I awoke early in the morning with the most dreaded thought: Today is the day we say goodbye. Our daughter was two weeks old. My husband kissed her in her crib and slipped out of her room. My mom stayed home to babysit while husband and I loaded up the car and headed out. You could cut the silence in the car with a knife. When we pulled up in the bustling hangar parking lot, we saw goodbyes taking place in front of mini-vans and trucks. The sailors turned and walked through the gated turnstile, lugging their seabags and stepping resolutely toward the huge metal structure. The husband grabbed his stuff out of the car and gave me a big hug. Up to this point, I had been stoic. The emotions hadn’t overtaken me, and I thought I might make it through the drop off without waterworks. Not so.
As we embraced, I saw him wipe his eyes and try to hold back the tears. We’d done several deployments before then, but leaving both me and our newborn daughter took a toll on him. It was the first time I ever saw him cry. We said our goodbyes and didn’t drag it out. He headed off to the hangar and I turned the car back home. Glancing back, I burst into tears as I saw him wipe his eyes one more time. It was official: deployment had begun.
Today, as a Navy wife myself, I would like to recognize every military wedding couple in all branches. No military spouse’s life is easy. We are some of the strongest women and men I know. The wonderful milspouses I’ve been blessed to meet have inspired me beyond expectation. People who have never experienced military life (but watch a lot of TVs) view military spouses in a limited way. But there is always more than meets the eye, and today I wanted to share the secrets I have come to know about REAL Navy wife life.
The fact is, they call me dependent…
The truth is I am independent and capable. I am able to do many things on my own that most people only do with others. I can also do all the household chores, go to work, keep the kids entertained, take care of the dog, clean the kitchen, and still bring my friend a meal after she’s had a baby. I don’t like to ask for help from others unless I really need it.
If I have kids, they call me a mom…
The truth is, I am Mom and Dad, plumber, window washer, house cleaner, chauffer, student, teacher, home decorator, life coach, homework manager, mechanic, accountant, bill-payer, everything-arranger… before I then collapse on the couch for a 30 minute TV show so I can have some “me time.” Then I go and do it all the next day.
If I don’t have kids, I do most of the above…
Except instead of collapsing for 30 minutes of “me time,” I sit in the evenings alone on the couch wishing American Idol, the Bachelorette, or you-fill-in-the-blank show started this week. Because how else am I going to pass all these lonely evenings if I have nothing to watch?
Employers call me one of “those” people who leave a job every year… the kind no one wants to hire.
But the truth is, I am qualified, committed, cheerful, and maybe the best worker you have. It would be great if you would give me a chance. I just might move in 6 months.
They call me strong
But the truth is, I’m also tender, caring, lonely, fearful, proud, and tired.And I can’t wait for help to come stepping off that plane or across that gangplank into my arms. I cry in the shower at first, but then my sorrow hides underneath the “get ‘er done” attitude. I still feel it but I can get through. I get scared at night if the dog barks. I get choked up at every homecoming video and military ad. Ok, I get choked up at like every ad. But maybe that’s because I just had a baby. Or my fourth baby. They call me strong. But I’m on my knees every night, praying to the One who holds them in His hands to please keep him safe.
They call me a friend
But the truth is, my friends are more like family. They’re there for me when I’m on bed rest. They bring me meals when I’m sick or I’ve had a baby. They plan activities for us to do to pass the time. We share our highs and our lows. We laugh and we cry together. We walk dogs and watch kids. We serve on boards and committees and as ombudsman to help each other make it. We go out for wine and appetizers. We sit on each other’s couches.
We do life.
They say, “Home is Where the Heart Is…”
But if that’s true, home is on the other side of the world, because that’s where my heart is…. In the desert, in the pacific, in Europe, on the other side of the US in training, on the other side of my iPhone screen. I can never quite get to it, no matter how hard I try. I do my best to make my house a home for the family and me. My kids will know this as home. But they will know someone is missing if they are old enough to understand. And I will give everything to make life as fun as I can for them. And I will do everything I can to help them get to know the one who is missing.
They call it “touching and moving” when our loved ones come home
But we call it gut-wrenching, tangible joy you can taste. It’s the jitters that keep you up all night the night before. It’s sweating through your outfit out of nerves and excitement. It’s standing for hours in the heat as you watch the ship pull in, straining for a glimpse of your sailor at the rails. It’s watching spouse and kid after kid run from the hangar into the arms of their aviator… while you wait not so calmly for yours to get off the stinkin’ plane!
It’s life as a stay at home wife. We’re just like everyone else, and we’re a breed all our own. They call us dependent… but we are so much more.