How Much Fun is Appropriate During a Deployment?


Am I the only one who cancels previously scheduled family vacations when the active duty member deploys?

Alright, alright, alright … I know I will go on living and do all kinds of super-fun stuff with the kids when my husband deploys this spring;  with two pre-teen boys we will have to get out of the house and trips to the mall just don’t cut it anymore.  But just how much fun is appropriate to keep you and kids entertained, make the time go by faster, whatever, without seeming like you don’t give a hoot about your deployed servicemember?

Case in point:  We had a cruise lined up for April with two other families and had all kinds of plans for our boys’ first time out to sea.  So when this last notice of deployment didn’t go away, and briefings/vaccinations/trainings were scheduled, I realized it was time to pull the plug on the trip.


Shameful admittance … I actually gave a two second thought to going on the cruise anyway, and which of my friends should accompany the boys and me.  Then I thought how the entire time we were on the vacation, I would think of my husband and how he was playing in an entirely different kind of sand and for a completely different reason.  I instantly felt guilty and mentally flogged myself for even considering such foolishness.  Hello … I mean, the vacation was planned as a family vacation.  How insensitive could I get? What would the postcard say?

Hi, Honey!  How are you?

The Caribbean is great this time of year!  Thanks for setting this up for us to enjoy without you!  

Wish you were here!  


Since I had entertained the thought all on my own, pray tell me why was I so flabbergasted by the cruise line agent when I called to cancel our reservation? I felt compelled to spill my guts and tell her that it would be hard to go on a family vacation when my husband would be in Afghanistan.  To which she quickly inquired, “Are you sure you don’t want to go without him?”

I was speechless.  When I finally found my voice and the crickets on my end of the phone fell silent, I simply replied, “Yes.  Yes I am sure,” all while wondering when someone will invent a phone with button that allocates throat punches.

Did her words hit me like a slap in the face because, for a brief moment, I had asked myself the same question and was disgusted by my own audacity?  Or was it because I was taken aback by her insensitivity to our situation?  Or was it because maybe it is okay to continue on with family plans and I am a wuss?

Here’s what  I am thinking:  That we keep all “fun” planning on the down low until he is in-country, and then I can begin to periodically plan stuff on the calendar to keep it moving so the concentration isn’t all on that distant date when Daddy is scheduled to come home.  This is not to keep him out of the loop, but so he doesn’t feel like we don’t care and just can’t wait for him to get out of the house so all the real fun can begin.  He will want us to live, he will want us to celebrate important days, and he will want us to do anything we can so the time moves quickly on our end, but we sure don’t want to rub those family trips without him in his face.

What are your thoughts?  How much fun hits the right balance during a deployment?  And do you plan before the deployment begins?

About the Author

Married to her high school sweetheart/AD Air Force man, Heidi was initially reluctant to life as a dependent, finally drank the Kool-Aid, and has since embraced being an active Air Force spouse. With a background in sports medicine, she has no real reason to write other than she enjoys it and likes to get others thinking. Heidi enjoys at-will employment as a substitute teacher, serving as an Arlington Lady, mothering two boys, rehabbing their short sale home purchase, recovering from a case of volunteeritis, correcting her verb tense, and learning more acronyms.

12 Comments on "How Much Fun is Appropriate During a Deployment?"

  1. Life doesn't stop when your spouse is deployed. The kids have birthdays. You celebrate anniversaries alone. You attend school assemblies and family reunions — all alone. You also deal with the car repairs and washer explosions and mole invasions — all alone. When my spouse is deployed, I live our life. I visit family. I host our annual extended famly Christmas party. I go out on girls' night out with my friends. I also graduated college and buried a beloved family pet and lost a friend to cancer — all alone.

    I would've asked him what he wanted. He gets a vote, too. Our servicemembers like to know we are okay and coping well. Besides, we know how to behave with the decorum and maturity of a married person. If a servicemember prefers their spouse to sit at home pining for them rather than have a good time, there is a bigger problem. Have fun. Live your life. Include your spouse in decisions about family vacations. Afterall, you're living your lives for the both of you when they are deployed.

  2. Tips From The Homefront | November 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm |

    Since I have personally gone on vacation without my husband I would say don't hold back. My thought at the time was that I didn't know if he would be around and I didn't want our boys missing out on a family vacation with cousins and so forth. Turned out he would only missed about three of the four days and I have zero regrets going without him! I would do it again, too!

  3. I would not go on an expensive trip without my husband. We don't have tons of money and I wouldn't feel right about using all the money we do have for just me and the kids. I would rather save and be able to take a really nice vacation with the whole family.

  4. Heidi, I totally understand and agree with what you are saying. Deployments are hard on both ends. Spouses at home manage the house, kids, school, work, food, laundry, AND entertainment, etc. Spouses abroad are working 12-14 hour days, living in a tent or small room, coping with limited entertainment, etc. Both are looking forward to just being together again. Would the deployed spouse not want you to have fun? Of course not. But, sure, they would love to be a part of it if they could and most deployed spouses would certainly say, "Don't let me hold you back."
    I went on a cruise without my husband, not because he was deployed, but because he was not allowed to take leave. It was also a family cruise with my parents, sister, and cousins. My kids had a blast, and I had fun too; but, every time I think back to it, I regret the fact that he wasn't with us. It saddens me and I think it saddens him too. Do I think I did the right thing for my kids? Maybe? Would I do it again? No.
    So here is my thought. Yes, have fun while your hubby is gone. Keep planning fun things to make the time go by faster. Stay busy and active. And yes, tell your husband how you spent the days while he is gone. As for the cruise…. I think you did the right thing. This first oceanic experience was meant to include all of you. So, don't cancel it. Postpone it.

