. When one is gone, the other needs to step up to the plate and dish out more attention to help ease the pain of transition.

Being a stay at home mom made my husband’s traveling so much more bearable!

So how did I actually do it? How did I make it through 7 straight months without my husband? Three of the last months with a brand new baby in tow?

By the grace of my sweet Lord in Heaven.

And a whole network of people around me. As I mentioned before, you can’t go it alone. You may be isolated and not able to connect with many other mothers or neighbors or friends, but that doesn’t mean you are alone. You have the Great Comforter!

When I look back on surviving those 7 months, specifically the 3 months when I had my youngest as a newborn, I was trying to figure out what got me through each day so here are a few tips for you mamas whose hubbies are gone on a regular basis:

1. Try to maintain a regular schedule. Don’t allow occasional frumpy days to turn into the depressed norm. Let your children know they can expect life to continue because we have to keep on living and learning, even when Daddy isn’t here!

2. Get active. Be outside at least once a day. It truly livens your soul and body! It is something that always helped me to “snap out of it” when I felt homesick and depressed (it happens, I don’t know how to avoid that. I love my husband and I don’t ever want him to be gone!)

3. Stay in the Word! Just because this isn’t number 1 on the list doesn’t mean this isn’t the most important! You need wisdom, instruction, encouragement and love. You can only get the “real stuff” from one place. And it is always there. God never deploys!

4. Utilize resources such as friends and family to give you a “break” and don’t feel guilty about it! View a trip to Barnes & Noble or the mall all by yourself as a blessing. You need time to yourself and sometimes, being able to have that smack dab in the middle of the day is awesome!

5. Take pictures, video and journal (blog) as much as you can to capture what is being missed by your husband! It makes each day more fun to know how much your video will bless your husband! You can’t video and snap pics day-in and day-out when you aren’t home each day with your babes!

6. Don’t share too much of the bad stuff! Don’t say things that make him feel bad or put him in a situation where he feels “guilty” especially when he cannot control his circumstances. It will bring you down and make him unhappy. We should never do that, but especially not when our men are far away!

By staying at home you are able to keep a routine your children are comfortable with. You can expose your children to people they love, things they love and maintain a home that provides a space of love and happiness even when there is an empty seat at the dinner table. Being a stay at home mom when you are “by yourself” is hard, but it is your job so tackle it and do your best. It isn’t easy but nobody said you deserve easy Mama! So take on the challenge of being a stay at home mom while he is gone, excel, and create a home that your husband is excited to return to and your children feel safe in even when it is “just” you!

I thank God every single day for the blessing of being a stay at home mom. It is a privilege I do not deserve!

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  1. It is very hard when you are left to do everything while the husbands are gone providing for their families. I am a mother of 5 who is left alone a lot of time. This past year has been especially hard since I have an illness that makes everything for me being a stay at home mom, even harder. Not even as close to what military wives are but when he comes home after working around 70 hours, he doesn’t have much left in him to do anything. These tips were great and it is great to know I am not alone, which I already knew but still good to read it from time to time. 🙂

    1. You know, it is all relative. When you are used to doing 8 month deployments, 70 hours won’t sound like much. But when you are used to only going through 8 hour work days without him, 70 hours seems like an eternity! We each handle it differently and have our own perspective. I don’t ever think it is “harder” on one woman than another. We are all built to handle things differently! I pray your illness heals!

  2. And now I’m crying! Ugh, I needed this advice so much right now. So often I feel so weak now that my husband is not here, but I know I’m not. I have God and my family to lift me up. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Joanie, you are one tough cookie. You are doing a lot and I feel like your husband has been gone for the whole past year and a half! Clearly that is an exaggeration, but you have earned a cry! You are a very strong woman and I know you find your strength in the Lord!

  3. Not a military wife, but my husband works for the Navy and I find myself home with my kids by myself at least once each month. Sometimes for weeks (or two) at a time. I am actually getting ready to have a few days alone again. I say alone, but it’s not really alone. My kids are with me. They just aren’t the same for filling the void He fills. The Bible says we will desire our husbands. Both physically present and emotionally present are so important to having a whole family. Even if your husband is physically there, if he isn’t emotionally there, you are alone. Anyway, it’s really hard for me sometimes to just get out of bed because of the meds I take for my Stage 4 Breast Cancer. It’s really important for me to stay active so I don’t fall into that depressed slump. I need a little bit of business to keep me going. The thing that falls apart most when he leaves is the house. I’m still working on finding a balance when he’s gone. Before kids, I used to plan an organization project to do while he was gone. Now that my kids are a little older, I should plan something like that with them again. Thanks for the reminder and it’s timeliness for our family!

    1. Having “something” to accomplish or look forward to doing while hubby is gone is key! It gives you something to look forward to and to be held accountable to when he is gone!

  4. This was a beautiful post – it made me cry. Thanks for sharing. My husband has spent the past four months working in another city; he’s home on weekends, gone on weekdays. In some ways, it hasn’t been a huge transition, because I have always been more involved and hands-on with our girls, but in other ways, it has been tough. I’m glad that the end is in sight and that this is hopefully the only time we’ll have to deal with something like this – so I can’t imagine what you go through, knowing that it will happen again. Blessings to you and your family!

  5. Thank you for this post! I’m a homeschooling mom of five. My husband has been gone for 5 of the last 7 months (he’s an Army chaplain) and while these times apart are difficult, they are also a tremendous opportunity for me to see more of Christ in my life. I am weak. I am prone to despair. But Christ is there. Thank you for serving our country by letting us have your husband for a time!

  6. This story brought tears to my eyes. My husband is a police officer who works rotating 12 hour shifts. So there’s 5 days out of the week that he’s of zero availability to myself and the boys and I’m a single parent. I do what has to be done for the boys and will continue to do that but I totally understand the loneliness. I have a great relationship with my boys, I have a great relationship with my husband but it’s so hard when you go to bed at night and can’t decompress from the day, to hold, to talk to, another adult.
    Totally get what you mean when you say ‘lonely’. That’s a very apt word for it.