Blog from the founder of the charity Little Troopers. Military wife and mum sharing thoughts and feelings of being a British Armed Forces family.

Little Troopers is a registered charity supporting all children with parents serving in the British Armed Forces, regular or reserve. We provide fundamental resources, initiatives and events to ease and aid repeated separation periods aiming to keep parent and child connected and bonded even when miles apart

13 Oct 2017

DING DING All change!!!!!

Some times it really can feel like you are on this separation train and for this week its has been a funny old ride and it is now our time to get off, I haven't dealt with that very well.

So this was meant to be a three month separation for us but my husband messaged me this week to say he is now coming back next week which means its only been just over two months. It is strange isn't it that in military terms we think that is such a short time but to others outside the military being separated with little contact for over two months would be huge. We shouldn't let ourselves devalue any separation, all are tough.

OK so potentially some of you reading this will be thinking I should be happy about this, jumping for joy, delighted that our light at the end of the tunnel has arrived sooner that we thought and lets be honest it is normally the news that they are delayed not coming back earlier.

The truth is I wasn't happy when I first heard my husband was coming home early

I promised to write an honest account of ALL the feelings and emotions through a separation and so that needs to be the good, the bad and the ugly and do not think this has been an easy post to write. I am laying my soul out but the point of doing that is hopefully to spread that strength that if you too feel any of these things, it is just part of the train ride.

I have now processed things throughout this week and feel ready to articulate what I felt and potentially why and also how I came out the other side.

My husband text to say he was being put on an earlier flight home, he of course was really happy and asked me not to tell our daughter so he could surprise her. All I could think about was how I had planned lots of things, my diary was packed, I was seeing people, saving money and going places in half term AND THIS WASN'T IN THE PLAN!! I was in my groove, the last three weeks or so I'd got there and finally felt like I was coping with deployment and actually enjoying some elements of it. 

My mind had accepted the change and processed it and we were doing just fine.

Now you were going to come home and ruin all that.

Do not for one minute think this has any reflection on my love for my husband, I adore him and have missed him so so much this last couple of months. In that time we have spoken maybe four or five times and I feel like so much has happened at home and he doesn't even know, it has been a tough one. I reacted badly and was a bit of a bitch to him, I pushed him and his excitement away.
I have been kind to myself this week and tried to have time to explore my feelings. You see it is about emotional safety, our emotional fuel tanks take batterings as military families and sometimes I close down to keep myself emotionally safe. It looks like for us we have a seven month tour on the horizon in early January and I found that out again by text message a few days before the early return date. I knew the rollercoaster I had just been on in this separation and just managed to level out and I knew he was going to now come home and I would fall back into family unit mode especially with Christmas leave and then I could already see the next deployment on the horizon.

I was scared. Scared for me and my emotions.  

 


I rationalised, talked about it and as the days passed I came to terms with both things and allowed myself to feel excited about my husband returning. I have missed his face so so much and I honestly can't wait to see him.

Historically I am not great at homecomings, never have been. I find it all a bit awkward and much prefer my husband to just come home with no big fuss and get back to some kind, our kind, of normal.

It really is an emotional rollercoaster and although I never get used to it I am better these days and being kinder to myself, learning why I feel what I feel. We can't control our feelings but we can talk about them to give comfort that we really are all in this together.

Louise xxxx

9 Oct 2017

Me and my Little Trooper

Monday comes round so quick and I am at the point where I can't remember how long my husband has been away, the weeks have merged and I am no longer just getting by each week, it is just situation normal for me.

That isn't the case for my daughter

She has really struggled these last couple of months and this last week I have been thinking about the effect being part of a military family has on my daughter, she is a teenager now and as I have always said be it babies, toddlers, young children or teenagers we have, they all experience some challenges with this military life they just look a bit different through the ages.

I am not from a military family at all, I did move about a bit but from 7 - 17years I was in one place, in one school, with the same people around me and those people are still in my life now. I really worry my daughter won't have that. She has moved so much and been to so many different schools her friends are always in the here and now, we have another move coming so she will have to move again for her A levels. This part of her life she actually seems to not be so bothered about, we talk about the people she's met along the way and I believe it has been a positive in some ways because she isn't a shy child and knows now how we sometimes need a deep breath and some rescue remedy to get us into that room full of strangers and to make friends, this will help her now and as an adult.

Separation has had an affect this time, more so than usual, I look into her eyes and I can see sadness and I feel useless because I wasn't a military child, I don't know exactly what that feels like as a child and I wish I did.

