October is here! And for many that means the taste of pumpkin spice, the excitement of football, and the beauty that are the fall leaves. October is one of the coziest months of the year, and most of us are ready for it by the time it gets here.
For me, October this year represents a time for things to try to return to normal, for our real routines to finally begin, and for there to be some return to stability, for this is the month when the husband and father finally returns!
We knew even before moving to DC that my husband would have to go away to school for his job during his time here… and as with the Army, that time would not be known right away. Military is alot of hurry up and wait while many things that most people are able to readily prepare for are kind of thrown on the military family. As such, we have to live in a constant state of preparedness for we never really know what might happen. And if we’re truly lucky (saying that facetiously) those upended plans can happen at the worst possible time. I don’t know a single military family who hasn’t been separated during the holidays, anniversaries, or birthdays because the armed forces sent their loved one away for the mission. This is my account of our time apart and the various stages of military spouse life that I went through.
After almost 6 months of looking for work with no luck, I finally was offered a position with a non-profit in downtown DC, a position that checked most of my boxes and was what I believed for prepare me for one day starting a non-profit of my own. I was excited and nervous about this opportunity as I had been out of work for just about a year, and was going to be new to this line of work. It was a day that was full of frustrations as I had spent the better part of this day figuring out where my kids were going to spend the summer. I had no need to look at camps before as I wasn’t working, but now with a new job on the horizon, and so far, I hadn’t had much luck. Frustrated and out of ideas, I figured I could always send the kids to my mom’s for the summer, although I knew that it might be a lot for her to handle. But it was a solution for a problem of which I had no control. It was on this day, that my husband came home excited and somewhat relieved.
“Guess what!?” he asked excitedly as he continued sorting through the mail.
“What?” I answered, sitting down on the couch.
“I got my dates (for school),” he responded with a smile.
I looked at him blankly as he continued. “August 18th to October 7th.” I let out a huge sigh and rolled my eyes. And then I went off.
I know… not the most supportive thing to do. I should’ve responded better, sat down with him and tried to work out a game plan as to how we were going to deal with him being away, how we could help the children handle his absence. But all I could think about were those dates, and how much he’d be missing for starters. The children would be starting school shortly after he left. Transitions are already super difficult for our kids and with him not being here, I wasn’t sure how we’d handle that challenge. It also meant him not being here for my birthday or for our anniversary. And within ten minutes of hearing this news, I already had preferred that the Army would send him away during Christmas rather than during such a delicate time that the first days of school are in the Davis household. He saw my frustration and met that with anger. He didn’t understand how I wasn’t more happy for him, and I couldn’t understand why he didn’t seem to understand why I couldn’t be. It was a mess, y’all.
When it came time for him to leave, I had some understanding and a scrappy plan of how I’d handle his time away. I had asked him to talk to the kids at length about what to expect and to give him his expectations of how they were to behave while he was gone. I requested the help of my mother so that I could try to bridge the transitions as best I could. But you already know, especially if you are a military spouse, when the service member’s away, Murphy’s law seems to have a party; whatever could go wrong pretty much did. Within four days of his leaving, we had our first ER visit and infection diagnosis, being in and out of the doctor’s office over the course of a week. The kitchen sink sprang a leak, we had behavior problems in school for most of the time he was away, and issues with the youngest’s bus route. My work schedule was unexpectedly changed which led to problems with after-school care arrangements. The dog lost his mind and had a few accidents in the house, as well as saw a few of my things as chew toys, a habit he has never enjoyed. I was going from 5am til 10pm most days and found myself barely getting by at work without fighting the urge to take a nap at my desk. And in the middle of it all, I got sick and lost my voice for a week. I was done like three weeks in, y’all.
And for the first time in my relationship with my husband, I was angry with him for something that was not his fault. I resented him. I resented the Army. I thought it was unfair that my constantly had to remain in a state of total unrest and change while he got to go off and do things that would benefit his career. I saw his time in the Carolinas as his chance to live his best life, something I felt that I deserved more. After all, I was the one constantly having to up and leave something that I wanted to do so that he could pursue his career. I was the one who was responsible for everything that happened with the children, as though I’m the only parent. I was left here to figure out everything on my own, deal with the sleepless nights and stressful days by myself, and navigate all the would be issues that typically never happen when the man is here with the children. I was frustrated and angry and sad. I was tired and done. And boy I couldn’t wait for October to arrive.
Anger is only one of several emotions military spouses experience when their significant other is away for work. The others are as follows:
Detached and withdrawn
Sadness or depression
Emotionally and physically distant before and after separation
Confusion and impatience
As military spouses, we are supposed to be supportive regardless of the mission because that has also become our mission. We have to learn to be fluid and yielding to anything that can suddenly come up. We credit this resilience and adaptability as strengths but it takes a lot to endure, hence the above emotions. But all in all, this lifestyle is very difficult, and even though we are supportive of our loved ones who volunteer to serve, it comes with a set of challenges for which few of us are truly prepared. It requires self-sacrifice in so many ways which can lead to even more resentment and frustration
I won’t sit here and say that I have figured this thing out. I struggle with my role as a military spouse from time to time as many of my fellow spouses do. But it is important to know, that even though the focus is on your service member with their job being the center of everything you and your family do, it’s so important not to lose focus of yourself and your needs. Self-preservation and care is crucial to ensuring you can be the best supportive spouse you can be. Advocate for what you need and ensure you communicate so that your partner is aware of what’s important to you.
After all, you and your family serve too!