Don’t be fooled by the plethora of articles and web pages devoted to what is called the “dependa.” A dependa is a military spouse who is stereotypically a lazy spouse who mooches off of her military spouses’ benefits. And since these compensations are so generous, we have no need to find a job in the REAL world, we can simply live the good life in our yoga pants.
The people who profligate this stereotype are those that wish to vilify others. They want to demean and belittle the life that we have chosen. I probably would’ve been one of those people years ago. Before I got married, I planned on working full-time even after I had kids, but life got in the way. I married an Airman and he deployed. Constantly. I made the decision that someone had to be there for the kids and so I only took part-time work when the kids were in school. That was my choice, but it worked for me and my family.
My rationale is not the reason why many spouses stay at home. We each have our own story but I find that there is one overarching reason: the waiting. Tom Petty had it right: “The waiting is the hardest part.”
But I’m not speaking about the waiting that occurs while we wait for our spouse or significant other while they are deployed.
That is a different kind of waiting.
That’s the waiting that has us sitting by the phone. Way back when, we were lucky if we got a five-minute morale call once a week. Now the wait is for a FaceTime sound that lets us know he or she is on the line. It’s still a painful length of time.
That waiting is the passing of days as we wait for their deployment to be over. And then there is the delay of the flight so that return time has crept farther and farther back into the week. And those postponements aren’t over. Once they have touched down, they might have to clear customs and that isn’t a two-minute pause. Or there may be a ceremony to welcome our servicemembers home. All of these breaks can try men’s and women’s souls.
I’m not even referring to the delay of orders and all that comes with it. You know how it is: you can’t schedule the movers until that paper is in your hands. And forget about finding a house! You don’t want to be saddled with something when you have no guarantees that you’ll actually be moving to that location.
But to me those are little annoyances that can’t compare to the worst waiting of all. I mean, stay married to the military long enough and these things become routine – that entire prospect becomes a gnat in your life.
The one wait that I never become numb to is the waiting at the base or post pharmacy. And that is the waiting I’m speaking about. It’s the reason we may decide not to work.
First, you have to take a number. At my pharmacy, there is a new kiosk in place. You have to scan your ID, enter your phone number and where your script originated from. It should be more efficient but that isn’t the case. If you’ve watched a new person step up the the machine, you know better than that. Then you have to stay in the vicinity for the automated voice to call your number. If you step away, you will need to get a new number so don’t ever, ever leave. Even if you have to use the restroom. Once you’ve passed that hurdle, technically you are free to roam about the cabin. I mean area. But don’t be surprised if you decide to stay put. The minutes, or hours can pass by slowly but you just never know. So you stay.
If you total up all the hours spent waiting for your number to be called, you’d be overwhelmed. And if you added the hours you spend after that waiting for your actual prescription to be filled, you would cry.
Or now there’s the drive-thru pharmacy. This system is better but still. You have to call in your script first. Then you wait the 3-5 days. Once you have your permission to head over to the base, you wait in line. And you wait. Once you make it up to the front, you either get your prescription from the tube or you are told to wait at one of the designated slots in the parking lot. After all that, you can finally head home. Now depending on the time of day, you may have wasted half of it there. The one plus is that you can jam to whatever music you want.
And this is my reason that many spouses don’t work. In order to keep your kids’ allergy meds current, you have to wait at the pharmacy. If your birth control pills are running out, you have to wait in the pharmacy line or you might be waiting for something else!
I mean, when civilians stare longingly at us and talk about all of our benefits like free health care, they don’t have a clue. There is a cost to that. We may not pay out of pocket but we pay with our time. We need to return to the Tom Petty lyrics to find a mantra for the pharmaceutical chair waiting area:
“Don’t let it kill you baby, don’t let it get to you.
Don’t let ‘em kill you baby, don’t let ‘em get to you”
It hasn’t worked for me yet, but maybe I could suggest subliminally playing the song over the loudspeakers. The music that they play isn’t cutting it.