I’m not sure how it is with soldiers in non-combat roles.
Are there random weekends spent in the field or preparing for some vague notion of a field exercise, only to have it canceled at the last moment? Throughout much of our marriage and life as a young family, the days spent catching up via video chat vastly outnumber the days we’ve had meals together. It’s not rare and we are far from unique, but when there isn’t another woman as much as there are 30-plus other men relying on your presence and your preparedness, the family experience of military life changes dramatically.
As we enter another year that is slated for too many goodbyes, I start thinking about the family experiences that I want to squeeze into these moments. We will be welcoming a new baby into the mix during a heavy training month, and my professional pursuits perfectly tie into weeks spent in the field or on high alert. On years like these, it isn’t the planning of family vacations that make up our days, but the comparing of schedules and maximizing awake-time to get in snuggles with the little ones.
We don’t look forward to the big events as much anymore. It is the simple, boring days that make our year feel a little more normal. With these weeks and months flying toward us, the requests to grandparents and friends go out. We verify school days and doctor appointments.
This life wears on you — the days spent juggling the roles of mom, wife and professional. It isn’t just the years of deployments that are challenging — those, no doubt, present many of their own worries and concerns — but it’s the off time, the time spent recovering from and then preparing for. Outside of military life, the hiccups of regular life also add up quickly. Reaching out for support during tough moments can come with high costs personally and professionally, but avoiding the issues creates a long chain of reactions that often rear their ugly heads.
This year, we will eat (at least) 100 meals together — be they breakfasts or midnight snacks, I’ll count them all as little blessings. We will go on family walks through our new neighborhood. We will spend nights at home — a movie to watch and a bottle of wine to drink. This year will pass with 365 days — some of which our family will feel united, many of which will feel divided and full of frustrations. There will be dinners of mac and cheese and ones that have two or three green vegetables.
We cannot spend the days worrying about when that next training will come or what the many months of away time means for the bonds that our family has worked so hard to rebuild. There will be years that are spent entirely together, where we learn the meaning of normal and once again begin to lose appreciation for the nuances of the mundane. Those years have an angelic glow on them as we look forward. However, this year we are staying in the present, experiencing the joys around us fully and embracing this roller coaster wholeheartedly.
Hewlett, a military spouse and mom, lives with her family in Richmond Hill.