Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Being a Family in the "Military"

A few days ago, the girls and I embarked on our normal park trip. The place was pretty busy with Mommy groups and a couple Dads hanging out with their youngsters. Overall  we had some great weather and there were plenty of kids the girls age which they could have fun with.

Now normally I chat up a couple parents but we never really exchange our own personal information, usually it's all about the kids, but one Mom and I began talking a little longer. I love meeting new people and it's nice to find someone who you have things in common with, besides the kids.

We continued to chat away, talking about life before staying home, why we came to the neighborhood, and things we do with the kids around town. Then we talked about our origins, she and he husband are locals to the San Diego area. My husband and I are transplants from Los Angeles. We talked on and on, until we got to that one question that sometimes makes or breaks these happy encounters for me, "So what doe your husband do?"

.......uhhhh....

Normally for most people this isn't a big deal. And really it's nothing at all to be ashamed of, seriously! I'm very proud of my husband for serving in the military. We've been together for 9 years, about as long as he's been in. If  it bothered me in any way I would have quit long ago. But the one thing we talked about a long time ago was the military and our family life were going to be two separate things.

So when I answered her question, I answered, "He's a Marine, but we don't associate our family with the military." She gave me a puzzled look and we talked about it a little more.

Our family is like any other young family, but sometimes Dad has to leave for extended periods of time. He also wears a uniform. There are many other Dads out there who do the same thing, ours just happen to work for the Federal Government.

I explained that the military has an effect on my husbands schedule yes, but we try to focus on when he deploys, especially for the kids. No talk about war or what he does, just that he's doing a job like many other Dad. It's not just that we are trying to underplay his career but the girls are too young to understand the concept of war. And like most parents, we don't want to expose them to a world of violence that, no matter what, they will learn about on their own in the future.

It's also hard for my husband to talk about what he does. When he comes home after being gone, we make our world as normal as we can for him. It doesn't stop his worries but at least it helps ease coming back from a combat environment. The anxiety of having a million questions hitting him from other people is nothing he needs.

We also don't advertise the fact. It just brings unwanted sympathy from random strangers that can be nice, but unnecessary. I don't mind someone thanking us for my husbands service, but when you tell me how sorry you feel for me and my kids, I'm most likely going to look at you a little funny. What is there to be sorry for?I do pretty well on my own. I had our first daughter by myself. He deployed again when our second daughter was a month old. Our third baby will only know him for a month after he or she is born before he leaves us again for another 9 months. I think I got this raising kids alone thing covered. It's also hard for our kids. Our oldest has separation anxiety but we have found a way for her to control it by drawing pictures for my husband. We don't need a stranger making her feel bad that her Dad is not here. I know they don't always mean to but kids take certain things you say to heart, such as ,"It must be so hard not having Daddy here..." Well no shit Sherlock.

Another reason we don't announce our military relation is because it isn't always a welcomed fact. Before my husband and I had children we had several negative encounters that changed our view on how people really treat the military. I remember one time we were shopping for groceries,  he had a very obvious military haircut at the time, and as we walked down one of the aisle a woman started yelling at him, screaming "Baby killer!" Needless to say, that didn't go over with either of us well and we left the market immediately. It isn't a shock that there are people out there who hate the military but being confronted face to face sometimes doesn't help the situation.

The one most disturbing reason we don't tell many people, is because it makes my family a target. Surprisingly there are some people who take advantage of a spouse being gone to attack or even financial ruin a military family. One such scam that had been happening years ago had to do with men who dressed up in military service uniforms and would come to a spouse's home and advise them their significant other had been killed in combat and that military was only going to cover certain expenses. Or in some cases, they would rob them as the spouse was distraught.

The more we talked, the more she understood. I think also being a San Diego native she had other friends who were dealing with the same circumstances that we were when their boyfriend or girlfriend joined.The military community is pretty big down here.

The best out of the whole conversation was that she didn't view me as a "typical military wife" which I also appreciate. I know sometimes the way media and other bad apples depict us, we sound like a bunch of right wing, overly religious, cheating, conniving women, but we aren't in any way the same. Last I checked I was still a tattooed, Christian (but not church attending), bipartisan, who just likes hanging out with my kids.

I also hope this made some of your out there look at that military mom at your local park a little differently next time. Trust me, some of us are pretty cool.

Much Love!