I’m sure this is about to tick some people off, but it needs to be said…
Yesterday I started a blog, but when I started to pull the quotes to use, I was too sad, too angry to continue. So we’ll edit a bit and see if my point can be made more eloquently.
Yesterday, I hit a wall.
Jason has been gone over a month, and at least we’re 2/3 done with this TDY. It’s been slightly hellish, and that’s coming from someone who has endured three of his deployments. It’s probably because we’ve never done this before, where he’s kind of living his own little life separate from us. It certainly takes some adjustment. Yes, I’m glad he’s not in a war zone, yes I’m glad he’s safe. Yes, I am insanely jealous that he’s sleeping in on the weekends, visiting my brother in Florida, and pretty much only has the responsibilities of school. I’ve had a hard time not grinding my teeth to little nubs because work gets nuts, we have angry school-agers, a very petulant kindergartner, a potty-training toddler, and he calls chipper as snow-freaking-white. So when I tell him I’m having a S***y day, I’m actually having a day where there is poop everywhere. Sigh. In some ways, it’s really not fair to him because he calls, and I’m disciplining one kid or another, about at my whits end, there’s nothing he can do about it from 1300 miles away, and honestly, I really could care less that my favorite restaurant in Alabama (yes there is such a thing) is on his menu tonight. I’d like to pretend he’s as miserable as I am. I’m just wenchy like that. But I will give the man props: I stay out of the bars during deployment, and he’s kind enough to return that favor during TDY.
My week blew up when a fellow cake-decorator fell ill, and I took on a little of her load on short notice, which had me up until 2 am or so, and that day the boys had a sleepover with friends on the same night there was a deadline for a short-story contest. Enter me stressing out. Noise is a huge trigger of my mood, and let’s say that it wasn’t quiet around here. The guests? Perfectly mannered… my boys? I’m pretty sure someone snuck into their rooms and replaced my boys with lawless, Godless anarchists. By the time lunch came around this morning, I felt defeated.
Ready to hit a freaking wall.
Enter the babysitter. If you don’t have a trusted one, get one. Now. For the first time in nine years of parenting, I knew I needed to get out NOW. I called her up, and she hopped right on over, and out the door I went. I finished up the kids back-to-school shopping so I didn’t have to haul the four boys through the mall while people counted them. I loaded the house up on groceries and stocked up on fresh produce for the school lunches that will be packed this week. Sorry, but my kids aren’t eating the crap from the cafeteria. When I walked in the door, I couldn’t wait to get my arms around them, to hug them, and kiss them, and tell them how sorry I was that I had been in such a foul mood. I just needed an attitude adjustment and a little perspective.
But some of us can’t afford the the babysitter, or the attitude adjustment.
Last week, at Dyess Air Force Base, a 22 month old toddler was found dead from severe neglect by the mother. Her six month-old and 3 year-old sister were immediately taken to ICU after they suffered the same neglect. Their father is currently deployed and this was the mother’s reasoning, “I just wanted a break for my own sanity, that’s all. I didn’t mean for it to go so far.” She’s claiming that her husband’s deployment made her so distraught that she couldn’t care for her children. Yeah. I have feelings on this, and since it’s my blog, I get to say what I want. Cyber-space is awesome like that. I have been there, begging for God to make it just 10% easier to get through the day with angry kids, cake orders due, college papers due, you name it. But you know what? I fed my damn kids. They come first always. Every day. And if you’re at a moment when you don’t think they’re coming first anymore, (which she admitted to), then you call someone. Anyone. A neighbor, a chaplain, Armyonesource. You don’t think all of us long to be able to pee by ourselves? The only difference between stressed out Deployment-enduring wives with kids and child abusing wives is that we never cross the line because we know where it’s at. Oh, and we’re not mentally ill. I need you to know that I am not excusing what she did. What happened was a tragedy of a cruel woman, and I can’t make excuses for her. I can’t imagine leaving my babies in a crib for a week and not feeding, or hydrating, or cleaning, or loving on them. It’s simply unfathomable to me that such cruelty exists in the world. Jason and I are certified foster parents, so believe me, we’ve sat through 12 weeks of classes and grotesque pictures that made me cry and hug my babies a little tighter. Women, if you’re feeling like you can’t cope, please, reach out. There is help.
But you see, some people are making it harder to reach out. To add insult to injury, a comment on the news story read thusly, “I hope she pays dearly for her horrible mistakes and is in pain for the rest of her life. On another note, “The hardest job in the military” WOW!!! The hardest job in the military is one that involves a member giving their life for their country so you can sit at home in base housing and take care of your kids!!! It involves a parent leaving their children behind to deploy to Afghanistan for 6 months. Do you realize what our service members go through over there. NO U DON’T so do not compare us to you!!!! I am a single mother in the military and I have never thought about harming my children because life is hard or for any other reason. Not having a man in the house WOW! Such a lame dependent excuse! This is the year 2012 and women have fought for equality long before you were born to prove that we can do it all…by ourselves.”
“Lame dependent excuse.” Please, don’t pull any punches. Because dependents are all alike, right? We all use excuses to neglect our kids. Please, stereotype us all some more.
