“Honey, we need to talk.”
It’s not what you think. We aren’t having a marriage crisis of any kind, I promise. Rock solid over here. But still, there is trouble in paradise. My relationship with the military is crumbling.
I’m tired. Exhausted even. The years have worn me down, crumbled my resolve and sapped my strength. You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I’m ready to break up with the military.
Looking in from the outside, I look like a great military spouse: running my own business, freelancing like a champ, two great kids, sweet little pup and survivor (thriver) through five – count em, 5 – cross-country or OCONUS moves. I am at arguably my most physically fit since high school track.
Still, I am tired. And we needed to talk.
The Conversation That Shocked My Military Husband to His Core
Everything came to a head as we contemplated yet another trans-Pacific move. He started to list all the things we needed to do. Except, most of those things weren’t a “we” thing, they were “me” things. Things I needed to do to make this move successful.
- House: find a place that meets our family’s needs and budget within my husband’s predetermined ideal commute radius and a good school district
- Declutter: go through every single one of our family’s belongings, sorting what to keep, trash, donate or hand down to friends
- Pack: curate a wardrobe for one adult (me) and two kids that would work in our current location, our next duty station and on our trip to New England – three different climates – while we wait for HHG to arrive
- Prep: wash, organize and pre-pack different items to decrease the workload later
- Sell: list HHG we would not be moving with for sale in various Facebook groups, follow up with potential buyers and orchestrate the final sale
- Hunt: for a new job (hold on for what happened after our tough conversation though…)
- Plane: create a traveling child entertainment pack, with extra clothes and travel comfort items, for two young children that is also light enough for them to carry on their own backs
- Pet: arrange acceptable transportation for one small dog to the east coast of the US from Asia
- Work: fulfill all my work and volunteer obligations
- Kids: continue to feed, clothe and clean up after two preschool-aged kids while doing all of the above
He prattled on about how great this move would be for his career, for making the next promotion, for retirement employment options. How I could go back to “real” work – aka NOT running my own business or freelancing.
I about did a spit take as he glossed over all the tough stuff, the things I would be invisibly organizing to make this move happen in a reasonable manner, without once asking what I thought, what my plans were for this next step. All I could think about was “How many more moves do I need to do before we’re done with this?”
Babe, I’m Tired
I just blurted it out. “I’m tired.”
The look he gave me made me feel like I was crazy. Tired? How could I possibly be tired? After all, I’m not the one actually IN the military. I’m just here for the ride: raising the kids, running the house, eking out a professional life through ever-changing circumstances.
Tired? Who, me?
“Why are you tired? My job is pretty reliable!” he shot back. And he’s not wrong.
His job is steady, probably the most “office” type of job you can get in the military. It’s a 7-5 (and sometimes 6 or 7) job, with semi-rare working weekends and enough seniority that duty days are rare. Deployments are rare, too, since it’s a planning and policy position.
But, yeah, I am tired. He needed to hear why. Again, from the outside looking in, my life looks great. I’m not really, truly complaining, more like speaking my truth. I love what I do (freelance writing/editing and education consulting), where I do it (my couch) and the flexibility of my schedule. Being able to spend more time with my kids is great.
Beneath that happy-shiny surface is a lot more though.
If I’m Tired What About You?
I’m tired of the moving, putting my whole life on hold to move on the DoD’s whim. Every few years, or more often, I’m asked to leave a job I love or to scramble to fulfill my freelance contract obligations. I’m constantly looking for new jobs, just in case.
I’m tired of recreating my life in a new location every few years, building new friendships and finding new support systems. It’s painful to disconnect from my social circle, the group of carefully cultivated individuals that I rely on for daily support. I feel like once I find my niche, it’s time to move again, to start again.
I’m tired of not knowing, of living in limbo. I never know if he’ll be home for dinner or bedtime – yes, even with that “office” job. I don’t know when he’ll be suddenly called to go TDY for a surprise training cycle or an emergency that needs his support. Is this the duty station when he’ll be deploying again? Or will we just be on an endless TDY rotation? The uncertainty of it all is killing me.
I’m tired of feeling professionally stuck. Okay, yes, some of this is part of my own making. I honestly could have pushed harder to return to the classroom at each and every duty station; plenty of military spouses do exactly that. Your strength is incredible! But I can’t (or maybe won’t) because, at this moment, me returning to work outside the home would require a supreme juggling act of getting affordable child care and finding a job the also works around the military’s schedule and my kids’ needs. Teaching isn’t a “leave it at the door” profession. It’s all the time, with extra hours frequently and routinely required. Doing everything I need to as a mom, wife and teacher would (and almost did) send me over the edge.
The Conversation the Shook Him to His Core
I detailed all of this for my husband, explaining how and why I am so tired, physically and mentally exhausted. And he was shocked, shook to the core, about what I was dealing with every day, every PCS cycle, with every tick-tock of the clock toward retirement.
Finally, finally, he actually got what it means for me to be a successful military spouse, to make his missions possible, to organize life for our kids with minimal interruptions to routine.
If I’m this tired, exhausted, after a decade of what might be logically considered the “good” military life, I cannot imagine your level of exhaustion. You, infantry or pilot spouse, with a partner who is legitimately facing danger on the daily or who is constantly away. You amaze me with your ability to withstand and persevere.
And I’ll keep on trucking along, finding the joy in military life. Because there is a whole lot of good mixed in with the not great. Right now though? Right now I’m just going to be tired for a minute more.
Are you tired of this military life? Did you tell your spouse? We’d love to hear how you handle the daily grind of the Army Wife life!
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