Deployment Makes a Mummy’s Girl – Sarah’s Feature in Army and You Magazine

Having previously been featured in Army and You magazine with a short interview on how I managed to study for my dream career alongside being an army spouse, I was contacted again to write a Blog Spot piece.

Never did I think that I would be given the title Best Blog, and I am so thrilled for my personal blog, Someone Calls Me Mummy! Thank you for recognising my little blog!

You can see the post I wrote about my bond with Olivia during Jamie’s deployment below, along with a piece from The Military Husband.

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Deployment Makes A Mummy’s Girl…

Before Jamie left for Afghanistan, Olivia was a huge daddy’s girl. I mean, to the point that I was seriously dreading him leaving! Of course, the situation wasn’t ideal – I was studying my Bar Professional Training Course in London, working part-time, and not driving. Looking after Olivia was just another part of my hectic life that I had to arrange on my own while he was away.
 
She turned 2 the month after he deployed, and, luckily, I managed to skip out on the whole terrible twos phase (THANK THE HEAVENS). Okay, okay, I didn’t skip it out altogether – it just hit when she was about 14 months old and only actually resolved itself when Daddy went away.
 
Like I said, before he left, she was a massive Daddy’s girl. I simply wasn’t good enough, and I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Every new mum feels that way sometimes, but I was convinced she hated me. She did that classic thing where she would be angelic for her Daddy but really misbehave for me. She used to be so clingy for him, and all of a sudden he wasn’t there anymore.
 
When your kids are so young, there’s really no way of preparing them for one of their parents leaving. I couldn’t tell her in advance, and he left late at night so he didn’t get to say goodbye. We simply told Olivia that Daddy was going to work, which was true. That then evolved into laughing that Daddy was on holiday (which may as well have been true, given the 24 hour gym and the cinema room on his camp!) and her simply being stuck with me for the next 7 months.
 
It was rough at first, she asked for him all of the time, again and again, and it was awful having to tell her that he wasn’t here. We were quite fortunate that Jamie had wifi access whenever he was in his room on camp (American camps eh? Super fancy!) and video calling him became part of our routine. She was definitely more accepting of that and stopped asking for him so often. At the same time, she became a hell of a lot more clingy with me.
 
Our morning drop offs at the Childminder became that much more difficult because she just did not want to leave me! That phase of the horrible crying fits at her door lasted for a few months, and eventually Olivia got used to the fact that she just had me around. Maybe she got a little too used to it, though! Now, she’s flipped and is all for mummy, all the time. I can barely go to the loo by myself, because she wants to be with me. 
Deployment changes lots of things, and, yeah, you get used to how it is after a while, but I for one never expected it to change the way our little girl was with us. She still adores her daddy, but it took some work getting her to be okay with him when he first came back, and even now, she’s a mummy’s girl at heart. After all of the trials and tribulations, it really did bring us closer.

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Life of an Army Wife – Why We Need a Routine!

If you’ve followed my stories before on this blog, you will know that my husband is a serving member of the Grenadier Guards, and he has recently completed a tour of Afghanistan.

Don’t get too excited, by a ‘tour’, I mean, literally, he went to a 5* resort with a 24/7 restaurant, gym, cinema room… etc. etc. You name it, the American camp he was on had it! Gone are the days where our soldiers were on the front lines out there! It’s still dangerous, of course, however just for context, before he went away, his many, MANY briefings indicated that his biggest threat to life would be a road traffic accident.

Now, that probably sounds like I’m downplaying it a lot, but really, there wasn’t all that much to worry about with him overseas. There were some scary moments where a couple of bombs went off in the city, or his vehicle broke down in the middle of Kabul and they had to wait out in the open for it to be fixed, but on the whole, the 7 month tour was without its dramas. (For him anyway!)

The hardest parts of the tour were the time difference, the radio silence, and me effectively being a single mother, trying to fill up my empty time.

Jamie was 3 and a half hours ahead of us, which doesn’t seem like much of a difference, and at first it didn’t affect us very much at all. He began the tour in early April while I was still on my Easter break from uni, and even when I went back to uni, it was only then for exams. So I would do an exam, come home, maybe do a little part-time shift at next, then go back to being mum for the rest of the day. It was fairly flexible and because I was available pretty much all of the time, the time difference wasn’t all that noticeable…

However, come June, I started working full-time. Olivia had to be at the childminder’s house for 07:30 dead on, otherwise I would miss my train to work at 07:38. From June until August, my train journey to work was pretty much the only uninterrupted period of time that we would be able to talk. Luckily, things have changed a lot since he last went to Afghanistan and he was able to use wifi from his room on camp, so we could send messages or video call as long as he was in his room. But by the time I finished work and got home with Olivia, he would be getting ready for bed. Still, Olivia got to speak to him most nights, though not for very long before I had to crack on with dinner, bath and bed for her too.

