Sitting in the social worker’s office with my infant and three-year old son, I kept hearing the words “yes, but” come out of my mouth. This deployment, the third during my freshly-turned, three-year old’s life, was the first where he’s had any real concept of daddy being home or away. Because of this, his age, and maybe the new sibling we added to the mix, six weeks before his daddy left, I noticed sleep regression and stuttering.
After talking to the pediatrician about my concerns and getting a referral to speech therapy, the pediatrician referred me to the social worker to see if she had any other ideas for how to support my son during this transition. I agreed to go, hoping for suggestions we hadn’t thought of, or maybe some magic silver bullet to solve all our woes. Instead, I was met with ideas we’ve blown through or I’ve rejected because they don’t make sense for us… Daddy Dolls (“Yes, but we already have one” …that he doesn’t show interest in), the Military OneSource books about deployment (“Yes, but we already have them… he can quote it from memory”), a DVD geared towards 6-10 year olds about deployment (“Yes, but he’s three”), and the deployment countdown suggestion (“Yes, but we don’t want to live life wishing days away or counting the sleeps until Daddy is home. Plus, we don’t know when he will come home”).
Coping strategies geared towards conventional forces don’t work as well in the fast and relentless operational tempo we experience in Special Operations units. The only real resources are ones that view deployment as a big event – something geared up for, endured, then left behind or maybe repeated several years later. In the Special Operations community, as soon as trip or deployment ends, everyone is gearing up for the next, which is probably already scheduled.
Instead of feeling hopeful and supported after that appointment with the social worker, I felt even more that it was on my shoulders to figure out, mostly through trial and error, just how to be the constant for my family, in our life of constant flux.
By researching, bridging gaps, and connecting people to resources designed to respond to our unique lifestyle, The Military Special Operations Family Collaborative fills a void sorely lacking in the Special Operations community. Now, none of us have to feel like we are struggling alone. We have an organization that was established to hear our family challenges and work on creating resources uniquely for us, adding certainty to our journey.
Mary Duffy is from Georgia. She has been an educator for over ten years, with classroom teaching in GA, NC, CO, and FL. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Science in English Education. In 2018, she received her Masters in Education from the University of Kansas. Mary and her husband have two children and have been part of the Special Operations community for ten