Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Military Wife Conundrum

Remember yesterday when I was all happy and excited about birthing classes getting started so that A could feel involved? Well, then I heard from him regarding the ship schedule.

Thanks to 4 section duty and the schedule of underways, it turns out that A will only be able to make 2 of the 6 of our birthing classes, which are about to start on Tuesday nights.

A Short Glossary of Military Terms 
[as I see them]

Four section duty: every 4 nights he stays on the ship overnight and works the full next day. So, if he has duty on a Sunday, he heads to the ship at 5 am on Sunday morning and I don’t see him again until he comes home on Monday evening. And then again on Thursday – don’t see him till Friday evening, and it goes on and on and on.

**Originally this ship was on 6 section duty, but since some.people (read: not my husband) make bad life decisions, the ship is now on 4 section duty. Except the people making the decisions about duty sections...they are on 12 section duty. (Bitter? Party of 1? I know that they have 'earned it', blah blah, but I am a huge proponent of leading by example, and if they aren't feeling the hit too, nothing is going to change anytime soon. End rant.)**

Underway: “Short” jaunts out onto the big blue sea. His last underway was 5 days, sometimes they are two weeks. And sometimes they are scheduled for 5 days, and then they don’t come home for two weeks. Or more, or less.

Now, this situation sucks. One of the biggest aspects of natural childbirth is involvement and support from your partner. But, there is a reason the midwifery requires birthing classes. So that someone who is certified can teach you what you need to know, as both the one birthing the child and the partner. If he isn’t there – who is supposed to teach him? Me? I can certainly try, but the other day I forgot how old I am. Plus, I want to share in this with him, and I know that he is just as upset as I am, as he wants to be involved, but this is the first of many of these situations.

Here lies the conundrum.

co·nun·drum/kəˈnəndrəm/Noun:  A confusing and difficult problem or question.
  • I am a wife. I have a partner who loves me, and whom I love. 
  • He has a career that is actually a lifestyle – for both of us. It’s called the military. I don't think anyone questions that being in the military is not just "a job" - but if you do, come talk to me about it.
  • I could not be more proud that he loves his country and his vocation. I could not be more proud to be a military wife. 
  • I know that the military provides great benefits in exchange for the sacrifice; I grew up a Navy brat. And truly, I am grateful for those benefits.
  • Yes, I did make the choice to marry someone in the military with the knowledge that this was what he wanted for his life and for our life.
Problem: From time to time, I hate this choice with my whole heart and soul.

You see, it’s not that I blame him. I know that he feels bad when things like this happen. And so I try not to react too negatively toward him.

But, yesterday when I found this out, I wanted to yell and scream and punch things. And then I thought about going to these classes alone, and I wanted to cry. But there is no one to do that to. It just makes him feel worse if I direct those feelings toward him, and though sometimes I do that, even though I know better, I try really hard not to.

(Though, if somewhere, we could have a phone number for all military spouses everywhere to be able to call in and record complaints – even if they were never heard by a real person, how cathartic would that be?)

The worst part of situations like these, is that you can’t even be mad at someone, because your husband or partner did.not.make.this.decision.  So, you have to have your little moment, pick yourself up by the bootstraps and move on.

I know that these things happen. It certainly happened with our wedding. (To read emotional posts from me about that whole ordeal, see here, here and here.) We came through that with flying colors. True, we still haven’t had a honeymoon, but we got to have the wedding that we wanted, with all of our loved ones there, on our schedule. It worked out.

It’s just that things like this now hit me so much harder.

Maybe it’s because I am already thinking about how this is going to affect our children in the future. 
Maybe it’s because it is about someone other than me, but let’s be honest, about me at the same time.

It’s just so hard to face the fact that I am going to have to single mom it from time to time, though I am a partner in a loving and committed marriage.  And that it is starting with birthing classes, just the icing on the cake.  I know it is whiny, but I don’t want to be the single gal at these things. I checked the boxes, I have the rings, and I don’t want to go it alone.

Somehow it’s harder when he is here and can’t be at things. These duty nights are just bad luck of the draw.  The underways? He is usually no more than a drivable distance off the coast. If he was on deployment, at least I wouldn't have been planning on being at birth classes together, you know? It’s the constant scheduling changes, the “wait a sec, can we do that that night, let me count it out…”, the crazy back and forth that really gets to me.

Add to that his ridiculous working hours right now, and he feels like he is missing everything.  Currently, he leaves the house at 5:30am and does not get home until 7pm…on the days he comes home. And when you get up at 5:30, guess what time you are exhausted and ready for bed? About 9:30.

Quick math, 2.5 hours seeing each other, 5 days a week (because the other two he is on duty and doesn’t come home) equals 12.5 hours that we see each other in a given week.

Less than one day. Per week.

(Granted that is the minimum estimate, because every now and again you get a weekend where he isn’t on duty on a weekend day, so you get a glorious 48 hours together. Bonus! Unless you are my husband, of course, who also right now works on Saturday mornings. )

Is it any wonder that so many military spouses don’t work? On the off chance that your spouse can come home early, wouldn’t you rather be there to see them than at work yourself? I know I would. It’s also seemingly no wonder that it is hard for us to make progress on things like the nursery, when this is our schedule. And when he already feels bad about missing so much, who am I to constantly remind him when he is home. I don’t think anyone can be that cruel.

I am also trying to selfishly savor the last few remaining days and weeks that we have between just the two of us. When baby gets here, life will get even crazier.

I know that I am lucky in the fact that he will be here for the birth of our child, and that he is transitioning to shore duty (shore duty = assigned to a command on land rather than to a ship) after the birth of that same child – so he will be around. And for that I am truly, truly thankful. We are blessed in many ways, and I do try to remember that above all else.

But that doesn’t make it any less disappointing for the things he is missing out on right now.

27 weeks, 5 days along

…and I love my husband, and (sometimes) I love the Navy.

...and thanks for letting me get this out today.


  1. Girl, I totally hear you. This duty schedule is horrible; I think the worst part is that there's no end in sight. And the fact that it's only the JO's and below...Yeah, make that "Bitter, party of 2".

    I'm so, so sorry that A won't be able to go to the classes with you. I know that's a tough blow for both of you. I'm praying for you and I know you'll do great through all of this. Labor, delivery, motherhood...you're gonna rock it!

  2. Friend. This is so hard. I'm really sad that you have to go through this stuff. It's good to know what you are going through though.. you know, I'm always here for you. Want me to go to class with you??? I'd totally do it!!!

  3. I got you covered court! find out what classes he is missing and I will help! we were gonna play childbirth class anyways right?

    I will even give ya'll homework starting now.
    1. austin must read the book "The Birth Partner" from cover to cover.
    2. every night you are together, 20 minutes each evening should be devoted to him helping you relax. massage, guided visualizations, etc. you need to learn to let him help you relax now so he can help you in labor.

    and totally take lisa with you. as a wife whose husband worked in sports and was never there, it sucks to be the lonely mama in class.