There’s a popular site on facebook that has a great time bashing horrible military spouses. I happen to think this site is pretty funny, but like I said, they bash the horrible ones. They are quick to give props of us who are staying home or working, raising our kids, cleaning our houses, and supporting our men. However, they really opened the door to some bullies, not the admins, but the fans. So here’s the thing: Being a military wife isn’t the hardest job in the military… Lord, that sticker cracks me up. Why isn’t it? Because we’re not in the military!!!! But, we do live the military lifestyle. I don’t know any other wives whose husbands leave for months at a time, get shot at, move us at a moments notice, are out of bed before 5 and home 13 hours later. We’re not in the military, but it’s a different lifestyle than if you were married to an engineer because military wives (the good ones, anyway), consider each other family, and we look out for one another. When we marry soldiers, we agree to live this insanity, to stay faithful while they’re deployed, to give birth and raise our children on our own for a year or more at a time, to PCS on a week’s notice. I can’t speak for everyone, but I choose to stay home with my college degree because the kids need some form of stability in their lives, and no offense, baby, but Jason’s not going to give that to them. It’s a personal decision, and I’ve done it both ways, working 50 hours a week during two deployments, and staying home. I can honestly say that in my opinion, staying home can be more difficult because there is nothing to break the monotony. You’re kind of in a groundhog day from hell. Okay, enough with the work/ don’t work debate, we’re getting off subject.
On the site, through the comments, so many people were saying, “why didn’t she reach out? Why didn’t she ask for help? There are so many avenues for help.” Well, after reading some of these comments like the one above, I wouldn’t reach out for help either. No offense, but you can’t in one hand say that it’s easy to endure deployments with three kids under three, and that we should be able to do it on our own, and we’re crappy wives if we can’t…. and on the other ask why we’re not asking for help? How the hell can you build us up when you’re so busy tearing us to the ground? You want us to be rock star military wives, but you’re certainly not giving anything but negative reinforcement. You can mock us for spending our mornings at playdates (and not at the gym or cleaning our houses) but what you’re not seeing is the adult interaction we so desperately need. If that mom had taken her kids out to a playdate, someone would have seen their condition. No, I’m not excusing her actions, I’d really like her to starve the way she starved those babies. What I’m saying is that you are so quick to make fun of us saying it’s hard and then think you can blame us when someone snaps. How do you know it’s not your comment that pushes some woman over the edge? That makes her believe that she really is the piece of crap you say she is? Maybe not this wife, but another, or another, or another who don’t understand that you’re not “making fun of the good ones.”
I know Jason gets the short end of the stick when he’s deployed. He has the hardest job because he’s being shot at, and he’s watching our kids’ birthdays on Skype. I know he’s waiting for care packages and letters, praying that I have the strength and fortitude to keep the house running while he’s gone. He’ll be just as quick to tell you that I have it harder, which I don’t agree with. Well, except when all five of us have the stomach flu… that day just SUCKS. In our defense I will say this: He lays down his life, and I have to wait to hear if he’s coming home. I would rather be shot in the heart than lose Jason. He would rather die than lose me. So in a way, I’m not sacrificing my life in heartbeats, but my very soul when I send him off to war. If you don’t understand that, then I’m sorry that you’ve never loved someone so deeply. Jason could never sit at home and wait for a knock on the door to announce my death. It’s not in him. The man can’t even rationally discuss my life insurance, but those are details thrust in my face every day when it comes to him. But I grew up in a dual military household which I swore I would never do to my kids, so I take my position as a stay-at-home mom seriously. So no, I’m not deployed, I’m not being shot at, and I get to hug our kids… In every way Jason has it harder, but please don’t think that’s easy for us when they’re gone. I’m glad that you can handle everything as a single mother and never have a moment when you doubt your ability as a superhero. I am not you.
Quit comparing us to single mothers. I’m proud that you can be a single military mom and support your kids. Go with your bad self! I did not make that decision, and shouldn’t be judged by your accomplishments. I fell in love. I got married. I had four beautiful kids with the man I love, who often times is not here. Why would you be so quick to judge me off of what you’re capable of? I have female friends who are chief residents at some of the most prestigious hospitals in the US, yet I’m not looking down on you because you didn’t choose to become a doctor, right? It’s tough for us because we’re NOT single mothers. We’re married women, whose hearts and souls are wrapped up in the men we love, and when they leave, we feel their loss. Would you rather we didn’t? Probably, because then you could really make fun of us for going to the bar, right? More fuel for the fire, baby. Stop. Setting. The. Fires.
Moral of the story: If you’re not raising up a military wife with inspiration to stay strong and to become what you think she should be, then sure as hell stop ripping her apart, because when she snaps, you’ll have a role to play in that. There are only so many straws before the back breaks. Please be a support and not a straw. Sometimes there are just too many straws and you don’t know if you’re the one that pushes the snap.
If you’re enduring a deployment, or a civilian family, and you feel like you’re ready to snap, walk away. Call a friend. Call a neighbor. Call a church. Email me if you want to. As military wives, as mothers, as human beings, we have the responsibility and the privilege to care for these precious children. Even when our husbands are gone, please don’t feel alone because you’re not, and don’t let someone shatter you with their own expectations. Please let this sweet little girl’s life teach a lesson, and don’t have let her die in vain.