Moi sans toi.. Ça n’existe pas!
My life as a Navy wife
Every military spouse has their own unique story. We all have a lot of the same challenges to overcome, and we all find different ways to overcome them. Here is a brief version of my challenges as a military wife, and why somedays I consider growing a moustache and assuming a new identity.
My military spouse career started almost 10 years ago. I already had a good idea of what the life was like, thanks to various family members serving in various branches and countries. We had our first daughter, and for the first 18 months, I was pretty sure that I had everything figured out. I was at the top of my game, going to school, looking after my kid, being supportive of my husband.
Now, three postings and (almost) three kids later, I am waving a white flag from my fox hole.
My oldest daughter, now six, is gifted – with an exceptionally high IQ, and the ability to rationalise thoughts that should be too complex for her age. After she was tested I read several books on how to help her, but there is no book on how to deal with the gifted child of a military member. During his first major deployment on this coast I learned that children like her can develop depression at an early age. It took several months to accurately diagnose what was wrong with her, and the stress of her not eating, barely moving, trying to quit her life, was very hard to handle. (Understatement)
I went to every professional I could to discuss why she ceased to function as a human child. I blamed myself entirely for not being able to kiss her emotional boo-boo’s. Why wasn’t I good enough to make her feel better? Finding out about the cyclical depression she suffers from was a huge step for all of us, though the knowledge didn’t make our day to day any easier.
Our second child was introduced in 2011, while my husband was on a course for his trade. Giving birth without him was surprisingly easy for me, because I knew I had no choice. What was hard was driving myself home from the hospital, and going back to business as usual with kid 1. I celebrated my birthday (2 days after she was born) by taking myself to Costco and buying a slab cake. I ate most of it. My husband’s first view of our daughter was via a text message that my mother sent him. I count myself lucky that I am always the one with the kids, because I have no idea what it feels like to miss out on these milestones. I’m sure it is a guilt that he will harbour for his whole life.
My primary job is to assuage him of that guilt. Be a constant reminder that he is our hero, and is always doing what is best for our family. 97% of the time I believe this to be true. The other 3% I wish he were at home more often so I could shower by myself.
We are now expecting our 3rd child, and a few weeks ago he was called away on less than 48 hours notice. While I am good at last minute planning, my children are not. This sail has been confusing and frustrating for both of them. I try daily to keep them engaged with activities. Take them to see friends, plan movie nights, to to events, but as a pregnant lady and cardiac patient, I need breaks. Between depression, PTSD, and a heart that will never function like it used to, (thanks to it stopping and then having a mild infarction when I came back to life), I am not the 10/10 mother that I wish I could be. (5/10 on a good day).
It’s a vicious cycle. I have fun, I slow down, I feel guilty, I exert myself, I have fun, I slow down, I feel guilty. I feel weak, and some days want nothing more than to lay down and hide while my kids destroy the house.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, it’s not an option. With a spouse who isn’t home, I don’t get to take the day off. As much as I feel sorry for myself, I can’t make my kids suffer. Although on days like today, a pillow over my face doesn’t seem like a bad idea….
As I mentioned earlier, I live with a gifted child – now two gifted children (Kid 2 was also tested). These two beauties that I love and cherish and blah blah blah can be ASSHOLES, and I say that in the most loving way possible.
Both girls deal with their dad being gone through anger. Kid 1 will tell me she hates me, tell me how much better life is when he’s home, how she wishes that I was gone instead of him. She knows that these things hurt me, and I’ve recognised that at the tender age of 6, she is a major manipulator. When I don’t bend to her I feel guilty. I know that she loves me, I should be more kind when she has these outbursts. When I do give in, I know that I’m enabling her to continue to treat me this way.Vicious cycle.
Kid 2 has found her voice and her fists. She kicks and punches and screams at the top of her lungs, and it’s getting harder and harder to dodge her blows. (Maintaining agility with beluga belly is not my strong suit).
Today after a particularly rousing screaming session that lasted from the park to our house, she grabbed a wrench out of the tool bag and threw it at me when I told her she was on time out. The first thing I thought was, ‘time to put the fucking tool bag away.’
On top of dealing with my charming kidlets who are currently in the process of planning my murder, I have a house to maintain. This is where I fall short. I have several friends who are also military spouses, and their houses seem infinitely more cared for than mine. It drives me batty, but most days I don’t have the energy for entertaining the kids and doing housework. It’s one or the other. Today I was up at 0700 doing the dishes and trying to clean up, while kid 2 sat on the floor cutting paper and scattering it.
On days like today, I put my kids to bed early, and daydream of the day when I finally have the balls to pack up my shit and run away. Make no mistake – I love my family – but when I am feeling stressed I yearn for a life with no responsibility. Laying on a beach in Europe, gently and consistently buzzed, sounds so appealing, and the psychosis inside of me has me convinced that I would feel very little guilt.
Are there flaws in my plan? Absolutely. We don’t make enough money for me to run away. I could get a flight, but I wouldn’t take the food out of my children’s mouths to fund my own sick fancy.
Also, the thought of knowing that I could never return prevents me from doing anything irrational. I would eventually get bored and want to come home, but I know in my heart that I would not be welcomed back – which is totally reasonable and understandable. I know the feeling of being abandoned by a parent, and just as I would never forgive my father if the opportunity presented itself, I would not expect my girls or my husband to ever forgive me.
So I plan little vacations in my head, picture going to fabulous places, imagine not speaking to anyone for days at a time, I read books in the middle of the night, and I remember that the little shits who want to murder me are also the best things that have ever happened to me, and they are the glue that bonds me to my amazing husband while he is away.
He is under an immeasurable amount of stress while he is away, worried that he’s left me at home with a broken lawn mower, broken washing machine, and children who pine for him. He deserves to know that I am working my hardest to keep things stable while he’s away. That is my biggest job as a wife. Keeping a home that is deserving of his daily sacrifice. He has given up being with us so that I can be at home, getting hit with wrenches. When he is home is a super dad, and I fade nicely into the background – free to do what I want. So should I complain while he’s away that it’s hard to parent? Whether I should or shouldn’t, it’s hard not to. Staying positive when I talk to him can be very hard. Choosing what to omit or gloss over so that he isn’t worried can be difficult, and sometimes I break down and tell him that I’m useless without his help and guidance.
Afterward I apologise, pull myself together, and remind myself that we live a very good life, and counting my blessings is just as easy as whining about my shortcomings.
The point of my story is this: my life as a Navy wife is a roller coaster of holding myself together and completely falling apart. Vicious cycle. Would I trade it for anything? Never. I’m proud of how far we’ve come, and I know that my kids won’t always be monsters. It’s all about perspective. Other women’s houses may seem cleaner, their children better adjusted, but I don’t ride their roller coaster, and I cannot stand in judgement or jealousy of any family that works as hard as we do.
If my children are still throwing punches when they turn 12, I will definitely consider the running away plan, but I’ll take my husband with me. He deserves the break, too.