A while back I posted about an interview I did for an article in the Veteran Journal about being a reserve spouse. Yesterday I did an e-mail interview for another article, this time for a magazine that does a feature called "Life of a Military Wife".
I'm not sure what the timeframe is for this article, but rather than wait, I thought I might as well give you all a sneak peek - so here ya go!
How have you been handling your fourth pregnancy while your husband is away?
The pregnancy is actually helping the time to pass faster with this deployment. I wish my husband could be here, especially for the birth, but at least he has experienced that before. Since it is my fourth baby, I am more confident in my own body’s ability to get through this, so I am not as dependent on his presence. (I think I would be terrified if this was my first baby and my husband had to deploy mid-pregnancy like this!) One thing I’ve done to help him feel involved from afar is send him weekly email updates with general pregnancy info about the particular week I am in, and I add some specific little tidbits about my experiences that week. We get to talk on the phone about once a week, and he always asks me how the baby is doing, so I feel like he gets to share in some of this, at least. I guess I do miss being spoiled the way I would be if he was here, but other than that, I’m having a normal pregnancy and am enjoying good health.
What are some recurring challenges you face as a military wife?
I think the biggest challenge is parenting through multiple deployments – I was a single mother of two when I met my husband thirteen years ago, and since then we’ve had one more child (with number four on the way)....so I know what I am talking about when I say that deployment is FAR more difficult than single parenting ever was. It seems like every little thing becomes a BIG thing during deployment! Another big challenge for me is helping my husband to bridge the gap between military life and civilian life – especially with his expectations of people. Sometimes it seems he forgets that civilians are not precision-trained like Marines are, or he forgets that his Marines are people, too.
What are some of the biggest joys related to being a military wife?
The greatest joy for me is the PRIDE I have for my husband, and the sense of being married to my own personal hero. I also have the joy of watching my sons look up to their dad, as their own personal hero. Obviously, a happy homecoming after a long deployment is a special joy that most of my civilian friends will never experience.
How is your family life while your husband is away?
This varies from one deployment to the next, but we always struggle one way or another. We each take on new responsibilities (some that we enjoy, and some that we resent) and take up the slack to keep things somewhat functional, and we try to pull together more. (I said we try...)
What do you find is the biggest challenge you have faced while your husband is gone?
I think the biggest challenge is always the single-parenting aspect of deployment. Everything changes when my husband is away, from discipline issues to division of labor, and I find it difficult to really ‘be there’ for my children’s emotional needs while dealing with my own feelings of fear, sadness, etc. There are other challenges, like the inevitable broken appliance or car maintenance issues that just miraculously happen while he is gone, but none of these are as tough to face as the challenge of single-parenting.
How do your children deal with the stresses of deployment?
We’re still really learning how to cope with deployment stress. My oldest child actually ran away from home at the beginning of the second deployment, and ended up moving in with extended family. Her issues at the time were not completely deployment-related, but the added stress definitely contributed to her extreme behaviors. At the beginning of this deployment, my fifteen year old son had a major meltdown, and is temporarily staying with family across town – hopefully returning before school starts. So far the youngest (now ten years old) seems to have the most problems, and yet has the most effective coping mechanisms of all three. He tends to wet the bed and revert to things like fear of the dark, and becomes more clingy and ‘needy’ when Daddy is gone, but he also is more sensitive to others’ needs during this time. I’ve found it very helpful to keep them all occupied with organized activities, especially sports.
What do you wish that people knew about your life as a military wife?
I guess I wish people understood that my children and I ALL serve when my husband does – and we don’t have the benefit of years of training, or specialized tools to help us be ”sub-Marines” (my friend’s word for Marine family members). We just do what needs to be done, and not necessarily always for the altruistic reasons that led my husband to enlist nineteen years ago.
As a Marine reservist spouse, how do you deal with the constant transition from military to civilian life?
This part is hard, as I literally do have to ‘switch gears’ when my husband goes active duty, and then have to switch back again when he returns to his regular job and to his reserve status. Reintegration is particularly difficult. I tend to let friendships fall by the wayside during the active duty period, and when possible I then make friends with military spouses who can relate to what I go through during deployment. This was not a conscious choice initially, but once I realized what I was doing I saw the value in it, and it’s kind of a strategy now. I even started a deployment blog, and through my writing I have connected with some amazing new friends, all military wives. I can only hope that my civilian friends will still be there for me after this deployment, when I return to planet earth again.
I have found that I do better with the back-and-forth adjustments when I am working outside the home, as I can then count on at least ONE aspect of my day-to-day life to remain basically unchanged, and mostly unaffected by the deployment. When that is not possible, I instead make conscious choices about ‘new’ things I want to do or see during the deployment, and I can then focus on the novelty of this time apart. I can’t say that I am an expert at making these transitions, but I am definitely getting better at it.
What is something that people can do for military wives?
I think the most important thing people can do (for ANYONE, not just military wives) is to just be there – listen, be a friend, and don’t judge. We are all individuals, and I have yet to meet a single military wife who can fit into the mold created by all the stereotypes and assumptions of the general public. I can’t speak for other military spouses, but for myself, I depend heavily on connections with other people – and I seek out the solid, dependable friends who can hold my hand when I am scared, cry with me when I am sad, let me rant when I am angry, and laugh with me when I am just plain crazy.