For most of the month of July, I lived life as a military spouse. Technically I’m a military spouse all the time, but with Bill serving in the Reserves it feels more like a temporary part of our lives rather than a full-time commitment. He’s usually only gone for one weekend a month, and sometimes we even go with him to Charlotte, spending a day hanging out in the city and eating at restaurants we don’t have in Elkin.
It’s when the summer service comes that it really hits home we are a military family. This summer Bill was ordered to spend three weeks serving as a nurse at a walk-in clinic at Fort Knox in Kentucky. There are so many things to be thankful for about that short-term position. It was at a very safe place, in our same time zone, and three weeks is nothing in the big scheme of things.
But even though I’ve never had to send my husband off for a 6-12 month deployment, or worry about him being in a dangerous war zone, these few years of life as a military spouse have helped me get a glimpse of what families go through when one of their loved ones serves in the military.
Absences can be hard.
Life continues to march on here at home, while our loved ones are off serving the country. For fathers and mothers who leave kids behind when they are mobilized or deployed, they miss things like birthdays, recitals and soccer games. We were lucky that we got to celebrate the Fourth of July together before Bill left. And since it was summer, he didn’t miss too much in the way of milestones while he was gone.
Really our only one was Caroline going to camp for the first time. It would have been nice if we could have both dropped her off, but it wasn’t necessary. Where he was missed most was at pick-up. The look in her eyes when she saw me and Carter walk up to the dining hall is something I will never forget, and I wish Bill could have been there to see it himself and give her a great big Daddy hug. Even though Bill was only gone for three weeks, the kids missed him, I missed him, and he missed us.
Running the household independently is both challenging and exhilarating.
Disciplining the children, maintaining the house and yard, paying the bills, scheduling appointments and attending social events all fall onto one pair of shoulders while a spouse is serving away from home. It can be extremely tiring, as any single parent knows. Any plans I had of catching up on reading or doing work after the kids went to bed were pipedreams. Most of the time I was pooped, and plopped myself down on the couch, catching up on Nashville on the DVR.
While challenging and exhausting, there is a nice little ego boost that comes from knowing I was able to hold things down here successfully. That’s not to say I wasn’t totally relieved to have Bill back. Three weeks of single parenting and running a household singlehandedly was more than enough time to help me realize how great it is to be married and have someone to share life with — the ups and the downs, but most of all the mundane details of everyday life that might seem like nothing while you’re experiencing them, but all add up to one happy life shared together.
So here’s a special shout out to all the military families out there, to the spouses who spend months and even years managing things on the homefront while constantly worrying about their loved ones in dangerous situations. Here’s to the kids who grow up talking to their parents over Skype and report over the phone how recitals and soccer games went. And here’s to all the men and women who have dedicated a part of their lives to serving our country. Each individual plays an important role in keeping the military strong and our country safe, and I’m thankful to them all.