Spouse Survival Guide During Basic Training

You're never really prepared for your spouse to leave for Basic training.  I suppose the same is true for girlfriends of those leaving for basic, but having someone who has been living in your house simply up and leave for an extended period of time can be nerve wracking.  I'm here to say that it is possible to survive their leaving if you can convince yourself that they'll be back at some point in the future, and keep your sense of humor.

Photo by Noonie at Dreamstime.com
Photo by Noonie at Dreamstime.com

Delegate Household Chores

When my spouse left for Basic at Fort Lost-In-The-Woods (Fort Leonard Wood for the uninitiated), I felt completely alone. Even though I knew the day was coming, the house seemed so empty once he left. It wasn't long though until our family settled into a new routine, with a re-negotiated delegation of chores.

Children need to be included (with the exception of the very small or unable) in handling the household chores. As a spouse, you no longer are just performing your usual daily chores, but have the added collection of odds and ends your now military spouse once performed. If you haven't thought about this before,now is the time to seriously consider the implication of doing twice the chores in the same amount of time. You simply have to enlist the help of the rest of your family, and in some cases, that of your friends.

Some examples of simple chores your children can do include:

While I wouldn't dream of letting my 8 year old son do his own laundry, he can carry his own laundry to his room and put it away as well as sort it and fold it himself. If he doesn't know how to match up his socks yet, by the time your spouse comes back home he should be able to, even if it isn't perfect. My son also took over keeping the dog, cats and bunnies fed each day.

My daughter, who was 9 when her father left, decided she wanted to pitch in by sweeping floors and washing counter tops and dishes. In addition she helped by keeping the car clean, which is difficult by any parent's standards. She also took it upon herself to help her brother get ready for bed and stood by while he brushed his teeth each night- something her father used to do.

As a spouse, you may benefit from prioritizing your chores and writing them on a calendar. In addition, if your budget permits, you may need to hire a cleaning person to come in once every week or so and a babysitter to give you some much-needed alone time. You'll be surprised at how many people will want to help you when they know that your spouse is away in the military.

Asking for Help

One of the biggest problems I had when my husband left was that my riding lawnmower broke down. For most city dwellers, this probably wouldn't have been a big deal, but I live on a farm and have about 2 acres to mow. Little did I know that if I had been in touch with the local family readiness group, they had a lawn mowing service available for spouses like me. Lesson learned!

Other chores like keeping cars running, shuttling kids to practices or after school activities can be shared with other spouses in the same position. Once again, get in touch with your local family readiness group and join forces! It will save you a lot of headaches if you have a place to go to for answers and support. After all, this group will be your family if your spouse is deployed or to sent another fort stateside.

Some spouses have reported that they didn't get that much out of the support groups. However, it is up to each person individually to decide how much, or how little, they want to put into these types of groups. The bottom line is that they are there if you need them.

Don't be afraid to ask friends and family for help too.  They know that eventually you'll realize that you need help to keep things going while your spouse is gone.  They're just waiting for you to finally ask for that help- they don't want to barge right in and take over.

Keep the Home Fires Burning

Don't forget that you need to keep the household running and be a cheerleader (of sorts) for your spouse while they are away. This means actually writing letters (you won't be able to text message or email your spouse) while your significant other is in Basic, at least for the first several weeks. If you have children, encourage them to write letters as well. Nothing is more depressing for your spouse or significant other than not receiving anything from friends or family at mail call. Personally, I made it a habit to write 2-3 times a week, reporting everything that was going on, from my dog going on a hunger strike after my spouse left, to my son losing teeth and being mad at the Tooth Fairy for not delivering a certain gift that night. Make light of things when possible when writing, as your spouse may need a good laugh on a regular basis.

Try not to write about things that are going wrong, unless there is an emergency. Your job, in effect, is to be supportive and not have them worrying about things back home. They need to keep their focus on their new job and they can't do that if they are worried about you. Your reward will be seeing them when they have visitation privileges and at graduation.

A final note about sending letters and packages: don't send anything aside from letters unless your spouse has requested it. There are lots of stories out there about wives and girlfriends sending unmentionables to their boyfriends. It will be displayed for everyone, sometimes for the duration of Basic, much to your spouse's chagrin. In addition, don't send what is referred to as "fatty cakes" either. In the first few weeks of Basic, if you send cakes, cookies, candy bars and the like, the recipient will have to eat it, all of it, in front of their unit. Save them this embarrassment, and the potential of getting seriously ill, by not sending this stuff to them!

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