Laura Ross has followed her soldier through active duty, Army Reserves and currently Army National Guard. In 5yrs of marriage, they've had 4 children, moved 4 times, fallen in love with their vocation to the military life and Laura's blogged it all. Now as her husband prepares for his first deployment, she's started up a new blog specifically aimed at recording the thoughts and adventures that come with this journey. She hopes to provide encouragement and support to the numerous military families also serving "the land of the free and home of the brave." Please join in her adventures at her blog: Charlie Mike
If it seems like I'm vacillating, I am. Though not as much as it may seem like through my blog posts, because those hard times are usually only fleeting seconds scattered on a canvas of joy-filled days. When I put those difficult times into words, it fills an entire post rather than just a few seconds.
The truth is, my life is good :) I am happy. I love my vocation as a wife and mother to our 4 children. And I am falling in love with my vocation as a military wife, thanks to being co-leader of our family group where I can actively make a difference in the lives of spouses, children, siblings, parents and friends of our soldiers. I will forward informative emails or invite friends to FB groups that support our military. It is something I feel strongly about and called to do - raising awareness and support for our military and their families. This is not a personal plea; there are thousands of military families out there who are everyday challenged to live this vocation.
I recently posted this article on my FB wall.(http://gagglemaggot.tumblr.com/post/4185240822/what-not-to-say-to-a-military-wife) The article is half kidding, though I know from experience, people do ask some crazy things and if you can respond with humor, it diffuses the urge to hit them over the head ;) A couple people responded with a "well, what can you say?" which, honestly was the first thing I thought after reading the article too. After looking back on my own experiences, I came up with several (hopefully!) helpful things.
*If you can't relate, then say so. "I can't imagine what you're going through..." It's ok, and it's refreshing to hear rather than things like "Oh! That's just like my husband's business trip last week! He was gone for 4 whole days and it was so hard to deal with the kids alone! How are you going to do it for a whole year!?"
First mistake is relating a deployment where you live with the stress and risk of losing your spouse on top of essentially living two people's lives in one person's time to a business trip where they come home and bring the kids bags of peanuts from the plane ride.
Second mistake is insinuating the whole negative "you can't do it" factor and the extreme length of it. We aren't ignorant to the fact it's hard. Or long. If a person has never experienced something and then make judgments about it, they come off sounding ignorant and even condescending. When you are in hardcore active labor, do you really want a nurse who's never been pregnant coming up and saying, "Wow! That looks hard! It's just like the time I got this paper cut and it hurt sooooo much....." Uh, no.
*Be positive. "I know you can get through this. You are a rockstar!" Soooo much nicer than focusing on all the negative aspects of a deployment which play in your head on repeat anyway. You would be amazed at how some simple uplifting words can turn someone's entire day around.
*Be sympathetic. This includes refraining from babbling to excess about the latest romantic date night with your hubby, or other topics that might be hard for someone without their spouse to hear. Are you entitled to talk about it? Of course, but we are also entitled to start sobbing or walk away from you. Many times, a military spouse just wants to vent. The reason we hesitate to vent to a civilian is that they don't understand what you are going through and furthermore, most don't even try. In a world screaming "TOLERANCE!!!," there is little sensitivity to families trudging through each day carrying the weight of two people. Listen to them, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what you would want someone to do for you.
*Be supportive. "What can I do to help?" Or better yet, "Bring the kids over Friday morning so you can go out and have some downtime!" "Do you all eat spaghetti? Good! I'm bringing a big pot of it over tomorrow night for your family to enjoy!" Offering general help is wonderful and immediately jumping into action is even better. Let's face it, it's harder to ask for help than to simply follow through on ready made plans. And be sincere. If you already feel overwhelmed, it's ok, but don't offer to help. There's nothing worse than bringing yourself to ask for help only to be rejected by someone who initially offered.