(Photo credits: Photo Pin)
Honestly, if I hear this comment one more time I might need a padded cell, because it makes me nuts. Many military spouses hear this from friends, family… even other military spouses. It is usually in response to a military spouse admitting that she is having a tough time with something.
I get it. Nobody likes a whiner. And if you are on the receiving end of the whining, you might just want to say “Suck it up! You knew what you were getting into!” A little bit of tough love is always good, right? But see, the problem is that no matter who you are, how you prepared, what you thought you knew about life as a military spouse… the only way to understand it is to simply live it.
Honestly, there are many things in life that we may prepare for, but realize that we really didn’t know what we were getting into after all. Let’s just take parenting as an example. Oh yeah, I read the books, I had experience babysitting, I knew lots of people who had babies and they had no problem giving advice. But nothing prepares you for that moment when you realize that YOU are now 100% responsible for a little human being. Nothing prepares you for the sleepless nights, the worry, or the doubt that you are doing the right thing. Nothing prepares you for the tantrums they throw when they are toddlers. Nothing prepares you for your heart break when they go to kindergarten. Nothing prepares you for the shock you feel when a pre-teen first slams their door in a fit of hormonal nonsense. Nothing prepares you for the teenage years.
If you have more than one child, things are different. Each child has their own personality, their own issues, and your circumstances may have changed when raising the second kid as opposed to the first. And let’s just talk about selective memory. There is a reason that we never remember the world’s worst pregnancy to be “that bad” years later. There is a reason why we convince ourselves that those late nights of colic were really “quality time” when we are considering having another child. Selective memory has ensured that people are willing to do it all again… saving the human race.
There are days when you think you have this parenting thing under control… and then there are days when you watch that show about animals eating their young with a little bit of understanding. There are days when you love being a parent, you have a wonderful time with the kids… and there are times when you start day-dreaming about running away to an island with no children, and lots of vodka. There are days when you are certain your children will be productive members of society… and there are days when you wonder if that college fund will turn into bail money.
Well, military life is a lot like the experience of parenting. Sure, you can read all the books, you may have had a parent who was in the military, you may know lots of military spouses and they may be willing to give you advice. But nothing prepares you for that moment you first send your spouse off to war, and realize they may never come home. Nothing prepares you for the sleepless nights, the worry, or the doubt that you are doing the right thing. Nothing prepares you for the tantrums you feel like throwing when you have hit “the wall” half-way through the third deployment. Nothing prepares you for the heart break you feel when a child cries for Daddy every night. Nothing prepares you for the shock you feel when someone you know gets that dreaded knock on the door. Nothing prepares you for the problems that can arise when they finally come home.
And with every passing year that you are a military spouse, things are different. Each new duty station has its own personality, each PCS move has its own issues, and your circumstances may have changed from the first deployment to the second. And selective memory? The deployment you are going through right now may seem harder than the ones before. I believe that they do get harder… but I also know that my selective memory helps me put things in perspective and allows me the strength to be willing to do it all over again, and again.
There are days when you think you have your military life under control… and there are times when you watch that show where the girl is married to a lawyer, or teacher, or construction worker who is home every night, with a great deal of envy. There are days when you love this life, you have a wonderful time with your military family… and there are times when you dream of running away to an island with no military, and lots of vodka. There are days when you are confident that supporting your servicemember means you are doing something positive for your country… and there are days when you wonder if what you do really matters at all.
Sure, we all chose this life. But it doesn’t mean we were prepared for it, or had a clue what it would really be like. We are all entitled to bad days where we whine and try to make sense of it all. Don’t ever let anyone diminish what you are going through by suggesting that somehow you shouldn’t be struggling, upset or angry because of your choice. Sometimes the only way to get through it is to have a temper-tantrum, get it out of your system, and then stand back up and face it head on.
Now… if your day of whining and temper tantrums turns into weeks, or months… well, then, yeah you might need a little bit of tough love. But perhaps there is a better approach. I don’t mind someone saying “Ok. Now, I know you are going through something I can’t fully understand. But I care about you too much to see you suffer like this. Let’s figure out how to see the positive and make the best of your military life.”
Just my two cents for the day…