And so part 1 of our little routine developed. The strict morning routine of me habitually running to the train station to catch my train within 8 minutes of dropping Olivia off, and the strict evening routine of Olivia’s phone call with daddy, dinner time, bath time, our talcum powder thing (where we pretend to go crazy with the powder and shout “don’t tell dad!” while doing so), and bed time, listening to Daddy reading We’re Going on a Bear Hunt on the CD player.

It got harder to manage that effectively if Olivia missed Daddy’s call because he was out on a patrol, or if he was away from camp for longer than a couple of days. You know what it’s like, toddlers asking for something, you saying no, then they want it more and become even more persistent in their annoying whining about it… it was like that, except she was asking for Daddy, not just another piece of chocolate or something equally unimportant. Those times were stressful for me too, not least because I would be worrying about where he was (as he couldn’t usually tell me if he was leaving camp) and when I would speak to him next, but also I’d have a pretty much inconsolable child and I didn’t know what on earth to do about it.

I suppose that actually fed into the second, and biggest, part of our routine. We started filling our time up full of things to do. I found evenings so difficult, as it had been the first time in 5 years that I didn’t have any studying to do. Netflix played a large part in the evening “me time”, as did blogging until the pressures at work got slightly higher and I had the facility to work from home (big mistake – now I feel like I never log off). Filling up our weekends was slightly more difficult. Before Jamie came home for R&R (Rest & Recuperation) in August, I was still not driving and had to rely on trains or buses to get anywhere.

The first thing I focused on was throwing Olivia’s birthday party in May. People thought I was crazy doing it all at our house – I did the food, hired a bouncy castle, invited about 20 kids, and yes, it was hectic, but the cake, the picky bits and the other things I had to plan and organise made it a big distraction for me!

I tried to always do something at the weekend with her – we went to SeaLife in London, we met up with other Mums whose husbands were deployed and did a morning at Coral Reef in Bracknell, we went on a trip with the Welsh Guards Welfare to Legoland. I think I (very rarely) got the train to Kent to see my mother-in-law, and my dad even came down from Hull to visit me one weekend when the Grenadier Guards had a big fun day on up at camp.

It was difficult not having family nearby, literally managing Olivia on my own, and Olivia only managed to see her sister twice in that time, adding to the feeling of the time just dragging by! I can’t imagine how much she must have missed both her and her dad, and she was still really too young to understand where they’d gone. She knew daddy was at work (on holiday) and Kiera was at her mummy’s, but she went from seeing them both all the time to not at all.

That’s why it was so important to get into a busy routine. The more things we did, the easier it became to just crack on with life and the time passed far more quickly.

After August, it was so much easier to get into an even better routine because I FINALLY started driving! I was able to find little clubs and activities to take Olivia to, like I had wanted to for ages, and it doubled up as something else to keep us busy and keep our minds off the fact that Daddy should have been home for good in August, as his tour was extended until No

vember just a month before his R&R and I received that news on my birthday (how kind of them!)

Our weekend itinerary is;

Saturday:

9am – Dancing
10am – Gravity Force Trampolining
11:20am – French
Afternoon – Housework (aka nap time)

Sunday:

10am – Gravity Force Trampolining (sometimes)
2pm – Swimming

In the middle of those activities we found time to make and send parcels to daddy which Olivia enjoyed doing, and it doubled up as messy play for her as she painted and decorated the shoeboxes and made pictures for him that we sent out to him on blueys or in his parcels.

As you can tell, we liked to be kept busy, and it made the time fly! Although it was still rough not having Jamie around and my evenings were pretty uneventful and long, spending that quality time with Olivia and keeping us both busy really helped to distract us from missing him.

Are you a military spouse? How do you distract yourself when your other half is deployed overseas? Let us know in the comments!

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Daddykind Corner: Being a Dad with PTSD

After we did a trial run of the Daddykind Corner with my lovely husband putting up with me interviewing him for the sake of the blog and for all of Daddykind, we present to you….

VOLUME 2!

I am very pleased to introduce our good friend Darren, who has had his fair share of mental illness and has some good techniques and tips for bringing your children up aware of mental health and how to take care of it.

Darren uses his own experience to coach other men through mental health problems and other mental blocks, so he’s pretty qualified to share his thoughts on how you can move on from mental illness and be the best parent you can be.

I’m so thrilled to feature this post from Darren because we all know how dire mental health provision is and how badly it affects men in particular. Please if any mums or dads are reading this and think they need help, contact your GP, the Samaritans or your local out of hours team if you feel you are in crisis.

