The life of a military spouse can be an emotionally overwhelming, physically demanding and confusing existence.
AOL Jobs recently interviewed Royale Scuderi, a military spouse, mother of four, owner of Productive Life Concepts, and founder of the Guard Wife blog, to learn more about her journey as a military wife. Scuderi says, "the most important thing to understand about being a military spouse is that you are not alone. When people ask me how I do it, I reply with a simple answer: You have no other option! You do what you have to do to make the best of a difficult lifestyle."
Here's how Scuderi makes it work for her family.
How do you handle the long absences?
- It is the small everyday comforts that make all the difference. Surround yourself with whatever comforts you -- hugs from children, faithful pets, the aroma of morning coffee, a scented candle, stirring music, flowers in bloom and supportive family and friends.
- Be gentle with yourself. Alone time is a must. Allow yourself to feel and express all those emotions. Don't bottle them up.
- Know who to ask for what. Identify (at least in your mind) who will give you emotional support, who is your shoulder to cry on, your ear to vent in, who will offer sound advice, who will offer practical wisdom and think about the details, who can give recommendations and who can do repairs.
- You have to trust your spouse. Trust him not to put himself in unnecessary danger, to tell you if there is a need to be concerned and to make his family top priority whenever possible.
- Don't fight it. Accept the reality that you have been given and make the most of it.
How do you juggle everything while your spouse is away?
- Ask for help. Support is available, but people won't know what you need unless you are willing to ask.
- You will have to disappoint some people. You can't accommodate all requests for your time and attention even if you are supermom. Don't feel guilty about telling your kids that you can't take them somewhere, buy them something or entertain them. Don't feel bad if you need to take time off from work so that you can get appointments and errands done or to take a much needed break. Be honest if you don't have time to take on that volunteer project or a new assignment at work. Yes, needing to spend time with your family and take care of your home are valid commitments.
- Lower your expectations. It is all right if the floor isn't vacuumed every day, if the windows don't get cleaned this month, if the cabinets don't shine, if the cars don't get washed and if the dogs didn't get their bath. Cereal can be an acceptable dinner as long as it is high in fiber and you add fruit.
- Put yourself at the top of the list. Don't just give it lip service, do it! We consistently slip to the bottom of the priority list -- the section that we never get to. We tell ourselves that it's only temporary and that sacrifices are necessary. Sleep -- who needs it?; meals -- sitting or sometimes eating is optional; breaks -- relaxation, what's that? If we are not careful, we sacrifice ourselves right into burn-out.
Where should you go to get help?
- Your active duty or guard and reserve base.
- Family Readiness program.
- Online resources -- MilitaryOneSource is a valuable portal of information and help for military families.
- Form connections with other military spouses; find support from other local military families or join online communities, groups or blogs. Networking with others in similar situations can be invaluable.
What can you do to make this life easier on your children?
- Talk openly with your children in an age-appropriate manner about your situation. It's OK for them to see that you are sad or angry at times. This may make it easier for them to let their feelings show.
- Give them a frame of reference that makes sense. When my kids were small, we filled a large jar with candy -- one piece for each day Daddy would be away (with extra in case of delays). This served as a tangible, visual countdown that also gave them some small joy each day.
- Foster, but don't force, communication. Some children find it easier not to talk to their deployed parent on the phone and prefer only occasional contact. It may be their way of coping just to put it out of their mind. That's fine. Offer opportunities to share with their parent -- drawing pictures, writing notes, taking videos or photos of projects at school or sports events.
My best advice: The sanity and comfort that we seek in our tumultuous times is found in the small gestures and the simple acts that are easily within our reach.
What have you learned from this experience?
- You are capable of so much more than you believe.
- Be open to support from wherever and whomever it comes. You never know when you will meet your next friend or find an avenue of support.
- Keep your sense of humor. Life is so much easier when you laugh (even at yourself). Don't take life so seriously. Stuff happens, plans get derailed, things break, dogs throw up, your pool turns green, you get stuck in the ditch the first night of your vacation -- or maybe those things just happen to me ... but at least I can still laugh at them.
- Let go of trying to control everything. The only thing you control is your actions and reactions. Accept what is reality in whatever form that takes right now. Accept that there will be hardship and moments of devastation and sometimes there is just nothing that can be done.
- Stop and listen. We give health, self-care and listening to our bodies lip service, but are we really doing it? No. Sleep when we're tired, fuel ourselves with nutritious food when we're hungry, take breaks, have fun, be gentle with ourselves and ease up on our expectations of what our bodies can do.
Next: Military Families Week
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