Sunday, June 3, 2012

Being a Military Wife

Military wives get a bad reputation. There is the wive that throws her husbands rank around, the wife that sits home all day stuffing her face with Twinkies gossiping about the neighbors, the wife that's at the club every night while her husband is at war, the wife that is involved with every volunteer position imaginable. Stereotypes always start with some truth, but those truths don't apply to everyone. I want to tell you what being a military wife is like for me. 

I've been a wife, period, for eight years and 1 month. I've been a military wife for eight years and a week, so if you do the math I married my husband about three weeks before my husband went to basic training. I don't really know what it's like to be a civilian wife. I spent the first five-six months or so of our marriage by myself, going to work, writing him a letter every single day & waiting for his letters and phone calls. When my husband finished AIT we moved to our first duty station about 17 hours away. I didn't know anyone and I'd never been that far away from home before. Everything was new, exciting, scary and different.  I got a job, made some friends and since we lived off post my life didn't seem much different other than being so far away. There were the occasional late night calls that woke me up, summoning my husband to some random inspection or surprise drug testing but other than that and my husband leaving for several weeks at a time for field training it was a pretty normal life. Then after about a year of this new life my husband deployed to Iraq. Having never been through a deployment it was pretty scary. I was sure that my bad luck would mean he would never be coming home again. I prayed constantly for him. I stayed up late at night to talk to him though internet chat. I took care of everything around the house from maintenance, to car repairs, paying the bills, cooking, cleaning, shopping for care packages, going to FRG (support) meetings, still working, and waiting for phone calls. Of course during a deployment everything that can go wrong will. I think that's part of the test. Obviously a lot of the things I had to do during a deployment single people have to do all the time. It's nothing new to them. 

Somehow my husband made it home ALIVE! A couple months after he arrived home I found out I was pregnant with out first (and right now only) child. Our lives went back to normal husband at home mode with the slight modifications of the pregnancy. We had a beautiful little girl and everything was great. 

When our little girl was about 9 months old my husband deployed to Iraq for the second time. You would think this time would be harder with a baby. In some ways it was but in some ways it was easier because was already used to and knew what I needed to do. It was harder because I fractured my hip a couple months prior and was still on crutches when he deployed. I'll admit I had a lot of help from a good friend. She made it easy for me. About a week after he left our daughter started walking. It was emotionally hard to know he was missing her milestones and by the time he saw her again she'd have changed so much. We still talked online, sent care packages but I didn't go back to work after the baby was born. After daycare costs and gas I wouldn't have made anything. I don't really care for Twinkies though so I did not sit around and eat Twinkies. I kept plenty busy and my husband came home again. About a month after he returned we got orders for him to go back to AIT to re-class and immediately following his training we would report to Germany. WOW! What a shock. We'd been at that duty station for six years. This was something new, and scary and exciting and different again. The whole time he was at school I planned and planned for our next PCS move. Six months later he came home again to clear and we packed our bags for Germany. Everything worked it way out. Here we are, two years later. 

So what's a military wife like? They're all different. They're definitely not Army issued.  I find projects to keep myself busy. I'm a planner. I'm comfortable with myself which is good because I think that's pretty universal for military wives - we spend a lot of time without our husbands. I have a lot of hobbies. I love getting love letters and surprise packages. I hate waiting  (but I have more patience than my husband.) I keep my mouth shut because even though I'm not in the military, I don't want my husband to pay for my big mouth. I've learned to accept whatever the Army throws at me and make the best of it. I get to dress up once a year and go to fancy balls. I do shop online, mostly because it's hard to find exactly what you want living in a foreign country. I'll admit I miss being able to go to the store at any hour. I've seen things my friends will only read about. I keep up with those friends online and rarely get to see or talk to them. I got to take my parents to Paris for their 40th wedding anniversary. I am proud of my husband and the things he gave up in the name of freedom. Will I be a different person when I'm no longer a military wife? No, I don't think so. The Army has taught me some important things that I will be grateful for though. I know I can take care of myself. I can fix the dryer, I can replace a hard drive. I can drive on the autobahn, or to Paris, or to Amsterdam. Military wives do have a weakness though. I think because of the nature of our husbands job, we move around more than the average family. My family has been lucky that we've only been to two places in the past eight years. Since we move, we have to make new friends. Friends are what get you through the tough times. I think that makes me a little less discerning than I should be at times, but I'm also a person that learns from her mistakes. 
As Burt Herman says, "You're not trying hard enough if you're not failing once in a while, we need to take chances and learn from our mistakes to move forward."

Underneath it all I'm just me. "Army wife" is just a description you could use just like mommy, photographer, stay at home mom, volunteer, daughter, or friend.  It's not a job. It's hard and sometimes it feels like my job to be strong but it's not my job. You don't get paid for it. I don't get paid to be a mommy either. It's just part of my life. Some day I will have a different life or description but I will still just be me.