I’ve been married to the military for 10 years now, and dating it for 5 years before that. It’s been a hell of a ride, and I think it can be a great life. I’ve learned so much in my time as a military spouse. Here’s a few of my learnings.
1. To be diplomatic.
I’ve learnt to answer very silly questions very patiently.
(We won’t even talk here about the women who say “I could never have your life. I love my husband too much” Trust me, I don’t love my husband any less because of his job. Or the ones who say “Oh, I know EXACTLY what it’s like. My husband goes away for work too” Mmmhmmm, but a night here or there isn’t really the same thing. I appreciate you trying to empathise, but it’s a bit like saying “I know JUST how you felt when your arm was amputated. I got a paper cut the other day.”)
“Do we even have an air force any more?” Yes, yes we do, and it’s very active and those involved take great pride in what they do. We should be proud of our country’s defence force.
“Oh, is your husband a pilot?” No, he’s not. He’s a part of the myriad of other trades necessary to our Air Force.
“Aren’t you scared about what will happen if he goes to Afghanistan/Syria/Iraq (wherever the current hotbed happens to be at the time)?” Am I scared? Well, no – I choose not to concern myself with ‘what ifs’. If he gets sent to these places, I’m sure I’ll worry about him while he’s gone. There’s a risk in his job, and I’ve accepted that. There’s also a risk in driving to work….I try not to worry about that either 😉
“Don’t you miss him while he’s away?” Well of course I miss him. As do our children, but it’s a part of our lives and we are used to it. I love my quiet evenings while he’s away and I love snuggling in front of the TV when he’s home…which brings me to my second learning….
2. To be independent.
My husband left for ‘our’ first deployment the afternoon of my mother’s funeral. He came home for a month and then left for another 4 months after that. I would often get home from work to find out that he had been deployed. When my daughter was 6 weeks old (and our son was almost 1.5), he left for his first tour of Afghanistan. We had 1 week notice of that trip, and we lived in Blenheim with no family around. I was diagnosed with pneumonia days after he left and my son was hospitalised with a mystery illness and the doctors testing him for some particularly nasty things. You cope.
Now, with three school-aged children, life can be hectic while he’s away, but it is getting easier and easier. I’m perfectly happy on my own while he’s away (although I do prefer it when he’s home), and I can hold everything down at home. It makes life easier for him while he’s away having absolute confidence that I’m fine back here. I take pride in that – it’s my part in keeping him safe as he can keep his mind 100% on his job, rather than stressing about home.
3. Have a sense of humour
You know that old adage – if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. That applies. Absolutely.
4. Be flexible
It’s a bit of a joke, but there’s a saying that if you are a military wife you shouldn’t ever write on your calendar in pen. Things come up, leave gets cancelled, plans change. You learn to roll with it.
My career has to be secondary to my husband’s. His career dictates where we live, how long we live there, and to an extent, how we live.
5. Make friends, and know how to say goodbye to them.
Moving regularly can be a big part of being a military spouse. You learn to be pretty ok with rocking up to people and just saying hi. And, conversely, you learn to say goodbye to your friends (either when they leave, or when you do). You also learn that goodbyes are rarely forever – there’s a big likelihood that you’ll all end up back together anyway, and the great thing about military friendships is that you are all pretty adept at picking right back up where you left off.
Our Defence Force does an amazing job. They are frequently over-worked, chronically underpaid and shockingly underappreciated. The families – even less so. The next time you’re watching the news where TV cameras are in the faces of the next round of deployed personnel saying goodbye to their partners and children, do me a favour. Look away. It’s horribly intrusive in an extremely private moment. Both the personnel leaving and their families deserve respect.
Are you a military spouse? What have you learned?