Focus on the Family

Solo Duty

This practical guide to holding down the fort highlights what the spouse at home needs to be in control of when the other spouse deploys.

by Jocelyn Green

Let's say that deployment is fast approaching, and you're bracing yourself for the separation. The spouse at home will serve as both mom and dad as well as "officer in charge" of all domestic affairs. In her book When Duty Calls, Carol Vandesteeg suggests holding a "Change of Command" ceremony in which you reassign household tasks and clearly state your expectations for the children's behavior.

Regardless of which spouse holds down the fort, he or she should be well-versed in the following areas before the deployment begins:


Husband and wife should be equally able to pay the bills and handle family finances, since a short-notice separation may not allow time for additional training.



Important Records

Save yourself time and energy by organizing legal and personal documents.


Keep the following documents in a special binder, file cabinet or fireproof safe:

Household Management

Know the routine for basic household maintenance.



*For comprehensive pre-deployment checklists, check with the service member's unit as well as USAA for its Deployment Assistance Advice & Assistance Checklist.

Maintain the Leadership of a Deployed Father

Even when deployment takes the husband out of the home and mom is clearly in control, a father can still maintain his leadership position in the family.

  1. Create recorded messages from Dad. Record Dad reading stories to the kids, sharing how much he loves them, telling them to obey their mom while he is gone, etc.
  2. Choose words wisely. A mother's attitude can convey either resentment or understanding and love. Explain that Daddy misses the family and keep him "present" by saying things like, "Daddy would like that," or "Daddy will love hearing about this!"
  3. Consult and consort. Communicate before making big decisions whenever possible. The wife can also share observations about the children with her husband, and together they can develop a plan for their best interests. (Do this between deployments as well, so, if communication isn't possible, you'll have set a precedent.)
  4. Communicate. Utilize mail, Internet and phone whenever possible. Send Dad pictures of the kids, their artwork and audio or video clips of them doing everyday things. Likewise, the family needs to hear from the deployed father, even if all he has the energy to say is simply that he's tired and will share more later.
  5. Collect photos of Dad and post them around the home to maintain his presence and position in the family.