by Maggie Phillips, Guest Contributor
During my husband’s last deployment, there was a time of day I looked forward to more than any other.
“Just get the kids down for their naps,” I’d think to myself, “And I can listen to the podcasts with the swears.”
The podcasts with the swears got me through a deployment where I was super pregnant and home with a 3 year old and a 1 year old.
I could sometimes go a whole day where the only adult conversations I had were transactional. I’d allow myself the occasional small glass of wine, but any comfort that brought was mainly from the placebo effect of holding a wine glass in my hand. Something had to take its place, and that’s where podcasts came into play.
This may seem obvious to many of you. Heck, maybe you’re reading this while your favorite pod takes a quick Warby Parker break. But statistically, if you were 12 years of age or older as of 2015, only about half of the people reading this are likely to even know what I’m talking about. So for the other half – podcasts are basically online radio shows. And because the Internet can be about anything, you can find podcasts about pretty much anything.
Podcasts: For When All’s Quiet On The Homefront
Although there are a ton of educational podcasts out there, a quick tour of my deployment podcast menu will show that I tried to keep things light, what with my husband being in a war zone and everything.
For example, there are at least 3 podcasts that make fun of bad movies (these tend to be pretty long and so they’re good for marathon cleaning sessions or lazy pregnancy workouts on the elliptical). While I had to limit my wine intake, it was nice to know I could still learn about it on the “Wine for Normal People” podcast, which as a normal person who likes wine, was right in my wheelhouse. That one even has an accompanying app, Hello Vino, which allows you to quickly find wine pairings for pretty much anything and makes you look really smart and cultured — bonus!
There are recap shows for “The Bachelor,” “Game of Thrones,” or whatever you’re currently binge-watching. Personally, I almost can’t imagine how anyone watches “The Americans” without listening to Slate’s recap show the next day.*
Oh, and if you think you love Billy Joel as much as I do (you don’t, but OK, let’s pretend) you’ll probably enjoy the oeuvre-spanning “We Didn’t Start the Podcast.”
I don’t have exact numbers but there are billions of podcasts dedicated to religion and spirituality, and I subscribe to some Catholic ones that helped me on some rough days. The religion/spirituality genre provides the added consolation that if something happens to me, when they find my phone, my podcast diet will be revealed to contain something besides NSFW comedy and wine trivia. It will suggest I had hidden depths and be some small consolation to my poor sainted mother.
“The History Chicks” have a substantial back-catalog of shows on women in history that I enjoyed when I needed to feel like I was learning something.
Finally, you can battle deployment insomnia with “Sleep With Me,” in which the host uses – among other things – monotone descriptions of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes to lull you to sleep. Seriously.
As a mom, I’m always on the lookout for ways to distract my children so that I don’t have to interact with them. It turns out, there are family and kid-friendly story podcasts. Disney has one with condensed storybook versions of their movies that my oldest daughter loves and got us through many a hectic morning while my husband was gone.
In my estimation, on the spectrum of absentee parenting, it’s somewhere between leaving them with the iPad and turning on the TV. Or maybe it’s just like getting someone else to read to your kid, someone they’ll actually listen to, and you can eat a sandwich you don’t have to share with anyone.
My husband would listen to podcasts downrange when he got a chance, and the benefit for our marriage was that there was something else to talk to each other about when he called. You can only say so much about the kids and the day-to-day grind, and you can only distract so much from the things your service member can’t or won’t tell you about their deployment.
Shared podcast listening meant we had something interesting and novel to say to each other.
If one of us had listened to a new show or an episode the other hadn’t heard yet, we could recommend them to each other.
For more austere deployments, a friend of mine recommended loading up an old iPod with a bunch of podcasts for your service member to take with them. I did that for my brother when he was in Afghanistan, and he seemed to appreciate that more than the party-in-a-box I sent him ahead of my birthday in case he cared to mark the occasion with his platoon. I waited patiently for the pictures from the disposable camera I included, but they never came.
My great-grandmother was the OG milspouse in our family, and she was known to say of her relationship with my great-grandfather: “World War II and Korea saved our marriage.” I don’t know about saving our marriage, but podcasts definitely gave it an intellectual rigor it might have otherwise lacked when my husband was gone.
There’s obviously no substitute for human interaction, but when you’re staring at a sink full of dirty dishes at 10 p.m. and there’s no one else to talk to, firing up a podcast to amuse or edify you makes the whole prospect much less depressing.
*I know most people aren’t watching “The Americans,” but that’s a discussion for another day. Seriously, what is wrong with you. What. Is. Wrong.
Do you listen to podcasts? Share your favorite ones in the comments section.
E. Margaret Phillips who goes by Maggie has worked for the Army in different capacities for over 3 years, for both U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and for U.S. Army Public Health Command. She has been published in the United States Foreign Service Association’s Foreign Service Journal, and in the U.S. Army professional publication, Military Review. She is a mother of 3 and has been an Army spouse for 8 years.