Yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I actually decided to sit outside and relax. Even my neighbor was shocked that we both had an hour to just be. You see this crazy busy life as a military spouse doesn’t leave much room for “relaxing.” It seems that there is always some event, meeting, volunteer opportunity, or ceremony to go to. Not to mention all the other things we have to do just to keep the household functioning with the changing schedules, training missions, and deployment cycles. The fact that we both were able to chill out at the same time was monumental. Our schedules never seem to allow more than a 10 minute conversation, and between my small business, her job, my new puppy, and her pre-schooler, adult conversation is difficult.
W were enjoying our time, soaking up the beautiful sunshine, joking about the fact that my skin is SO white I could be a beacon for the Blackhawk helicopters currently running missions over our home.
Slowly the conversation shifts and we begin chatting about life.
Her soldier is currently deployed to Afghanistan with a MIT team, and she’s tired. Mine has been in the field and training for deployment so much that well, I’m tired too. Different tired but there is a common thread, we are both tired of the “military life.”
We are tired of the unknown, the stress, the crazy schedules, the “alone-ness” of it all. We are tired of money worries. While there are some perks like insurance and leave time, the pay that our soldiers make is ridiculous and for many of the ranks it is below poverty level and we are tired of being the “go to person” for everyone.
Now don’t get me wrong, when our guys are home, they help. But the reality is that even if they are home, they have soldiers they are responsible for, trainings to coordinate, and schedules that many people couldn’t handle. We are responsible for holding down the fort and keeping them up to speed with the daily goings on of family life.
We are the one’s who handle the finances, the kids, the house, the yard, the in-laws, the family, the paperwork. We coordinate the schedules, the moving, the preparing, the packing, the shopping, the cleaning, the laundry…you name it, we are the keepers of the ENTIRE box, and it’s up to us to know the who, what, where, when, and how it all will get done.
It’s just the military way, and it gets tiring.
But the biggest obstacle that many military spouses face isn’t in the details of our lives, it is in the fact that many people in the “real world” don’t understand that the way we cope and thrive is very different from how they handle things. And sadly the comments and “help” can sometimes be insensitive. People don’t realize that while things look similar, or because we may act like everything is normal, that our lives are very different from theirs. We have different stressors and therefore different “tipping points.”
What would be most helpful is if the real world recognized that things aren’t the same, and instead of comparing and judging, are just be supportive.
I have had people tell me that they “get” deployment and don’t understand what the big deal is. They even say things like, “it’s just like when my husband goes on a business trip.”
Newsflash…they aren’t gone for a year, and my guess is that you don’t worry that he will get blown up by an IED on his way to that fancy dinner…NOT the same as a business trip (sorry, I guess I’m still a little raw after that conversation ).
Likewise, when a friend with shared custody of her kids felt that she could totally relate to my life says “think of it like a vacation when they’re gone, I mean having them around is a pain in the a$$. I love my independence and you should be glad he’s not around to get in your way…” I had to just shake my head and bite my tongue. Again, NOT the same.
Military life is different.
And because of days like yesterday when I can sit outside, and truly relax with a fellow military spouse who “gets” it, I am able to recharge my battery and the tiredness seems to slip away. Maybe these small moments are therapeutic in a weird sort of way.
As we sat in companionable silence reading our books, chatting every now and again, sharing some sweet tea and relishing in the fact that we could be there for each other and not have to say a word, I realized that while it would be nice for the “real world” to get it, it wasn’t necessary.
Things are different, my battle buddies get it, and for that I am grateful!
The Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, blogger, and author who is the expert in helping military spouses move Beyond Logistics toward a better life.