This post is about my military wife friends (and the spouses whom I do not know) who have lived though multiple deployments while starting and raising families, pursuing their own personal development, and nurturing and strengthening their marriages through the long separations. I respect you. I support you. I applaud you.
I have already written about this deployment being our first as a family. We are almost half way through and so far it hasn’t been as terrible I thought it would. Certainly, it is true that everything breaks as soon as your husband leaves…
…but that’s really not a big deal. We laugh about that. We make jokes and create memes about it. Because we handle these issues anyway even when our husbands are home. So it’s really no big deal.
It’s more the missing. The missing is hard. Our other half is gone. Our partner in life. It’s hard on us. It’s really hard on our kids. And the fact that it’s hard on our kids makes it even harder on us. I used to think that the first deployment would be the hardest. That if you have done this once, subsequent deployments become easier. But I am having a change of heart. I think the first deployment might be the easiest. Here’s why I am having a change of heart…
I spent Saturday afternoon with my friend, A. All afternoon…the kids played and we talked. And talked. And talked. Talked until I had a sore throat! We chose Saturday for a playdate because her husband is also deployed. And weekends are really hard. Because this is the time we would normally have our husbands home from work to help with the kids, to help around the house, to let us sleep in, and to have family time. We don’t want to impose on the family time of our friends whose husbands are home, but we really need to fill these empty weekends. So weekend playdates are great for us during deployments. And we all understand that as soon as our friends’ husbands return home, those friends will no longer be available on weekends. And that’s okay. We get it. We support each other.
But back to my friend, A. Her oldest child isn’t yet 5 years old and this is his third deployment in his five years of life. Five years of life and his dad has been gone for three of those years. This breaks my heart.
I have another friend, E. She and her husband have been through 11 deployments since they have been married. ELEVEN! They have had 2 kids and she finished multiple degrees through all of it.
Another friend, R. just had her third child…without her husband. So she is juggling 3 kids ages 5 and under…by herself, while her husband is on the other side of the world. And her newborn won’t meet her father until she is almost a year old.
My friend, M. gave birth to both of her children while her husband was deployed. Two children and he was unable to witness the birth of either child in person (We thank God for Skype). Can you imagine?
And there are so many other stories I could share about the strength I have witnessed in so many military families. Unbelievable strength. While it is true that many marriages do not survive this life, there are so many more that remain strong and become stronger because of it. I apologize to my friends whom I have left out of this post, but please feel free to share your story in the comments.
But back to the children of deployment. While it may seem like we would get used to this lifestyle, like it just becomes normal the more we do it, I’m starting to think that this is not the case for the little ones. It’s the little ones that I am concerned for. And the at-home spouses who have to find a way to comfort our children in the absence of their other parent. We have to constantly reassure them that Daddy will be home soon. We have to always remind them that Daddy loves them and misses them, too. We have to deal with the behavior issues that occur because the little ones haven’t quite figured out how to verbally express their feelings. We have to constantly check in with our kids and make sure their mental health is in tact. And we have to do this without ever letting on how really freaking hard it is on us. We have MFLC (Military Family Life Counselors) on speed dial…just in case we lose our insight into our own children and need the professionals to help. In fact, the MFLC at my son’s preschool checks in with him on a weekly basis. Yep. My 4 year old sees a counselor. Every. Single. Week. Just in case. He’s doing great. But I want to make sure he stays that way. Because we still have 5 more months of deployment.
We put on our strong faces, we act like it’s nothing, we don’t complain (at least not publicly) because we appreciate what we have. We give ourselves credit for the job we do. We feel empowered. We feel strong. Sometimes we even feel invincible. But other times, we break. We get frustrated. We get angry. We yell. We cry. We hate this life because of what it takes from us.
We get sad when we see our friends posting pictures of family outings on social media, but we are happy for them (and envious at the same time). We get annoyed when our non-military friends and family members don’t always check in with us to see how we are doing, but we understand that they also get caught up in the chaos of their own lives, so we never express our anger. We get pissed when civilian wives complain if their husbands leave for a few days, but we also understand how hard it is for them to be separated even for a short time, so we let them vent and we offer encouraging words…because it is hard. And we know that, better than most, how really hard it is. But through it all, we love our spouses, we love our kids, we love our friends and extended family, we love our lives. And for me personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way because it comes down to this: I fell in love with a man who fell in love with the Army long before he fell in love with me. And he wouldn’t be the man I love if we were living a different life. And I think this is true for most of us. We are survivors. And we got this.
I would love to hear your personal story of strength, deployment, and military life.
(Truth be told…I cried while writing this post…multiple times. And there is strength in our tears as well.)
Keeping it on the edge,