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Shelter In Place: A military mom shares her experiences staying home after 9/11

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This is not the first time I have been sheltered in my home. Though under different circumstances, the feelings are similar.  On September 11, 2001, my world was turned upside down. My husband left on October 4th with his Army unit out of Ft. Drum, NY to fight an enemy in an undisclosed location for an unknown amount of time.

I had two small children at the time, ages 2 ½ and 6 months, and one large furry comfort dog – a Golden Retriever. I was not ordered to stay in my home, although circumstances and schedules dictated that I would. Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. Each day was eerily the same.

I spent my time:

  • Feeding a toddler and nursing an infant
  • Changing diapers and potty training
  • Shoveling upstate NY snow
  • Entertaining above-mentioned kids
  • Trying to uplift other military spouses
  • Showering…maybe
  • Buying groceries when I needed them
  • Cleaning and doing laundry
  • Sobbing intermittently while having a glass of wine
  • Trying to get some sleep after avoiding the disheartening daily news

I couldn’t FaceTime, call or text. The news, much like today, was nothing but bleak, dark and sad, sprinkled with a few uplifting stories of hope and unity.

I would wait for some communication from my husband – usually in the form of letters or phone calls. Missed calls were devastating, as they were few and far in between. I made it through those seven months, but it was not easy.

I have soldiered on through several year-long (or more) deployments over the years. Each separation had its own set of challenges. My now three children were various ages, and my husband’s position and responsibilities changed with each deployment, which meant my obligations also progressed. Sometimes I was working in a paid position. More often than not, I was volunteering my services for free.

Though my husband has retired from active duty, he is currently in a role as a medical advisor with the U.S. Ministry of Defense. Hence, he is part-way through a year-long assignment to Afghanistan.

So, not only are we in the middle of a Pandemic, but once again, I am sheltering in place taking care of my kiddos and my household.

I’d like to say it gets easier as they get older, but that is not true. It is neither simpler nor harder…just different.

I now have two daughters home from college. During their Spring break, they were forced to vacate their dorms with very little notice. My son will also not be returning to finish his freshman year of high school. All have now moved to an online learning platform to complete their coursework.

I am no longer caring for small children, but now I am responsible for one teenager and two college-age “adults” as we are confined to our home.

My days are still spent caring for them, but in different ways:

  • Cooking meals – although they sometimes make their own
  • Cleaning and getting them to clean
  • Buying groceries and hunting for essentials (like toilet paper)
  • Working from home
  • Walking the dogs
  • Finishing long-overdue projects
  • Have a few glasses of wine
  • Binging on Netflix, Disney Plus and other movie/tv platforms
  • Trying to get my kids to talk to me for more than 10 minutes at a time
  • FaceTiming my husband twice a day
  • Keeping myself from reading all of the negative social media and news posts

I will admit that I fight boredom often, and long for the days when my children thought I hung the moon. These days I am lucky if they emerge from their bedrooms long enough to graze. Technology is a good tool, but detrimental to actual one-on-one conversation and interaction.

It is hard to let go. Facing the fact that my children no longer need me as much as they used to is a tough pill to swallow. But, isn’t that the point? To empower, teach and encourage your children so that one day they become self-sufficient young adults?

I take heart in the fact that I probably won’t have any of them living in my basement forever, but lament that fact that they would rather be there now than in my company.

I know this too shall pass…the pandemic, the self-centered teenage years, and my pity party. I cling to the fact that one day, they will realize that I did know what I was talking about. They will want to spend time with me again. They will appreciate how much was sacrificed for them, and that I tried – each and every day to help them grow.

Though today’s trials are not the same as the aftermath of September 11th, the responses need to be similar. Fight the fight. Hold your kids and spouse tight. Help your neighbor. Look for the good in people and in the world. Make the shelter a home.

As a former military spouse, Darcia Kunkel has a heart for military families and writes on topics including motherhood, Christian inspiration, military spouse transition, practical cooking and the struggles of perfectionism. Readers enjoy her lighthearted approach to life after age 40 in her book “Forty-something and Fried” sold on Amazon. Darcia holds a BA degree in Journalism, Public Relations and an MBA in Management. She has worked in the fields of banking, accounting, finance, marketing, IT and public relations. When Darcia isn’t feeling 40-something and fried, she can be found parenting her three children, writing/editing books and articles, business consulting, and volunteering.

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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