Kristy, wife of a U.S. Army helicopter pilot and mother of 2-year-old son.
Sometimes single because ... Brian is deployed. Their longest separation lasted almost a year.
Best advice ... Don't just have a plan for the kids -- have a plan for yourself. For instance, Kristy keeps a cleaning chart and does several chores each day so she's never overwhelmed with cleaning the whole house. She also gives herself a break -- it's okay not to do dishes after Cole, my son, is in bed. "Some days it is so nice to put my feet up, drink a glass of wine, and watch brainless TV -- that can work wonders at the end of a trying day."
Keeps a good attitude by ... Waking up knowing that she will do her best to make it a positive, productive day for herself and Cole. "I understand that my outlook has a direct effect on Cole's outlook, so I try to set the best example. Brian's being gone is a normal part of our lives, and I don't want to treat it as something to fear."
Stays connected to husband by ... Using the Internet. Brian and Cole engage each other on the webcam. Cole recognizes the "bing" sound of an instant message -- he knows Dad is there on the other side.
Stays connected with others by ... Getting together with other parents for playdates. "It's nice when Cole doesn't rely on just me for entertainment, and I relish time with other adults." She's lucky in that the military offers both formal and informal support networks.
When she's feeling challenged ... Getting out of the house for a change of scenery is helpful. Even a trip to Starbucks for coffee and Cole's "chocolate mocha" (chocolate milk) is good.
Fights resentment by ... Not allowing herself to go there. She maintains she is the lucky one -- at home with Cole, in their house, in her bed. The rough days equal the good days, but at the end of any day, she is the one who gets to tuck Cole in and read him his bedtime story.
And when things are rough, Brian picks up on it. "He can tell from my voice when I've had too much, and soon there's something waiting for me in the mailbox. The presents are great, but knowing that he picked up on my stress levels is the most important thing to me."
Some tricks of the trade ... Kristy videotaped Brian reading Cole's favorite books to him. There are pictures of Brian in every room. Kristy and Cole write notes and send care packages to Brian, and they love getting letters in return -- they help to distract from the pile of bills alongside the letters.
His side of the story ... When Brian is home, it's hard for him to walk back into a world that is supposed to be his, even though it has existed without him for stretches of time lasting up to a year. "If he helps too much, he messes up our system. If he doesn't help enough, I get angry," says Kristy. "What works best is when he asks how he can be helpful, or he kicks me out of the house. Then he can do his thing, and I'm not hovering to make sure he's doing it 'the right way.' Cole and Brian get time together, and I get precious 'me' time."