Me and my daughter are so close and I do credit this to being a military family, over her 14 years of life I would estimate that cumulatively six of those years my husband hasn't been at home...that is a LONG chunk where it has just been me and her and your relationship becomes intense, this has positives and negatives. This is the first separation where I haven't let her stay in my bed and if I am honest that has been hard for me as I had become reliant on that but she's 14 now and it was right that I broke the habit and she's just slept in my bed one night when she was poorly. A few people used to say to me 'she shouldn't sleep in your bed' they may or may not have been right but in that moment that was a coping mechanism we both used to get through deployment and separation.

The questions have come thick and fast this time which we haven't had for a few years, some are hard to answer.
"Why can't Dad text me all the time"

"Dad always wants to speak to you for longer than me"

"Why does Dad have to be in the Army"

"Can't he just say I don't want to go"

"I wish Dad wasn't a soldier"
 
What I do know is I support my husband in his choices and I relay that to her, I still to this day regret getting out the Army and I'd never want him to have the same regrets I do, I often get jealous when he goes off as I wish it was me sometimes.....but that's another post! 

Ultimately I just wish I could understand better what she feels and thinks growing up as a military child and my question to you reading this is; if you were a military child yourself does that help you parent your own children in a military family?

 

I do worry and it plays on my mind, is she being damaged? will she grow up like any other child? will she look back and feel it had a negative impact? Just yesterday she went into town with her friends and came back with a huge bunch of lilies she had bought me with her pocket money "why have you bought me those babe that is so thoughtful" and her response was because she'd heard me cry on Saturday night after I put the phone down from her Dad. 

My heart broke.


I try so hard to be strong for her and to not be overly emotional about him being away but an example right there that our children are tuned in to us and how we feel. She made my day with those flowers and I felt so full of love.

For us and our family I know she will go on to be a well rounded, good humoured and hopefully adaptable adult and she has always had the love and support to get through the challenges and hurdles she has faced as a military child and I know there are more to come! 

I founded Little Troopers because I needed help so I could support my child, I couldn't find anything out there and hopefully even if just a little bit the resources and community that has formed is helping and empowering us all to get over those hurdles, together.

There is no right or wrong, remember that. We all just do what we can to get through the days giving the love and support we can to our Little Troopers to guide them through this military life.

Louise xxx

2 Oct 2017

Wishing my life away one week at a time

Life is so precious we are all very aware of that and yet here I am wishing mine away day by day, week by week. I have been very guilty of doing that many times in the past too when we have been separated, wishing the weekends to go quickly, hoping the week speeds past in a flash to reach that light at the end of the tunnel.

The last week has been better than the last few that is for sure, although I am at the stage where I have to squeeze my eyes tightly shut to try and remind myself what my husband looks like. I believe that after a period of time our minds adjust, as humans we resist change and a period of separation is a change that we need to mold to, that takes time but eventually we get there we find our groove and it seems to get a bit easier, providing there are no unexpected hurdles in the road!

That is not to say it's plain sailing, I just mean I haven't cried every day this week!

I feel like a bit of a bruised fruit, so many deployments and separations over the last 17 years some of which have been so hard especially the Iraq war and early Afghanistan I feel like they have shaped me, those emotions have scarred me (I do promise to blog about this in the future). On a daily basis I'm fine as they are buried but that fear, those feelings come flooding back whenever I am faced with another separation period and for me that is why it gets harder not easier and seems to take me longer these days to find that place of acceptance at the beginning of a deployment.

Communication can be interesting while you are separated and definitely sporadic, everyone's experiences are different and I beg you if you are in a regiment/close military community DO NOT enter into the "have you heard anything this week" conversation, it is the worst, the most horrid feeling to hear of others getting calls and you haven't heard a peep, even though they are all in the same place and in your mind doing the same thing. 'He doesn't love me enough to call' 'He's not missing me' all these feelings are normal (or is it just me that thinks these?!) so just avoid those discussions, don't ask and don't tell...... its kinder for everyone and there are so many other things to start a conversation about instead.

 

When you have children, especially older children, you have to share your limited call time with your loved one and that is something this week I was reminded of and honestly, I was in the wrong and I feel so awful about that.

My 14 year old has a need to speak to her dad and I hadn't appreciated that...I of all people should have recognised it. My husband rang and it had been ages since I'd heard his voice and I was so pleased and happy that I got selfish with time, when I put my daughter on the phone he only had literally 4 minutes then had to go.

