Until just a few years ago, I had never heard of a “geobachelor.” I come from a pretty military heavy family—I’m the cousin/niece/granddaughter/great-granddaughter and so forth of men and women who served.
Yet this concept is one that never found its way into my vocabulary, until suddenly I assumed the “Army wife” moniker and was living it. Now facing “un-geobaching” presents a whole new dynamic as we learn to be a family under one roof.
When I met my husband, I was already a couple of years into a legal career. I was a hungry young associate, climbing up the rungs of my firm’s partnership ladder. And though I said “I do” with the fleeting (albeit romantic) notion that perhaps I might follow Jake wherever he went, the reality of the crushing debt that accompanied my top-notch legal education brought me back to earth fairly quickly. It’s a common problem in our modern military, where dual income for many families is simply a must. Still, it was an unhappy reality to face. I couldn’t follow him. I had to be where I was, he had to be where he was, and we were going to have to kick it into “make it work” mode.
And make it work we did. For eight years, I was in Houston while Jake PCS’d from Fort Lewis, to Fort Rucker, to Fort Polk, to Fort Riley. We got married while Jake was at Fort Rucker, and spent about two weeks together, much of which involved driving a U-Haul. At the time, that was our record.
We had our son Howie while Jake was at Fort Polk, and I decided to spend my maternity leave in Louisiana so that we could all be together. I packed everything up and moved with the kid to our little cabin in DeRidder, only to have Jake sent away for training. Figures. I think we spent about three weeks of my maternity leave together, and that’s the most time we have every spent together as a family.
For a brief moment, I actually considered moving to Kansas with Jake. But then we learned that he would be sent to Afghanistan for ten months, and “sit tight” suddenly seemed like the better plan. Howie and I were far from our post, but near to family and friends to help us weather the Houston-to-Kandahar bit of our journey.
So if you’re counting, that’s eight years, four duty stations, two households, thousands of miles traveled to see each other, a kid, and nine years of law firm practice. And a deployment (which you can read about here), just to shake things up a bit.
MilSpouses facing the possibility of geobaching ask me all the time what it’s like, and whether I’d do it again. Honestly, I don’t usually let myself think that way. For our family, the choice wasn’t really a choice, but I can’t say for sure that at 26 years old I would have walked away from a burgeoning legal career even if it was. Who knows? But I’d like to think we are proof positive that it can be done. The challenges can be tackled, and a family can thrive even under multiple roofs.
When I talk to people about geobaching, I always get the same, semi-glazed, overwhelmed look, usually followed by something like “I don’t know how you do it.” I imagine that a lot of you get this. The truth is, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this” is a luxury that most milspouses simply don’t have. We don’t have time for such questions; there’s too much to do. Often, it’s only in retrospect that we look back and think, “whoa, how did I do that?”
That’s pretty much how I felt about geobaching. And as the time drew near for my husband to retire, transition out of the Army, and finally be home under one roof with us, no challenge that we faced apart seemed as scary to me as the prospect of being together every day. For the first time in our whole marriage: Learning how to share space, how to co-parent, how to share the DVR (!?!). Part of me was thrilled, of course! But the other part of me was thinking ‘what if too much of each other ruins a really good thing?’
On January 6, Jake came home on terminal leave, and we’re looking forward to formal retirement in the Spring. That means we’ve now hit a record for the longest amount of time spent together under one roof: a month! Fortunately, it hasn’t been nearly as scary as I imagined.
There’s a lot of trouble-shooting still to be done. For instance, we seem to have hit a snag finding space in my closet for his things. And occasionally life is derailed by the remnants of our many years of independence. Like that Saturday we fought the entire day about the proper way to shop for groceries. And, now that we are all together, we’re finally experiencing that parenting rite of passage we keep hearing about from our friends—the kid playing the parents against each other. How do they learn manipulation so young??
Overall, being together hasn’t been as tough as I expected, although I know that our fair share of challenges will come our way. As I sat reveling in the fact that we’ve been together for a month and still seem to like each other, I started thinking back to those years of geobaching. Being apart was scary too, in its own way. But we tackled the separation day by day, piece by piece. In such small increments, suddenly the task wasn’t so scary. I’m now starting to think that the process of learning to be together will be similar. We’ll take it day by day, piece by piece. Some of those days will find us screaming over shopping lists, others will find us laughing until we cry. But the difference this time around is that, whatever happens next, we’re in it together. Literally.
For those currently dealing with reintegration, click here to check out tips for reintegration.