By Dr. Kimberlee Ratliff
Program Director, M.Ed. School Counseling at American Military University
In my nearly 21 years as a military wife, it was the norm to spend special holidays alone. Mother’s Day was no different.
The stress of parenting alone while a spouse is deployed or in training can become overwhelming. I often heard civilian friends tell me, “I wish I had known what to do to help.” As an independent, “I can do it all myself” type of person, I didn’t ask for help when I needed it.
But there are ways to easily provide assistance to military spouses. Here are 10 ways to help a military wife this Mother’s Day or any other day during the year.
- Offer to watch the kids while she goes for a walk or takes a nap.
- Take her on a girl’s day out to get a facial or a pedicure.
- Bring over a meal one evening.
- Bring her tea, coffee or another special treat.
- Call her and ask if you can run an errand for her, such as a post office trip, grocery store trip, etc.
- Create a list of babysitters who are willing to help at no cost while her husband is gone.
- Offer to cut the grass or do the laundry.
- Take the kids to their activities one day to give their mom a break.
- Be there to listen and provide emotional support.
- Become familiar with resources in case her needs are more than you can handle. A couple of resources include Military.com and Military Spouses of Strength.
Overall wellness can be compromised when one military spouse acts as the sole parent in a household and copes with high-stress situations such as the other spouse’s deployment. Additional support from other people will not only benefit a military spouse, but helping others is shown to have positive effects on the helper as well.
To the military spouse moms out there who hold it all together in tough circumstances, my best advice is: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I often thought it was my responsibility to work a full-time job, take care of the children, cook, clean and manage everything on my own while my husband was away. For some reason, I was under the impression that asking for help made me weak and I was determined to prove I was a strong military wife.
It is okay to ask for and welcome other help. Many people don’t know what you need and when you need it, but are willing and able to assist. So, give yourself permission to seek that support when you need to recharge your batteries. I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!
About the Author
Dr. Kimberlee Ratliff holds an Ed.D. in Counseling Psychology, a M.Ed. in School Counseling and a B.S. in Psychology. She has been with APUS since September 2010, and is an associate professor and program director of School Counseling. Kimberlee is a National Certified Counselor (NCC), National Certified School Counselor (NCSC), K-12 Certified School Counselor (VA) and Trauma and Loss School Specialist with 12 years of experience as an elementary and middle school counselor. She is also a military spouse to a non-commissioned U.S. Army officer who retired in October 2015.