Part 2 of My Q&A with Military Mom Kim Zook

by Abby on September 7, 2011

In case you were off barbecuing or picnicking or otherwise enjoying your Labor Day on Monday, I introduced fellow mom, writer, blogger and military wife Kim Zook of Zook Book Nook. I’m not going to say Kim’s thoughtful insights on solo parenting, “me” time, and not feeling resentful towards a frequently absent spouse TOTALLY shut down the pity party I’m having for myself this week while my husband’s away (again!) on business, but she certainly gave me a big dose of perspective. Here’s Part 2 of our Q&A (italics are mine):

Kim Zook and her girlsWhat are the hardest parts about your husband being deployed?

Before we had children I struggled through the emotional highs and lows of deployments, but I utilized the time to focus on me. I exercised more, wrote more, and read a lot more books. Now that we have children, I have little to no time for myself. The hardest part of this deployment is being “on” 24/7. I have a babysitter come for 2 hours each Thursday, and during this time I go down the street to a cafe to write. Despite this 2-hour break, I find my heart still completely consumed with thoughts of my girls.

I find myself struggling to be both the “good guy” and “bad guy” when it comes to discipline. I find myself struggling to stay sane when I’ve been going on 3 hours of sleep and having to help my daughters battle a stomach virus that is also plaguing my 6-month pregnant body. But I have also discovered something else during this deployment: I can do this. I can make it through the highs and lows of each day, because I know there is a future time when my husband will come home.

How do you cope with these challenges?

Our ship has a Family Readiness Group (FRG) that is a support network of spouses and family members whose sailors are deployed on the same ship. It has been an essential way for me to cope with the challenges of deployments, because we are all experiencing the same thing. We meet to discuss issues that arise during deployments, to give our children time to play together, to hold fund raisers such as bake sales and ice cream socials to raise money for our Homecoming celebration, and to simply comfort one another.

Being pregnant with two children has made it hard to travel to Minnesota to visit my family, so the FRG has become an extended family for my daughters and me. In addition, the blogging community has become a support network for me. I cherish my time to blog, so I can connect with adults about the challenges and joys of being a parent and/or a writer.

Do you have help from friends, family, babysitters? What’s the best way someone can help you when your husband’s deployed?

I’ve had to step out of my shell during this deployment and get to know our neighbors. Their presence has reassured me that I am not alone on our street. Members of our church make us feel welcome every Sunday, making a lot of effort to interact with my daughters who are desperate for attention from other adults other than myself. It honestly helps to know that people support my husband and the military. I often get asked, “Is it okay to say we support you and your husband?” and I always say, “Yes.” The acknowledgement from people that my husband is making sacrifices to keep the fight for freedom alive really means a lot to me and gives me strength to keep going when times are rough.

HomecomingWhat are you looking forward to most when he comes home?

When we lived in D.C. my husband had to work 14-hour days. As soon as he came home, I either handed him our newborn or asked him to take our 2yo upstairs with him while he changed out of his uniform. In a way, I felt desperate for help. I did not believe I could or should handle those long days alone. So in a way, I looked forward to his daily homecoming only for the fact that I would get help.

I’ve grown up a lot since then, especially during this deployment. Now I am looking forward to my husband’s companionship, his affection and laughter, his presence and how it fills our house with warmth and love. I know he will help me with our children and our house, he always does without me having to ask him. I am very grateful to have a husband like mine.

The forefront of my mind, however, is not clinging in resentment to the idea that I can be free when he comes home. It’s difficult to explain in words, but after learning how to handle raising our children and taking care of our house on my own I feel like I am not so wrapped up in the idea of “doing it alone,” but instead see past that to understanding what I miss the most, and that is my husband himself.

Do you have any advice for other moms, in military families or not, about managing life as a (temporarily) single parent?

I often think of my girl friends who are permanent single parents, and I have so much respect for them. Not only are they raising their children and taking care of their house on their own, but they are also working and possibly dating. They have taught me the importance of having a support network. I’m an introvert, so reaching out to others is difficult for me to do. I don’t like asking for help, but I’ve learned that seeking help and comfort from others is the healthiest route to take when trying to manage life as a temporarily single parent.

A friend once told me to appreciate the time I spend with my children and not wish during that time that I could be doing something for me, like writing. I also have learned to focus and value the time I get to be alone to write, whether it is for an hour at night or when our babysitter is here. It isn’t easy, but I continually put a conscious effort into being present in the moment. Recently I went out to dinner with several spouses from the FRG, leaving my daughters at home with our babysitter. It was my first “Ladies Night Out” in 10 years, and I loved every second of it. I know that I can still be a great mother and a successful writer while still giving myself some “me” time. It’s all about finding the right balance.

Thank you, Abby, for having me here today! I hope my experiences will give courage or hope to individuals who may experience the absence of a spouse, for either a short- or long-term. Fortunately, blogging has been a key element during this deployment as it has helped me stay connected with adults when my days are mainly filled with the words and wisdom of 2 little girls.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou Mello September 7, 2011 at 8:14 am

First, thanks to Abby for sharing Kim on her site, I love seeing this more and more among my favorite bloggers. I do get a little dizzy trying to figure out where I am and to whom I am commenting…I guess I’m just getting old. 🙂

Anyway, Kim, this is such good stuff and it really shows how hard you work at being a great Mom and support for your girls and your husband during his deployment. The friends you have there locally in your FRG must be a real lifesaver for folks, I know it would be horrible to be without friends to talk to and share the good and bad times.
I expect that you are in “countdown” mode with the new one being so close, it must be a very exciting time for you. Now I think I’ll try to migrate back over to the Zook Book Nook site where I will be re-directed to Susanna’s site to watch you throw a pitch, or something like that. Told you I’m getting old.

