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Military Life: Frazzle-shnazzle phooey – Oh to be an Army Wife!

And he’s gone AGAIN….. Sometimes I love being a military family, and at other times (like today) I want to pull my hair out and scream!  Not a nice polite scream but a full-blown swear word infested scream that rattles the windows! It seems that lately, even though we are in a non-deployment year my soldier is gone more than he is home – gotta love the military life.

It’s been this every other week in the field thing, that won’t end until after another “round” and 2 weeks of something (he told me what it was, but they all just blurring together at this point). Did I mention an upcoming 3 month school followed by another 6 week leadership course hanging over our heads all before deployment in early 2013. Ahhh….the downside of army life and the cause of my “need to vent” moment!

Truth be told, it’s not the being gone that’s putting me over the edge, I’m used to that.  I have tricks and support systems that kick in when he’s deployed or gone for many months at a time.  But with the home this week and gone the next I just can’t get into a routine (which in my world is military survival 101!).  I can’t budget, I can’t get on a workout schedule, I can’t establish a cleaning routine. I can’t get into the flow that allows my coping skills to kick in like they do when he is deployed.

When they are deployed, my switch flips. I have my plan laid out, my routines to follow.  I have my backup resources to call on for extra support when those days come when the missing them is unbearable.

But this whole rollercoaster ride of coming and going is just frustrating. And because my “switch” hasn’t flipped yesterday when I saw a conversation on Facebook, my blood started to boil…. and I’d love your opinion and suggestions on how to change this.

In one of the “Army Wives” groups, a spouse posted that her husband was “yet again packing for the field”, and that she was having a hard time with it.  She was tired, he’d been gone 4 out of the last 8 weeks, and the kids were struggling from the lack of structure and the constant roller coaster ride of saying good-bye and welcoming their soldier home. Their entire routine was disrupted, and it was difficult for the whole family, and I could really relate.

Now if you don’t know military wives, let me tell you that typically if one of our own is having a hard time we are the first to step up to the plate.  We “get” what it’s like when our soldiers are deployed and we have to be everything to everyone.  We “get” that sometimes a helping hand just takes the sting out of a bad situation.  And believe me when you need a shoulder to cry on, an Army wife has the perfect remedy for whatever ails you.

But instead of the typical “how can I help response” that I usually see, this spouse was bombarded with comments and questions that were anything but supportive. She was asked how long would he be gone….”this time 1 week” was her response. And much to my surprise, here is the “support” she got.  “Oh a week is nothing, mine has been gone for a month”.  “Be glad he’s not in Afghanistan like my husband”.  “The kids will be fine, they just need to get used to it”.  “Why are you complaining, it’s a nice break, mine has been home for months, I wish they went to the field”. And that was only some of the advice she received…Sadly, she later posted, “You guys are right, he could be deployed, what was I thinking….sorry for being such a whiner!”

And you guessed it, I just wanted to scream…. Sorry?…. how can you be sorry?

You reached out, and were told that your concerns and frustration weren’t valid or substantiated.  Sure he’s not deployed, but that doesn’t make field and training time any less of a challenge.  In fact as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, sometimes it is actually harder because we don’t access our tried and true coping strategies. When they are in and out, you are caught in limbo, you “can’t” act like all is normal, because they are gone.  You can’t use the standard, “I’m allowed to crawl into the bed and cry for 2 days because he’s just deployed”, coping strategy. There are no “in the field” support programs.  You don’t get the perks of separation pay, daycare “sanity” hours, the “emotional” prep time or the 2 weeks leave when they come home to readjust.  And to make it worse, you are saying “see you later” so often that it can feel very “rehearsed” and impersonal.

My oh my, YOU have NOTHING to be sorry for.

Any time our loved one is away is a challenge.  Whether it’s for a short time or a long one, sometimes just the fact that they are gone at all, blows! Why is it that we are so quick to judge whether or not the request for help is justified. Why is it that when someone asked for support we (as in the people who “get” what she’s going through) responded with a story of how much “worse” our situation is than theirs. And why do we question if she “REALLY” needed help at all?

The worst part was that instead of making the situation better, her peers negated her feelings and questioned her abilities as an army wife. This isn’t just in the military community, it’s everywhere.  How many times have you been on the receiving end of the statement “Really, that’s nothing compared to my day” after you shared a challenge you had?

Wouldn’t it be nice if instead the person listened and told you they were sorry that you had a tough day and asked if they could help make it less stressful? Don’t you think that spouse could have used some tips on how to help her kids, distress herself or even just an “I understand I’ve been there” bit of encouragement.  My point is that we never know what is someone else’s breaking point, and we don’t know what it’s like to walk in their shoes.

And don’t you agree that if we didn’t compare their situation with our own, we all would be much better able to support one another in a positive way? And we’ve all been there, so the next time someone reaches out, instead of challenging and judgement, try to see where they are coming from offer some concrete suggestions and DON’T make things worse.

~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and lifestyle blogger as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of DASIUM, Judy’s books Right Side Up  and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Riskare go to resources for families and her websites are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. Connect with Judy at TheDirectionDiva.com

9 Comments

  • Verna Lantz

    Well said. Most of the time, we say nothing because he’s not deployed or we know we are going to get ridiculed for being frustrated. Told to get over it, get used to it, suck it up nad move on…But, it’s hard. And we need to be the first ones helping thise who need it. No matter what “it” is.

    • Judy Davis - The Direction Diva

      I couldn’t agree more Verna, we all can really support one another in positive ways! Sometimes I think it’s just easy to get caught up in how “hard” being a military spouse is, that it’s easy to start down that “my situation is worse” road…hopefully we can begin to change that!

      Thanks or your comment and have an amazing day!

  • Angela Stine McLaughlin

    Love this….and Thank you! I am new to all of this and am going through a rough time….but I try really hard to help others that are struggling too…who knows? maybe it will help me too. But I find that this who generation has become a “I can beat that…” generation. Instead of helping everyone is one upping. Sad….I hope you figure out your sanity during this rollercoaster….and I am sending some helpful…calming vibes 🙂

    • Judy Davis - The Direction Diva

      Angela!

      Thankyou so much for your comments and feedback. And often I have wondered why so many people need to “beat” and “one up” someone else with life’s challenges! Hopefully by chatting about it, we can begin to change their mindsets and support them as they move forward! My best to you and welcome to the military community! Don’t be a stranger and I’ll send some calming positive vibes your way as well!!!!

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  • Malcom Sakasegawa

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