Military life is a convoluted mix of modern day with a 1950’s feel. Spouses/Significant Others/insert pc term here are being pulled between two worlds. One day we are told “stand by your man” “keep the home fires burning” “army first” the next it’s “buck up” “put your big girl panties on” “find your own happiness” “family first”. (What phrase drives you batty? Share it in the comments below.)
When my husband was on his first deployment, I was kindly informed, months in advance, that he must have his mind on his mission. The distractions of home would only hinder his safety. This was further reinforced 7 months in by an MP at a check point. I could not present a hard copy of my insurance due to the fact I had printed it off the night before and left it sitting on the desk. After a quick phone call to our insurance and verification I was indeed good to go I was berated for not managing things at home well. I was told that my husband did not need the distractions of my faults. My inability to walk a piece of paper from the printer to the glove compartment would take his focus off mission. And we’ve all been told time and time again what happens to distracted soldiers.
Fast forward to the second deployment. Between deployments one of our children had experienced a traumatic event. A police report was filed and we moved on. During dad’s absence, this event began to resurface in behavioral changes and I called seeking counseling and help. Knowing that a distracted soldier is a dead one I asked that this not be shared with my husband. I gave information regarding the previous police report as well as my husband’s knowledge. I only requested help finding appropriate counseling. Of this I was assured. Then an hour later, a very angry woman called to inform me that my husband’s chain of command would be made aware, how dare I request we not inform him, etc etc etc. I was lectured for a solid thirty minutes between cries of “but my husband already knows this is just going to devastate him and distract him.” I was told I better make him aware quickly because his chain of command would be letting him know in the next 24 hours. Do I have to tell you how hard it is to get a hold of a spouse a world away? I did. Still not sure how. And guess what! His chain of command was never notified and more importantly, my child was not given the help requested.
The message I received from both of these incidents was simply: I am on my own. It is expected as a military spouse that we come with brass balls. We should be able to withstand whatever life throws at us. Independence is key. Self-sufficiency is a must. We are to perform during deployments as father and mother, faithful lover, super spouse, financial wizard, and homemaker. The military spouse is to be the epitome of Proverbs 31, with out a hint of inadequacy.
Defeat. Exhaustion. Tears. These are not an option.
Then they come home and we are to relinquish our year of being told over and over again “you are enough” “be independent” “take care of it yourself” “tell him everything is fine.” At first it is beautiful. The honeymoon period is by far my favorite part of military life.
Almost overnight it is all about reintegration. A move might be on the horizon, despite the career we may have been building. Kids’ schedules have to be realigned with the needs of the army. Flexibility and resiliency are key. A new school, a new community, and we start the cycle over again. A year of staying overly busy just to make it pass turns into moments of miscommunication. Keeping the home fires lit may just turn into distinguishing some flames.
Why? Because we have been lied to. We’ve been told that we are strong enough. We’ve been told that independence is good when really it is just essential. We are told to be the modern day woman who does it all, the one who wipes the children’s eyes but doesn’t shed her own tears, the one who tolerates everyone and everything simply to fake a smile when her husband calls. “I’ve got this babe, go and keep your head in the game.” And upon his return we are to realign our thinking automatically to that of the happy 1950s housewife.
I love my husband. He is by far my best friend and I’m committed to him always being my best friend and the love of my life. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Actually, it means when things get hard, it’s worth the fight.
Of course the beauty of the modern woman is that you have the freedom of becoming the 1950’s version of a housewife, if that is what you want. I know a few. I envy their abilities. Touring their homes is like stepping into a 3d version of Pinterest.
The Army comes first whether we like it or not. Whether we are the independent modern day woman seeking a career and sharing our life with our spouse who just happens to be military or if we are the mirror copy of June Cleaver wearing pearls and a smile, serving dinner at 5 on patriotic dishes, we know the Army comes first. And that’s ok. Because we love our soldiers, we stand beside them, we fight for their well-being, and we will continue to keep the home fires burning.
But here is what has to change!
You and I cannot do it alone. Stop believing the lies that you are enough, that you can simply pull up your big girl panties and press on.
Find a community where you can connect. Even if it is just one other military spouse whose soldier is also deployed. Social Media is beautiful in that we can find and connect with others at anytime of the day or night. It keeps us connected to friends from past assignments and connects us with military spouses before we even arrive to our new locations. Find a church, a club, a gym, a mom’s group. Find a friend or two. Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV) says “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Do not do this life alone.
Hope N. Griffin has been married to her soldier for 10+ years, has 3 beautiful children, and loves connecting with other military spouses. Her purpose is to find joy in the everyday and to help others do the same.
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