Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Domestic Enemies of the Active Duty Mom

You know we love military families here in Mommyland, right? Well when I got this rant, I couldn't wait to publish it. Because last year I got to work with some amazing soldiers through an organization called Final Salute. Those women rock my socks. They have fought, bled and risked everything in the course of their service. Now they dedicate their lives to helping female veterans.

So often when we talk about military families, we have a picture in our heads of the brave daddy in uniform and bad ass mommy, taking care of business at home. I LOVE THOSE FAMILIES. But missing but from our conversations about them are all of the women who put themselves in harm's way to serve our country and protect our freedom. 

It's serious business being a woman in the military, we all know that. I admire these women so much and thank them (and their families) for their service. Here are the Domestic Enemies of the Active Duty Mom...

I'm in the military and I love my job. I absolutely love my three little minions and husband, too.  Sadly, in my career, they don’t always go together.  
Enemy #1 - Leaving My Kids.  
Without fail, a couple of times a year (and sometimes for an entire year), I have to leave those adorable minions with my beloved and  go to the field… think camping with bad food, no showers, no bed and a bunch of grumpy/ lonely guys.  Nothing says guilt like missing the school play, birthday or anniversary because you were in the field getting dirty again.  Sometimes, if I’m really lucky, I get to go on an all- expense paid vacation to the lovely white sands (insert most recent Middle Eastern conflict here).  If that isn’t bad enough we have enemy #2.
Enemy # 2 The guilt trip from strangers 
Without fail while standing in line at the grocery store, on my way home from work, someone always notices that I am  A) a female in uniform (say it ain’t so!) and B) you have at least one minion with you, whom you have undoubtedly picked up from those lovely CYS people covered in a previous domestic enemies.  This leads to the questions:
  • Is that your kid? No I borrowed him.  I was lucky they had a little boy who looks exactly like me.
  • Have you ever had to leave them?  Actually, yes I do, all the time.  
  • Wow that must be soo hard.  Yes, yes it is.  Thank you Captain Obvious.
  • Why do you do it? It’s the Army.  I don’t get to call in and say sorry I don’t feel like leaving my kids for the 15th time this year.  Too bad, suck it up buttercup; you signed the contract, you’re going.
  • Don’t you miss them?  No.  I am heartless monster who never should have procreated. lol Of course I miss them, but with cell phones and Skype I am way luckier than my parent’s generation was.
  • Why don’t you get out now that you are a mom/ I thought they kicked women out when they had kids….  
I have been an active duty mom for 8 years now.  I worked up  until I went to the hospital for delivery.  Twice.  I probably would have the third time but I wound up on bed rest. I love my job.  I am good at my job.  I know that I have made a positive difference in the lives of people all over the world.  I love my minions.  They are proud of what I do and I am so proud of them I can’t begin to explain.
I accept people are expressing their concern for my family but do you have to rub salt in my open wound?  On the upside it is never the same people for too long because we are always waiting for domestic enemy #3….
Enemy #3 – Moving
Generally when I am lucky enough to be around for more than a few weeks it is because we are yet again packing up all of our prized possessions to move to some place new where we will begin life again.  Often, we have to move without being able to arrange for a place to live ahead of time.  All of your possessions are packed for you, which are great  until you find out three months later, when your things finally arrive at your house, that the movers packed the trash and broke your grandmother’s China.  Don’t worry though.  You will totally get a percentage of what that was worth a year later, once your claim has been settled.  While you wait for your place to live you get to reside in temporary quarters.   A dear friend just spent three months in temporary quarters which consisted of a double queen, one room hotel “suite.”  I am pretty sure she deserves to be nominated for Sainthood as both of her children are alive and doing well. New school, new friends, new bosses, new job for the spouse, living out of a suitcase and on take out with kids.  Joy.
Enemy #4 – The Bad FRG
I know there are amazing Family Readiness Groups out there. (Family Readiness Groups or FRGs are formed by the family members of the Soldiers in a unit to provide emotional support and activities for each other because military living takes the family far away from home)  I have friends who run them/ belong to the great ones.   A good FRG is an amazing thing, a life line. A bad FRG is just yucky. 
A FRG can have a bunch of wonderful people involved, but like any other group, a couple of bad apples can poison the whole barrel. I'm talking about a handful unhappy spouses (almost always women) who gossip and bake cookies for the next military ball where they will inevitably talk dirt about other women. Often it's is this whole female spouse vs. female soldier thing. I know - it totally sucks. We're all on the same team but not everyone acts like it. I've heard it so many times, the implications that active duty women only joined the military to find husbands. OK so maybe my beloved and I met in the barracks as junior Soldiers a long, long time ago but still. I didn't join to find a husband - that was just lucky - I joined to serve my country.  
Enemy #5 - The Assumptions (related to #4)
My least favorite is the assumption that there are (ahem) shenanigans with their husbands going on when we're away (in the field/during deployment).  Um NO. Lady, I am super happy that you love your spouse. Guess what? I love my husband, too. And about your husband, I have had to hear all the perverted, ridiculous things he says when you aren’t around to rein him in.  Also, I know what he smells like after two weeks of no shower, which also apparently means no toothbrush or deodorant. Pass. You don’t even hug him  until after he’s been hosed off when we get back. That's smart because your man can get pretty funky.

All that being said, I love being an active duty mom.  There is a sense of community that is so unique to the military it is hard to explain.  No matter where we go, by about month 4 (once we have a place to live) we are home again.  

(c)Herding Turtles 2009 - 2013

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