Tell us a bit about yourself…

Yes, of course. My name is Darren, I am friends with Sarah through her husband, Jamie. I served in the military with Jamie for 15 years and was posted overseas on many operations.
I am a father to two beautiful children aged 4 and 2, a boy and girl and separated from their mother whom I still have a fantastic relationship with….for the most part lol…
I was born and raised in the East End of London and I currently coach other men on mastering their emotions.

If you had to describe being a father in one word, what would it be and why?

If I had to choose 1 word it’d be “uncertainty” because I find I’m alway asking myself if I’m doing the right thing for them… whether that be by way of teaching and helping shape their little minds or disciplining them and training them to be good, honest, hardworking people. All that with making sure that they truly love themselves and KNOW from their core that they are worthy to achieve anything they want in life… No one said this parenting game is easy, aye?

How was your mental health after becoming a father?

I thought my mental health was fine… I was they happiest man in the world after my little girl, Evie was born…. However my wife at the time was suffering with and subsequently diagnosed with PND, which wasn’t easy at all, as I couldn’t understand why she was so unhappy all the time.

Were things different the second time around?

Oh massively… I’ll be honest and say that I never wanted a second child because I was so in love with my little girl that I couldn’t fathom having to share my love with another baby and I didn’t think it would be fair… I honestly didn’t think that I was capable of loving Mathew in the same way as Evie and subsequently it took me about 3 months to truly bond with him. Looking back it make me sad because I saw him as a burden. But now I understand that you don’t have to love them in the same way as your first and my heart literally melts every time I see him now.

Did you feel prepared for fatherhood and what could have helped you to be more prepared?

You can read all the books in the world, go to all the classes but I don’t think that anything will ever really prepare you for fatherhood. I think that as a dad having a positive male role model in your life can definitely put you in good stead to being a dad, and I never had this, which is why I do my absolute best to be the best man I can be for them because I know the importance of having both parents that want their babies to have the best start in life.

When were you diagnosed with PTSD and BPD?

I was diagnosed with PTSD from m

y military service in 2017 and subsequently discharged as a result and after using the techniques and procedures to keep on top of it I still knew that something was up with me and since have been diagnosed with BPD earlier this year after a friend opened up about her struggles it was like shinning a light on what I was going through.
Whilst growing up, I was a bit of a wild child to say the least and was in and out of care, excluded from school, engaged in dangerous or outright illicit activities at times and had a tough upbringing in East London, so I’ve always known that I’ve struggled with my emotions… something that I’ve got a grip of nowadays (for the most part). But as I grow, evolve and become more self aware over time it’s got to the point where I can’t ignore my problems and my advice to any other men reading this is: do not bury your head in the sand, just be honest with yourself… if you need help then go and seek it because drinking, fighting, drugs, being promiscuous etc etc will only lead to further problems and is just masking the true underlying issues.

What techniques do you use to manage your mental health?

There are many that you can use but finding what works for you is paramount. As a man, one of the biggest things that has helped me has been simply talking to a professional within the specific mental health niche. Because I bottled it up for so long there is only a certain amount you can take before something has to give. 
As I said, knowing yourself is also key… knowing what your triggers are and how they make you feel is also very important so you can counteract them…eg: being a massive introvert (most wouldn’t believe it lol) if I can feel myself slipping back into a rough patch…spending time alone in nature, on my motorbike, by the water really helps me to connect with myself again… it also helps to have a purpose and a goal in life and something to work on that requires discipline and focus. I find that whatever I focus on tends to expand so it’s about knowing how and where to shift your focus.

How has your understanding of your own mental health impacted on being a parent?

It most certainly has made be more aware and I listen more to my children… I’ll be honest I used to “Parent” my children and just try to get through the day making sure they are fed, watered and entertained. I now realise that it’s also key to flood their subconscious with positive affirming messages so that they love themselves. I just want them to be truly happy and not have to have a childhood they have to recover from. 

Who knows if I’m doing it right? One can only hope and time will tell.

Do you think it’s important to raise your children to understand mental illness and how would you do that?

I do think it’s super important that they know about mental health and more importantly that they take control of their own. I would certainly say that trying to go through life without any regrets is something I like to teach my kids… Whether that’s by always trying their hardest at something that they want to do and working hard for their goals or by simply being a good person and trying to never hurt the people around them or in any way compromise their integrity. 

Also, by always being true to themselves and NEVER letting the opinions of others define who they are…. I’ve always said that there is a date you were born and a date you die and that line in-between represents your life. 

So, I encourage them to think freely and live with passion and purpose.

———-

Thank you, Darren!

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