  5. As a veteran spouse of 11 deployments and a mother of 3 I see two sides to this issue. Yes you need to live your life while your husband is gone and you should not deprive your family of fun. That being said this was a scheduled FAMILY vacation. A special event that included your husband. I agree with your cancellation, but I think you used the wrong word. I think postponement is better. You are going to wait and enjoy this event with your entire family when he returns. In the mean time life goes on and you will have fun without him. Is it sad? Of course. Will you miss him? You bet. Will things have been better if he was present? Yes. But you will live life and enjoy it. It is normal to feel guilt. If you didn’t I would be concerned. He is not going away on vacation or away to have fun. To imply that you have marial issues because you cancelled your cruise is absurd and quite honestly a selfish attitude. Cherish your time now before he leaves, live life while he is gone and celebrate his return.

  6. Claire Alexander | November 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

    Bottom line: I wouldn’t want to do any “major”
    trips without him just because he is my best friend. I would still live life by keeping the routine intact and continue to be the anchor for our family while attached to Jesus as my primary life line. Deployments for both active duty member and spouse + kids is a challenge. Just like the PCS move, it’s what you make of it. :-)

  7. Heidi,

    I totally understand the desire to postpone the trip for when your husband gets back. You should do what is best for your family without regard to the opinions of others.

    I tend to go the other way and plan trips for when my husband is gone. I once took the kids to Disneyworld for a week while he was in Kuwait. During another deployment, I bought season passes to an amusement park that was 2 hours away and we would often get a room at Embassy Suites and spend the weekend…because after a long day at Carowinds with three kids a mom needs a little free wine!

    I know that my husband was a little bummed that he wasn't able to join us but he really wanted us to find ways to have a good time. Also, for our family, it was important to show the kids (and myself) that we could do big things even if dad wasn't around. We would plan a few things before the deployment so that the kids would have events on the calendar to count down to other then his return. Then, we tried to make sure there was something scheduled for when he got home.

    I think the balance lies in finding the right place between "mourn, grieve, stop living" and "party like a rock star without regard to the feelings of our spouse." That right place is going to be different for every family.

  8. What an interesting perspective. I love being on here and seeing what other folks think and how they survive.
    While I can understand the disappointment of him not being able to go, I can't imagine spending my days waiting to live my life until he gets home. I'd also be worried about the message the kids are getting. Why make this life any harder for them? And what if he gets home from a bad deployment and doesn't want to vacation? What do you tell the kids then?
    We're even looking for a jeep to replace my small car so the kids and I can take road trips across the country while he's gone. We spend every minute together like it's our last but he would think I was crazy if I cancelled plans when he wasn't here. He doesn't need to be worried about me being lonely when he's not here.
    I hope you talk to your kids and include them in your decision making and best of luck for planning when he gets back.

  9. Can the Military member have too much fun on separation? I am a male spouse and my wife got sent to Korea. Now i feel that it is pulling us apart. She hangs out all night past curfew, get drunk every weekend, and spends the night (with some friends) at a E7's house.Does Korea change some one. Her excuse is that it is military life but im jealous as hell. It went from SGT. to just the last name to a nick first name. When i bring the issue up, she gets all defensive and hangs up on me or says she does not want to talk about it. Our time on skype is becoming a minimal and im getting worried. She swears to me nothing is going on, but i have my doubts. I have explained to her numerous times how i feel about it with little to no remorse. I am a full time student so i try to stay occupied, and i know they work their ass off out there, and need to release stress, but am i wrong for drawing a line there. I would appreciate some advise and i do not want to jump the gun and leave. Is this a military standard like she claims, Or a TDY ( temporary divorce for a year). Has anyone gone through this before.

    • She is lying to you sorry to say. Korea is not a place for any soldier period. Ditch her ass and report her. She does not deserve you. I was always told that ranks E6 and below are not to mingle with E7. Find out who this E7 idiot is. Call the Commander if i were you.

  10. I agree completely. I've taken advantage of additional pay and gone on my normal family trips, such as spending Christmas in Mexico, with my husband's blessing. I've gone out with friends, gone dancing, taken small road trips, etc., with his support. I would expect him to do the same when I was gone (we're dual military), although he doesn't prefer to go out without me.

    I definitely don't think it's fair to deprive yourself or cancel a planned trip due to a deployment. The entire family doesn't have to suffer, and I think most service members would want you to life and be happy. I do, however, understand where you might postpone a significant family trip, but as for that multi-family cruise, I'd still attend.

  11. Not by much! I’m a military spouse with children and I totally agree with you! We visit with family and take trips (depending on $$ ). My husband encourages us to visit & do things to enjoy life! Most soldiers or love ones want you to love life and live it to the fullest! Including them when possible and not going to the extreme –remember depression is a form of stress and kills all the same.

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