Who are these strangers living in my house?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Chad Marien
  • 62nd Airlift Wing director of staff
The operations tempo is at an all time high. As a result of deployments, temporary duties away and long days in the office, we are spending less time at home with our families. It is important, however, while we are away to continue to nurture our relationship with them. Many times I think of my work as being too mundane to share with my wife and kids.

They will often ask how my day was, which I sum up with a colorful adjective like "fine" or "good." Don't under sell your job. Your family is interested in what you do and they want to know the details, what projects you are working on and what issues you encountered. Fight the urge to give one word answers. Take the time to tell them what you did no matter how boring you felt your day was. It helps keep them engaged in what you are doing day to day and what relationships you have made.

It's also important to talk to your family about their day and really listen to what they are telling you. My wife and kids have a life outside of my work, and what they do during the day is equally important and deserves my full attention too. Again, they may give you the same colorful response of "it was fine." You can help them by asking meaningful questions that encourages them to give you more details. For example, I will ask my kids to tell me the funniest thing that happened to them at school, or I will ask my wife to tell me about her morning, or something interesting that happened at her work. This will hopefully avoid the one word answers like, fine, yes, or, no.

What I find most difficult is listening empathetically. My wife often catches me skim listening. Mentally I'm checked out even though I'm giving the impression I'm fully engaged in the conversation. In order to really listen effectively you need to put down whatever distraction you are working on whether it is mental or physical and concentrate on what your family is telling you. Tune in to what they are up to, they need to know that you care about what they are saying.

Check in on your family throughout the day, or call home if you are on a trip even if it's at an inconvenient time to let them know you are thinking about them. There is so much technology at our finger tips to help us stay in touch. A quick e-mail or text might be just enough to let your family know that you are doing okay and that you are thinking about them.

Effective communication will help tremendously in keeping your family strong during the high ops tempo. Try not to forget your priorities. Your job is temporary, but your family is there for a lifetime.