I wanted to share in this post about the military life. My husband is a Lieutenant in the Air National Guard and the military is his full-time job. I never wanted to be a military wife, but a few years ago we felt like this is the path that God was calling us to. It’s not always an easy one, but it is a rewarding one and he loves his job. Lenard being in the military was the farthest thing from our minds when we first got married! Thankfully in his line of work we have not had to deal with long-term deployments like many military families. He does have to travel fairly frequently for a week to three weeks at a time though.
When he is gone it’s hard. While taking care of 4 kids by myself is hard it is not the hardest part. The hardest part for me is the deep loneliness that I feel when my best friend is not around. Especially at night after the kids are in bed. It’s hard for me to motivate myself to crawl into that empty bed and as a result I often stay up much later than I should and don’t get enough rest either. The lack of intimate physical touch and someone to talk to and share my day with is hard. Thank goodness for phones.
I am not writing this post to try to gain sympathy from anyone. Me and the kids are strong and the separations are never very long and we do just fine. I wanted to write this post to help you get a glimpse into the world of the spouse that is taking care of things at home. For many military spouses there is the added worry of their husband (or wife) possibly being in danger as well.
Not only do we have to take care of the family by ourselves, but the household as well. Budget, bills, maintenance, all of the cleaning and pet care, things of that nature. Fixing meals is hard too. When Lenard is not around, I really don’t feel like cooking anything. We end up eating a lot of frozen and fast foods as well.
I really don’t feel like I should even call myself a military mom since we don’t have to deal with the long-term separations and dangerous situations that many military families have to face. Living a military life though has opened my eyes to what other military families are living through. Being in the military does require sacrifices not only to the wonderful people who serve our country, but also for their families.
What can you do? If you know a military family, especially a family who is living through a long-term deployment here are some suggestions that you can do to help them.
Pray for them and let them know that you are praying for them and their deployed loved one. Just to know someone is thinking of you is encouraging because it is a very lonely time.
Tell us we are doing a good job. Encouragement always lifts my spirits because I often feel like we are just in survival mode while he is away. I feel guilty sometimes that I’m not being fair to the kids since I’m just trying to survive myself. I think this is part of the reason we eat out more because I’m trying do something fun for them. It’s easy to get depressed and sink into self-pity sometimes so a kind and encouraging word can go a long way.
Offer to babysit. Having to drag 4 kids to the grocery store is not really that pleasant, but there’s really not an option. We have to keep eating. Offering to keep the kids for just a few hours so that we can run errands and not have to drag the kids in and out of five different places, buckling and unbuckling over and over. That makes for a long and tiring day.
Cook them a meal or invite them to dinner. Like I said, I struggle with wanting to cook for just me and the kids. I guess part of it is I know that they will not appreciate it like he would and I’m tired and just want to chill with something easy in front of a movie.
Check with them to see if they have any maintenance issues that you could help with. I don’t really know about other military spouses, but I know that I have a very hard time asking for help of any kind. I guess it’s kind of pride, kind of not wanting to be a bother to anyone and the pressure to be strong for your spouse who is out serving their country. The least we can do for them is making sure things are taken care of while they are away.
Offer to babysit when the spouse returns. When your significant other has been gone for a long time, spending some alone time with them is wonderful. If the kids are old enough even offering for them to sleep over would be great. Many of these families are far away from their family living at a base they have been stationed at and their friends are all they have.
Having lived in military housing and getting to know many military families I know that these are wonderful, strong people who care about their country. As I’ve said it’s not an easy life, but I haven’t met many who are living it who regret it. I am so crazy proud of my husband and what he is doing to protect our country and I know most military spouses feel the same way. Sometimes we need a hand along the way though. Just a hug can go a long way. As I said before, I know for me at least, it’s hard to swallow your pride and ask for help. I guess I feel like I’m weak if I do.
If you know someone in similar situations (single moms or dads, or spouses that just travel a lot) try asking them specifically what you could do to help them. If you ask us how we are doing we are probably going to say just fine. And we are. We are strong. We do what we have to because there is no other choice.
Obviously I cannot represent every military spouse out there and I would welcome other military families to weigh in their opinions and suggestions in the comments. These are just a few things that I thought of based on my experiences. As I said before, I’m not personally looking for help or sympathy, but just wanting to raise awareness and encourage those who can to lend a hand to their military families.