My daughter was devastated and it was all my fault

"You got 15 minutes and I got 5" I felt so terrible and writing this post I have tears in my eyes, she's missing her dad, she hadn't spoken to him properly in three weeks and I should have been more mindful and shared the call time equally with her which if you have more than one child must be even harder. I know I am the adult, I love my daughter beyond words and I don't want you to judge me for being selfish it wasn't a conscious decision but we get stuck in this bubble at that very moment in time when we take a call don't we, doesn't matter where we are or who we are with because right there and then everything stops to take that call.

Sharing is hard when you sometimes miss them so much you hurt inside

I learnt a big lesson this week and I am promising myself a few things...not to wish my life away or at least to try not to do it too much and to be mindful of not being selfish with phone time for the sake of my Little Trooper.

We aren't perfect and no matter how long you have or haven't been part of the military community every separation will be a different experience depending on how long, where you live, how old your children are at that time, if you are working, how strong you are feeling in that chapter of your life....there are so many variables.

Be kind to yourself, learn lessons about how you work and know that your light at the end of tunnel will come...eventually.

Lots of love,

Louise xxxx

 

25 Sep 2017

Consumed by responsibility

Another week we can tick off, it does seem to gain some momentum after a month or so and then they do pass by, whatever day he goes away always sticks in my mind and it's so bizarre that each week on that day I mentally tick it off with a smile and a pat on the back.

It has been a week of two halves for me, half being of great community vibe as I ran an event locally on Sunday for lots of  ladies who also have someone serving away from home.

It filled my heart with warmth.

We didn't know each other but all ate cake and just chatted a few hours away that would have otherwise been spent in our houses alone, it always reaffirms we absolutely all feel the same. One lovely lady was telling me how she missed a call from a number on her phone and cried because she thought she'd missed her husband calling for the number to then ring back and was a survey call which made her cry again...then her husband did manage to call and she cried again! It is that roller coaster of we can't contact them so it is a waiting game and sometimes they call at the worst time or you miss it and the emotions just spill out. We have ALL been there, those tears when you miss a call are so real.


The other half of this week has been slightly plagued with me really thinking and soul searching as to why I crumble sometimes when dealing with separation, especially as I should be so bloody used to it by now!

I get consumed by the responsibility of having sole care 24/7 for our daughter.

That was a hard admission! I promised myself to honestly account this time apart via the blog and I am finding by doing this I am learning a lot about myself and how I work which hopefully if I can articulate to you it will make others find that comfort and strength I so want to spread.
When I am flying solo for a longer period of time I struggle at night, I struggle when things go wrong and I struggle when it comes to making decisions for our daughter on my own. This week she wanted to go to the cinema with her friends....short story is she is 14 wanted to get a train on a Saturday night to see a 15 film and I just wasn't OK with it for lots of reasons but the point is I didn't have my husband here to ask his opinion, I couldn't ring or text him, I had to make a decision and be comfortable with it, what if she went and something happened and then I would have to take that on my shoulders. I didn't let her go.

There is no manual for being a parent or a military family and some of this is normal everyday stuff but I haven't chosen to be a single parent, I am sometimes due to us being a military family in situations that I just don't feel equipped to deal with and at those times my heart aches a bit that I am in this on my own at times where I just don't want to be.

On top of cinema clash this week my daughter had a situation where she became poorly very suddenly at a swimming competition, it scared her and it scared me and I flapped. I didn't know what to do, my husband is way better than me in situations like that and I felt really rubbish. It was OK, I got her home gave her tons of TLC and she was and will be fine. It shook me up, I wanted to be strong in that situation and I wasn't, all I wanted was my husband by my side.

My daughter was born in a foreign country to two serving military parents, from the age of 20 when I was pregnant I have doubted my ability as a Mummy, six long tours, a million exercises and courses later and I still have times when I doubt myself, when I am alone it is magnified which in summary is why I feel I struggle when my husband is deployed.

Can I fight off the baddies in the night alone?

 

Can I spot when my daughter is a bit poorly or really needs to go to hospital to have her appendix out?

 

Can I make the decision solo that she can do something she's not done before now shes a teenager?

 

Sometimes we are all trying to be Mummy and Daddy all rolled into one to children of all different ages and that is a huge responsibility especially if you can't make contact to get the reassurance you need but as someone said to be this week "all you can do is your best as a parent and your best is always good enough"

Huge high five to all of you out there keeping little humans alive while also managing to wade through a separation period, your best is just perfect for them.

