I love my civilian friends, both the ones I’ve held onto from before I got married and the ones I’ve met during our many moves. We’ve had some great times together, and they’ve helped me (mostly) keep my sanity during those moments when I have felt like I was drowning in a sea of camouflage.
It’s interesting, however, to hear their perspective on what they think life as a military spouse must be like, and I tend to get many of the same questions over and over again. Here is a light-hearted look at the questions I’m frequently asked and my response to my wonderful, well-meaning civilian friends.
“What will you do with yourself when he’s deployed?” You mean when I’m not working part time, volunteering at school, running a household, and taking care of a couple of kids? I’ll think of something.
“You mean they won’t let him come home for Christmas/anniversary/kid’s birthday?!?!” Uh…no. It doesn’t work like that. We’ll be lucky if they actually let him come home anywhere near the original homecoming date.
“Military life must be so hard on your kids.” Sometimes. Deployments aren’t fun. I can’t say it’s always easy for me when he’s away for months or he’s not home for the holidays, so I know it’s hard on the kids. They know why Daddy can’t be there, but there’s nothing I can really say to make it better for them.
The frequent moves have been a challenge, too. Just when they’ve settled into a new school and new routine, it is time to uproot again.
But they’ve been able to travel the world and see so many spectacular sights. And I also think they have a better understanding of duty and sacrifice. I may be slightly biased, but I have some pretty amazing kids.
“You must be so happy now that he’s back from deployment, aren’t you?!” Well, yes. I’m overjoyed that he’s out of harm’s way. I’m happy that, for a time, he won’t miss any more holidays or childhood milestones. But the homecoming can often be as emotionally difficult as the actual time apart. Please don’t feel hurt if we retreat for a while and pass up invitations to barbecues and parties. We need a little time to re-group as a family.
“You must be getting used to these deployments, right?” When my husband deployed for the first time, I had a baby and another on the way. He was only gone for three months, but I was overwhelmed and scared. Three months seems like a breeze now, and when my husband had to go TDY for a month last year, I didn’t bat an eye. But each deployment brings new challenges and unforeseen difficulties. So, no. You never really get used to it.
“Aren’t you worried when he is gone?” It’s always hard when the kids come to me, wide-eyed and scared, about something they have seen on TV. It’s difficult to soothe their fears when I, myself, have spent the previous night tossing in bed until 2AM. That fear is always there, a small voice in the back of my mind, but most of the time I have way too much to do to dwell on how worried I am.
“How do you do it? It must be so hard.” Sometimes it is hard. But we do it because there’s no other choice. Our spouse has a job to do, and we have a house to run and children to raise. Falling apart is not really an option.
“You must be exhausted!” What was the give away? The dark circles under my eyes? The incoherent babbling? The crust of dried milk on my shirt? It is exhausting sometimes. What I wouldn’t give for someone to take my toddlers for a couple of hours so I could run to the grocery store or take a showered undisturbed. And yes, that’s a hint.
“Is life anything like it is on ‘Army Wives?’” No. I admit that before I married my husband, I assumed military life for spouses was the way I had seen it on TV. I pictured tea parties at the O Club in pearls and white gloves. If life were ever like that, it certainly isn’t now. Spouses have their own careers and interests, and I’ve yet to have tea at the O Club.
“Any regrets about marrying someone in the military?” Nope.