When Daddy’s Deployed: Creating Strong Bonds with Your Baby
Melissa Parnell, 26, found only one thing missing during the birth of her now 14-month-old daughter, Evelyn. Unfortunately, it was a key item: her husband, Jonathan, who had been deployed three months earlier. Though unable to attend his daughter’s birth, Jonathan connected with her via video chat 72 hours later.
It is a scenario many military moms and dads dread. Separation from children during deployment is tough on everyone, but there are things you can do to make sure your husband remains connected to the children during his absence.
Log On. During Jonathan’s year-long deployment, Melissa says, “We talked on Skype once a week or so.” Skype and Google chat offer those separated by thousands of miles the ability to see and hear each other in real time – for no cost! Simply sign up for an account, choose a time to “meet,” and call one another over the computer. “I would try to have Skype time with Evelyn awake and available, as well as time to talk for just the two of us.”
Additionally, says Melissa, “I would email him daily with videos, photos, and stories of how our baby was growing and developing.” In these emails, Melissa filled Jonathan in on Evelyn’s growth, cute things she did, what she’d learned, and her favorite foods and activities. “This allowed him to enjoy her growing up experience from afar.” Though Jonathan was unable to communicate regularly, he did receive emails and read them when he could.
Video it. Jonathan asked a friend to film him reading a story to Evelyn. “He told her how much he loved her and how he wished he could be with us.” He read books to his daughter and showed her the pictures. “I would play this constantly when we were home so Evelyn would be familiar with his voice.” Melissa also suggests recording your spouse singing, reading, and talking, and playing this recording as your children drift off to sleep at night. “This was a comforting way for Evelyn to fall asleep, listening to her father’s calm, deep voice.”
Scrap it. If you’re a scrapper, create a scrapbook of your husband prior to deployment and share the snapshots with your child(ren) while he’s gone. Connect the photographs with stories about the photographs whenever you can (this is the time your father and I went hiking in the mountains; this is us when I was pregnant with you). Your child may not get to be with your husband, but listening to stories and seeing pictures will help create a bond that lasts long after he returns home.
You should also work with your child(ren) to create a scrapbook for your deployed spouse. Advice columnist April Masini of AskApril.com, says, “Keep a scrapbook of everything that goes on with you and the children while he’s gone, so that you can cuddle up with him when he returns and go over each page.” This is a great way to share the various stages of your baby’s life, so your spouse doesn’t feel that he missed out on the big milestones.
Write it down. You probably have heard the stories about war wives sending love letters to their deployed husbands. These are great keepsakes, so pick up a nice set of stationary and write. April suggests numbering each envelope before mailing, so he knows if he’s missing one; the numbered envelopes also allow you to read the letters in order in the future. “You can’t control what goes on where your husband is; but you can keep him in your life, and keep you in his, by writing regularly.”