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Kim September 7, 2011 at 9:52 am

Lou, first thank you for all of your comments here, my blog, and on my YA novel pitch. You are everywhere this morning and what a boost it gives me to have support from you and Abby and everyone else. It truly makes a difference in every day! And I need it as I am starting to really slow down now. Even though I’m only 6 months pregnant, the keeping up with my 4 and 2yo daughters and our puppy and the house is starting to exhaust me. So the encouragement I receive from everyone here really helps me a lot to keep going. We’re in the homestretch as my husband should be home in time for Halloween, so the days do go by a little faster 🙂 It is exciting to see my daughters want to bake Halloween cupcakes already because they know their daddy will be home for it. (We’ve already baked and decorated two batches of them, and I imagine we’ll make a few more before he gets home, but that’s okay, it makes my girls feel like it is right around the corner!)

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Abby September 7, 2011 at 10:41 am

It’s never too early to bake cupcakes! Hooray for the homestretch!

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Jill W September 7, 2011 at 11:47 am

Hi Kim & Abby,

I just stumbled upon your blog and really appreciate what both of you are offering, and the chance to find 2 new blogs today. Abby – you may see me in your class one day, and Kim – I’m looking forward to reading what you’re putting down. I’m a military spouse right now, kids are a few years into the future, but we’re thinking about them now, and I’m hoping to develop my writing into a job that can go with me as we move around.

Hip, hip, hooray for your husband’s return, may the days pass quickly. I found myself nodding along as you wrote about changing your attitude from handing over duties to him to an attitude of “I can do this” and then just appreciating him being home. As I said, we don’t have children, so during the 8 months my husband was deployed to Afghanistan, I was caring for our two cats and maintaining the house for myself. I found myself wishing he was there to do X chore around the house from time to time, but mostly that was just when I was overtired or joking around. It’s nice to share those duties now, but mostly I just missed having my best friend around to make jokes, share hugs and kisses, and talk to at the end of each day.

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Kim September 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Thank you Jill, it is so great to meet someone new and a military wife! Abby is so wonderful to connect us and to help others who are reading these posts and find them helpful. I am grateful to be able to pursue my writing. Moving so frequently makes it difficult to have other kinds of jobs, especially when stationed overseas. And what’s great about writing is blogging and being able to take classes like Abby’s from anywhere in the world 🙂

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Abby September 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Welcome, Jill! Thanks for your comment. I’d love to have you in my class anytime!

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Kiddothings September 7, 2011 at 7:13 pm

It’s great to know that you have the much needed support from the FRG, your neighbours and church friends. I think that’s so important to keep your sanity. I cannot imagine myself in your situation Kim. First thing, I’d give my puppy away. Gosh, you’re one supermom with a pet!

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Shannon @ AnchorMommy September 8, 2011 at 12:11 am

I love this! I ALWAYS wonder how military spouses do it on their own. My husband works all day and coaches soccer 2 or 3 evenings a week, and I always feel sorry for myself. Then I think of the moms and dads who have to wait months for their significant other to come home, and I feel like a big baby! Thanks for sharing Kim’s story, Abby. She is amazing!!

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Angie September 8, 2011 at 6:46 am

“I am not so wrapped up in the idea of ‘doing it alone…'”

I understand exactly what you mean here. My husband’s limited travel schedule in no way compares to your husband’s deployment, but my resentment about him being gone has definitely subsided. I’ve found my own power in figuring it out, realizing “I can do this.”

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Malia Jacobson September 8, 2011 at 11:39 pm

Wow. After a long, tough day, I’m not even really sure why I stopped by this blog (though I love it!) but I found exactly the words I needed to read today. I’m also raising two little girls, my little shadows, and I definitely relate to the “temporary single parent” situation. In addition to his full-time job, my husband coaches a varsity high school basketball team and runs a skills training business on the side. He is consumed by basketball most of the year. Coaches’ wives joke that we are single parents during the sports season, but our experience pales in comparison to that of real single parents or military spouses. He’s now in his eighth year of coaching and I’m handling things much better these days, mostly because I have realized that it’s not *his* job to make sure that I get the rest and support and breaks that I need–and when I feel frustrated or exhausted, it can’t be blamed on his absence, because those aren’t his problem to solve. They’re mine. Owning the difficulties of parenting (along with the good times) without needing him to rescue me has freed me from a lot of resentment. I’ve so enjoyed reading about you, Kim, and I wish you the best of luck as you get ready to welcome your husband home!

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Kim September 9, 2011 at 4:56 am

Malia, I could not have said it better!! “Owning the difficulties of parenting (along with the good times) without needing him to rescue me has freed me from a lot of resentment.” This is exactly what I was struggling to put into words, so thank you! It took me awhile to learn that I didn’t need to be rescued, and I am glad I did because now it is actually easier than it was before.
Thank you Angie for completely understanding me! It does give me power and confidence to say I can do this!

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