I’m so sorry for judging you.
You see, I didn’t get it. I’ve been an army wife about thirteen years now, and it’s taken me this long to understand why you marked that little Do-Not-Contact box.
When I was younger, fresher, not worn down by quite so many deployments, I led my first FRG. To this day, it’s the volunteer position I’m most proud of. I remember seeing the boxes on the FRG form marked “Do Not Contact,” and just shaking my head. Why would they mark that? We were headed into another deployment to Iraq, didn’t they want the information? Or the camaraderie? The family? We were doing amazing things, how could they not want to be a part of that?
Oh, my God, I’m so sorry.
Let me start by saying that I’m not a “Do-not-Contact,” but I am as withdrawn from the military life as I’ve ever been. I haven’t had personal contact from my FRG in five months, and you know what? I’m okay with it. Jason has been TDY for over two months now, so the most camo I’ve seen has been if one of the neighbors comes to the bus stop in uniform. I feel completely, totally separate from the world that’s been part of who I am for so long.
Why am I not as involved? A few reasons. The first, is that we’re PCS’ing… if only we could figure out when. So in many ways, I’ve emotionally checked out of Fort Drum, just waiting to pick up our family and move again. Two? Co-leading this last FRG burned me out to where the tiniest flicker of energy remained, and I’m guarding it, tending that little flame until it can come back to roaring life. Three? We have four boys in hockey, Little Miss has some high-needs that require therapists, and my career is taking flight faster than I ever thought possible… I have to concentrate on the immediate needs of my family.
So I haven’t made cookies for a bake sale, or run an FRG meeting, or heck, even attended one in months. I haven’t gone to a Ball (since he’s not here), or planned a fundraiser. My role in army-wifedom is the opposite of what it was a year ago. But want to know something?
I’m still an Army Wife.
I’m holding down the fort solo, holding the pieces together until he gets home. I’m still listening to his day, still picking up boot blousers from random places. I’m at the same duty station, with same unit, and the same waning (due to PCS) support system. I’ve realized something precious over the last few months that I’ve been hermitting: being inactive in your FRG doesn’t make you any less of an Army Wife. Hell, maybe it makes you more sane. I know it has for me.
Pulling away is okay. Yes, we’re army wives, but we’re more, right? We’re doctors, lawyers, authors, business women, saleswomen, teachers, moms… you name it. We’re so much more than the one label of “Army Wife.” So if you need to step back from that one area of your life so you can balance the rest, I get it. I’m there too. And I’m so sorry for judging you when I wasn’t in your shoes before.
I love my husband more than coffee, chocolate, heck… even air. He’s my entire world. I love the army life. I love the formals, the meetings, the support network of wives, the sisterhood that grows during deployments and lasts your whole life. But I also love my sanity.
So maybe you’re overwhelmed. Maybe you’ve been at your limit for so long that one more commitment might push you over the edge. Maybe your time is already spoken for. Heck, maybe you just don’t feel like it. Whatever your reason is, it’s valid. You’re valid. Your career is just as valuable as his, just as worthy (or more-so) of your devotion. Go ahead, mark the box. Take one more thing off your plate so you have room for everything else.
I’m learning, one small step at a time, that my career is just as important as his to our family. It’s a shift in mentality that has taken this whole last year to make. Thank God he understands and is my number one fan. I couldn’t do any of this without him, as much as I know he couldn’t do what he does without me. We’re a team.
I’m still an Army Wife, but I’m letting others run the show while I hold our family together during what may be the most stressful period of our life. I haven’t checked the Do-Not-Contact box yet, but I understand if you do. I support you. I love you.
Spin your plates, tend your career, your children, your sanity. Keep your love of our military life alive, and if you’re ready to jump back in, to volunteer, to run the show… well, then it will be someone else’s turn to step back and breathe.
We all need the air. The break. The chance to see who we are past the “proud Army Wife” label.
By the time we get to Colorado, I’ll be rested, ready to jump back into the fray, and it will be someone’s turn to breathe again. Maybe yours.
Mark the box.
The War-weary FRG-exhausted Military Wife Just Like You.