Love Louise xxx

We are all just doing our best to grow good humans

19 Sep 2017

Friendships - For a season, a reason and a lifetime

A month in to this separation period and we've survived this far! OK so there seems to be bump in the road of some description each week but I am becoming a pro again at dusting myself off and marching on, it's just remembering how, but it is coming back to me.

I am always reminded when I am flying solo that the network you have around you is SO important, it is your lifeline at that moment in time, in that chapter of your life. I wanted to write a post and share some of my experiences of friendships in this military life that I have had and how important they have been in my patchwork of adult life.

I live by the motto you have friends for a season, a reason and a lifetime...


Way back in 2002 I was a soldier living in Germany, a pregnant soldier for that matter and my husband was deployed to the Iraq war. Anyone who was in the military community at that time knows that particular war and that early Telic deployment was so so hard, no contact at all you just watched the news in tears everyday. I was young, living in a foreign country, didn't have my family around and all my friends had deployed! My husband and I served in the same regiment and there was a guardian angel that came into my life at that very low point in the shape of the Battery Captains wife. Sandra was like a surrogate mum to me, a friend I could rely on who completely took me under her wing and I feel so emotional writing and remembering all she did for me; took me to my scan appointments, came to my antenatal classes, sat and hugged me when I was scared and we even spent Christmas day together one year.

That amazing lady isn't in my life any more but she was in it for a reason and I am so thankful.

Over the years I have learnt that some friendships in the military community can be really intense, especially when we have been based overseas and especially over long deployments. You speak on the phone ten times a day even though you are neighbours, you go food shopping to the Naafi together and share every single thing that happens in your life at that time with each other. At that moment, in that chapter those friendships are really important and often become your lifeline because you are living the same life, the same challenges and being with others that understand is the best tonic. You are stronger with each other.

I don't speak to all those people all the time now but they have all got a fond place in my heart because for that time, these friends for a season were my lifeline.

I have never been massively in the thick of it in the military communities I have lived because I was serving, after I got out I worked full time and now my child is a teenager so don't mix with others at this posting as no opportunity to.

Right now in the present my rocks are my lifelong friends, the ones I have know since I was at school or there abouts, the ones that know me better than anyone, the ones that no matter where in the world I have been based they have visited, they have been there sending me love, support and picking up the phone to my tears and I am lucky that these girls are locationally not that far from me and can be in my every day life currently. Last week wasn't the best as you may have read from previous post but I saw all three of my best friends at certain points and I felt emotionally refueled and ready to face the world again.

To those lifers, thank you.

Whatever your current military situation you absolutely need a support network, you need someone who is right there with you for strength and for comfort. Go knock on your next door neighbour or post a note saying "Lets drink wine" just this Sunday my neighbour and her adorable little boy came and we ate a roast and crumble, we exchanged stories of not sleeping, how much we hate Sundays alone and how we haven't had calls and all was good in the world again. Don't under estimate the power of a friendly face, even one you may not know very well.
Crumble and a friendly face makes a solo Sunday better
Friendships come in all shapes and sizes, some are for seasons some are for reasons and some are for a lifetime but all are important in this military life we live, being strong constantly can be tiring and having a support network of some form is important for you and your well-being. You will look back in years to come and remember those people and smile, just like I do and be thankful they were there at that time in your life. Have an open mind and an open heart, let people in and be there for others, it will lead to your own colourful patchwork of life and memories.

Here's to friendship, of all shapes and sizes.

Love Louise xxxx

13 Sep 2017

Its never rains but it pours....

I promised to blog an honest account throughout this separation period we are experiencing and I want it to be the good days and the bad days, by doing this I am hoping it will really show anyone from the military community that stumbles across this blog that everything you are feeling is normal and we are all going through exactly the same emotions.

Sharing will hopefully bring strength and comfort.

I WAS DOING SO WELL!!!!! I really was and three weeks in I gave myself a pat on the back, no tears thus far and day by day I was getting through them....we were all present and correct at school and work and we were all fed! Total result in my eyes.

Experience has taught me that when solo parenting over a long period it is all OK if everything is going to plan, everyone is well, no surprises and even the odd singular hurdle here and there I seem to be able to navigate alright.....it all goes horribly wrong when the wheels completely come off and a multitude of things all happen at the same time and I feel totally overwhelmed, totally alone and totally beaten.

