If you had told me a few years ago I would be where I am right now, I would have laughed in your face. I was finishing up college and had big plans to teach in urban Philadelphia. Then, I met my husband. I’m sure the Southern accent reeled me in, but there was so much more than that. It wasn’t long before we were here: married with our two little ones and going through our second deployment. My husband is serving as an active duty Airman overseas for the next year. He left us just over a month ago on February 5th.
I will never forget the day we got those orders not only because they were so life changing, but because they came the same day our son did. Just another reminder how hectic you’re life is when you belong to the military. It was like the military said, “Congratulations, now pack your bags!”. I cried for a while when he told me and then we started strategizing. With this deployment came a new base home so we had to decide what the kids and I would do while he was away. We could stay with family, stay at our current base in New Jersey, or move to our new base in South Georgia. We decided it would be best for the kids and I to shack up with his grandmother for the year. It would allow us to save money and I would have family close to help me. Plus we’re only 4 hours from the base we will be living at in case we need anything. We literally had four short months to get all the loose ends tied up and move ourselves and our things 14 hours away. It was hectic and we did it, with only some collateral damage along the way (read: some valuables being stolen by the moving company, Yippee!).
We spent a few weeks getting settled with 85% of our things in storage before it was time to say goodbye. Up until Joseph left, I tried to tell myself it wouldn’t be that hard. I remember telling myself that a year isn’t that long. But, now that I’m in it, it feels completely different. A year feels like it will never end and having 2 under 2 by yourself is extremely difficult. Even with the awesome help I have from family, I still find very little time to work, shower, and just breathe.
So, here we are. A month into this deployment. We are very fortunate to get to speak to my husband and skype with him often. Both kids are too young to understand, although I can tell Isla misses him. There has been a shift in her behaviors that make it clear that all of the recent changes are affecting her. We look at pictures of “dada” often and I talk about him to her often. She doesn’t really get talking on the phone to him, but likes to skype with him. And it’s often, I think, forgotten that as hard as it is on the wives and the children, it is also difficult on the military member. As a parent, can you imagine missing a year of your children’s lives? My husband will miss Cole crawling, probably walking, and his first word. He will miss Isla’s language explosion as she starts to speak with full sentences. He will miss her learning letters, colors, and how to count from 1-10. We are lucky enough that Joseph will get a month long break from June to July. He will get to fly home and spend that time with us. I’ve already decided we will do both kid’s birthdays together during that time so he won’t miss Cole’s first birthday party or Isla’s second. Who knows maybe we will get lucky and Cole will walk during Joseph’s time home. That would be wonderful!
I know ultimately it will work it’s way out though. I am religious and I know God wouldn’t give us more than we could handle. I know Joseph is so strong to be so far from us. I know I am strong although some days I do just breakdown and cry (but hey, I’m human). And I know thousands of women do this every year… some with even more children, some with illness, and some who just need their husband for one reason or another. All of us, military spouses, make it work.
There is this unspoken code with military wives. It’s like a club no one wants to be in but the people who are in it completely understand. It’s not like we don’t want more club members, we just don’t want people to be in our shoes because mostly it blows. People say to me all the time– “Oh! But you get military discounts everywhere” or “At least, your husband has a secure job with a great paycheck” and then there’s every military wives favorite one “Well you knew what his job was when you married him”. PLEASE– if you know a military wife NEVER say these things to her and I will explain why. 1. Discounts are wonderful but having your husband home is 10394398545342856 times better. 2. His job is not steady, with military budget cuts come tons of military lost jobs, just like any other career and for the record, the pay isn’t that grand. You can google it. Some McDonald’s managers I’m sure make more then a low ranking military member. 3. Yes, I knew his job prior to marrying him but I guess I should have just turned the love off and said “nope… can’t marry him, he puts his life on the line for every person in the US and while that is honorable, it’s just not going to work for me”. Now does that sound possible? No. Love is unreasonable and normally you don’t weigh things like the person’s career when you love them. I know I don’t at least. Being a military spouse is unlike anything else you can think of. Your husband’s job isn’t just a job or career, it’s a lifestyle. Only a fellow military spouse would understand the sudden urge to pull the car over at 17:00 out of respect, that you can’t always tell people where exactly your husband is, and that kissing and holding hands with your husband when he’s in uniform can get him in trouble. Most jobs don’t require so much maintenance, paperwork, or rule following! Thus, the military is very much a lifestyle.
I say it sincerely when I tell you that this post isn’t to make you or anyone feel badly for us. We are a very happy family. We accept that this is a part of our life and we deal with it like you would deal with any hiccup on the road of life. However, I find it important to help people understand. I generally won’t ask for help. I’m not too proud to, but I’m just not willing to accept defeat. Asking for help means that I can’t do something and I’m not ready to accept that. I will often accept help when offered though because I know sometimes I need it and c’mon, I’m not crazy. When my amazing sister-in-law and brother-in-law offer to watch the kids so I can go to the gym solo, I take them up on it because at the end of the day, sometimes I, too, need a break. Even if that break is that I can blast Taylor Swift in the car and not have to worry about shuffling a toddler and an infant into babysitting so I can workout for an hour and then shuffle them back to the car. To be honest, some days I really don’t want anyone to feel badly for me, I actually get mad if they do. But other days, I just want to cry to someone and explain how absolutely difficult this all is. It’s such a mix of emotions and sometimes I feel like only the support at a military base could understand how I’m feeling. I often miss our old base because I feel like I left all the people who understood there. There I had role models, wonderful friends who’d done this 10 times over and survived. Here, people just look at me like I’m insane to be out of the house alone with these two little children trying to grocery shop. But as I should have said to a woman recently who commented to me “I would never leave the house without my husband if I were you”: we need to leave the house, we need some kind of normalcy, and sometimes we just need a helping hand….or two!