Unfortunately, the military does not consider the special events in your family when scheduling duty, deployments, field exercises, training, etc. In the five years I have been married, my spouse has been around for one anniversary and one birthday — and I consider myself lucky! Many spouses I know have yet to celebrate a single anniversary with their service member. My birthday is this week and I wanted to share some ways to make it a special day even without your spouse.
First, do not ignore the birthday, anniversary, or special day. This will make you sad and could potentially make your significant other feel guilty for being away (this is the LAST thing you want, since they have little to no control over their schedules). I find that doing even a little something can put a smile on your face.
Make a point to see people who you care about on your birthday. Get together with friends, whether it is as simple as meeting for an ice cream or a latte or more elaborate, like going out to dinner or lunch. Although it is your birthday, you need to take control and plan this outing with friends. Last year I made plans to go to a pizza restaurant. It was not fancy; it was informal but I had a lot of fun.
Make plans with your children. Plan and cook a special meal in celebration of you together. Let the kids have an active role in making your day exceptional. Their joy will be contagious and you will all form special memories of the day (and consequently have some great photo opportunities to send pictures to your spouse who is away).
Do something for yourself. Take a long bubble bath, get a pedicure, a long solo stroll through Target...whatever makes you happy and allows you to relax. Make sure you set some time away to enjoy your day and celebrate another great year of life.
I also believe that it is important to remind your spouse that your birthday is around the corner. I truly believe that in order for your spouse to succeed in meeting your birthday or holiday expectations you need to clue them in to what you want. This will make it easy for your spouse to do a little something in advance if he is away and will ensure you are not disappointed on your birthday. My spouse is deployed, so before he left I politely requested a hand written letter for my birthday and for our anniversary. This allowed him to buy two cards before he left and ensure I would get a little something special on my birthday even though he is far away.
This year, I plan to have a few of my friends whose spouses are also deployed over for dinner. It will not be anything too snazzy; just a backyard barbeque to celebrate life and good friends!
How do you celebrate special occasions when your spouse is away?