That is exactly what happened these last few days....the wheels dramatically came off....although I am fully aware things are magnified at the moment and I am feeling hypersensitive because communications are so sporadic and almost non existent.

It's all real life stuff nothing major on reflection.....I have really bad ulcers at the moment which are making me dribble (attractive) and literally wince with pain, I spilt gel nail remover on my laptop which has made all the keys lift and some even come off (after some panic TLC the laptop started working again), the cat was dramatically sick everywhere which I just can't handle and my daughter has been off school poorly on top of work being really busy and all the normal stuff.


I just sat on my bed and sobbed. 

I have a great small network of best friends mostly from school days and I text a few of them and gained some strength, they made me laugh and I reminded myself it is OK to cry, it is OK to be sad, it is OK to be overwhelmed when a few things go wrong. Tomorrow is another day.
  • Try to have a few very close family or friends who you feel comfortable calling mid wobble 
  • Be kind to yourself, don't strive for perfection because we can really only do so much
  • Try where at all possible to have a bad day and not let it spiral into a bad week
  • Do not take your nail varnish off next to your laptop!!!!

RIP keyboard keys
If there is anyone who is completely unaffected while their serving partner is away for a period of time then I totally take my hat off to them, sometimes it hits us when we are least expecting it and it is definitely normal whatever your circumstance to have a wobble here and there, we are all human.

I am coming out the other side, seeing some favourite faces over the next few days which always fills my emotional fuel tank to the brim and bonjela is my new best friend!

If you are having a wobble this week, read this and know you are not alone I am right there with you.

A couple of blogs coming up that will be more about information spreading, good sites and products I have found along the way to help military families....if you have any to add that have helped you let me know and I will include.

Lots of love, Louise xxx






8 Sep 2017

The dust has settled....ish

Here we are two and a bit weeks into a separation period of a few months and we have definitely entered the 'situation normal' stage, no longer wearing a sad face every day and all trace that a man....especially a soldier man ever did live in the house has disappeared! All uniform is away, all his washing done and hidden and the cushions stay plumped!!!!!

Routine is BACK......with a vengeance. 


I would say this stage is a mixed bag for me, the dust has settled...ish and especially with the summer holidays over, school has returned, clubs have returned and normality is upon us. That normality while I am solo parenting for a long period can turn into a hamster wheel of repetition.....

 Get up
Go to school and work
Come home
Drop off to a club
Come home
Go to bed
REPEAT

That is life in general of course, I know that, but what I am finding this time is my daughter is older, a teenager and rightly has her own life and it is a busy one so time on my own seems to be more frequent, those military spouses with no children will I am sure be nodding and identify with this, also people with little ones would feel this in the evenings too? I even found myself looking at a dog rescue site but no idea how I'd fit a bloody dog into life too. 

I don't like to use the term loneliness because in life I am not lonely I have tons of friends and family and hobbies but there is an air of loneliness sometimes when my husband is away from home for an elongated period of time. Loneliness for for adult conversation, for a TV buddy, for hugs, to share the parent taxi role and to just tell about your bad day at the office.

So those with older children or no children, what are your tips for a period of separation?

Communications aren't great this time for us due to an accumulation of things and while browsing Instagram I came across a really good blog post from bythesaltysea.com and I couldn't have explained it better, ok so she is a US military spouse but this scenario she talks of...this is where we are at and its so hard to explain, in summary it is sporadic and in 17 days I have spoken to my husband for approximately 11 minutes. Read the post HERE 
I find hardest the fact I can't pick up the phone and call when I need to and get the reassurance I need at that moment, that advice, or have the opportunity to shout really bloody loudly that I am wading through treacle on that particular day and its all a bit of struggle because they are on the other side of the world.
the story of my life at the moment........
You hear ALL the time "military spouses are so strong" well yes but this is because we have no choice in the matter, sometimes I feel totally empowered when going through a separation period, I kind of walk with a feeling of total independence punching the air feeling like I am totally killing it and then like yesterday I sob on the mechanic in the car garage. 

It's a roller-coaster

If you are new to this military game, if you are an old hat and been doing it for years and years I like to think there is lots of hints and tips and just strength we can pass to each other, if nothing else it brings comfort, I like to know I'm not the only one who sometimes can not face to get out of bed for yet another Sunday on my own.

So let me know how you are getting on and your top deployment tips and lets spread that strength and comfort.


Lots of love Louise xxxx