There are plenty of folks out there who pay lip service to our military families on a regular basis – at least once every Veteran’s Day and sometimes on Memorial Day, too! And that’s a good thing. But there are also plenty of people who fail to realize the actual day-to-day crapfest that military families plow through.
There are deployments to handle, ridiculous work schedules to contend with when deployment is not on the table, and let’s not forget the ever entertaining moving every coupla years whether you need it or not aspect! I am a very lucky military spouse, in that my hubby hasn’t deployed in a while and we have been in one place for three and a half years (though we’re moving in a month!) But this post is dedicated to all the other MMs out there who don’t have it so easy, and who deal regularly with some of the downfalls of being a military mommy:
1. Doing it all yourself. You came into this marriage happy, bright and maybe the teensiest bit naïve… a crisp military uniform will do that to even the strongest and most practical woman (trust me on that one – I am she.) And you thought to yourself, “we’re in love. We can handle anything.” And then he left. And the crap flew. It is a little known fact that things only go wrong when your husband is deployed or traveling for extended periods. During my hubby’s last extended all-expenses paid trip to the Middle East, every smoke alarm in our house went off at the same time at 2am. That’ll scare the night cream right off yer face, let me assure you!
The military member leaves, and often leaves a family behind. For a long ass mutherfurkin time. And the spouse muddles on, managing a house (and all the glorious chores that go with it – including all the ones HE usually does), kids, a job (sometimes – we’ll get to that one) and more. And that time when you get home from work and the kids are just home from school and everyone needs something and the whole world is melting down but it will be okay soon because your husband will come home to distract the crazy orangutans you call your children? Yeah, he’s not coming. You’re on your own.
2. Being considered lazy. We’ve established that the military mommy can be quite busy, particularly if the hubs is away. And yet there are those who call military spouses lazy because many of us do not work your typical 9-to-5 job, and many of us do not work outside the home at all. Hmm… why would that be? Let’s role-play, shall we?
Interviewer: So, you’re new in town? What brings you to (insert name of military town here)?
MM: My husband is stationed here.
Interviewer: Oh. So you’ll be leaving soon then.
MM: We just arrived. We’ll be here at least two years.
Interviewer: Okay. We’ll let you know.
Yeah. So there’s that.
3. Marriage isn’t easy. And when one of you is away, it’s damned near impossible. In some ways it becomes MUCH easier since you get to do whatever you want, make the decisions that you think are right and comfortably settle into YOUR life. But the difficulty comes when big decisions must be made at a distance. Skype doesn’t really replace the face-to-face, side by side conversations that marriage and parenting often demand to succeed. And when my hubs was gone last time I often didn’t hear from him for weeks at a time. So sometimes I just had to do things on my own without his input. And what happens when your beloved spouse comes back home – into YOUR house, where you have been comfortably doing things YOUR way for however many months he’s been gone? Damn tootin. It blows.
4. Your kids didn’t sign up for this. I don’t know about your kids, but my three year old and one year old don’t understand much about the passing of time. Turbo knows that two episodes of Dragon Tales last about as long as it takes Mommy to make dinner and that he goes to bed somewhere near the time that the sun begins to set. He doesn’t know what it means when I tell him that Daddy will be home in two weeks, much less two months or one year. Can you imagine telling your three year old that Daddy will be back when he’s FOUR? I haven’t had to go through this (yet), but women all around me do it every day. And I have no idea how.
With older kids, managing the constant moving is a struggle. Being a teenager is tough. Being a teenager who is the new kid in school every other year is even tougher. And these moms get to explain to, cajole and console their kids with every new town, every new school. Sure, in the long run they’ve built enviable life experience, but does a twelve year old really need to think about that yet?
5. Being a Nomad sucks. When you move to a new town every few years, you go through many of the same routines – figuring out where to shop, where to eat, how to get from point A to point B. And you meet your new neighbors. And the new teachers. And all the other spouses stationed in this new place. And after you’ve done it a few times, it isn’t too exciting to have everything be new. In fact, you just start to want for everything to be old. What a luxury it must be to live in the same house for ten years, or to get to know your neighbors really well, or to feel like you can make friends with anyone you want because you won’t have to experience the lurking sorrow of leaving them. The Military Mommy sometimes just doesn’t bother anymore. It’s too hard to get yourself ingrained in a community time and again only to leave. You start to tell people when you first meet them that you are a military spouse and therefore temporary. You might as well just wear a sign or scream, “I’m leaving soon. We can’t really be friends. Don’t get attached.”
And having said all that, I should probably say something like, “But I wouldn’t change it for the world.” And that wouldn’t be true. The fact is that I dream about having a “forever home,” and a place where my kids can live without wondering where we’ll live next. There are those who tell me, “You chose this life.” And all I can do is shake my head because they just don’t understand. I chose a man, and this is the life that came along with him. I wouldn’t give up the man. But the title of “military spouse?” Yeah, I’ll be happy to hang that one up someday.