Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Should I stay or should I go?

There seems to be some “tension” in the military community regarding whether or not spouses should stay where they are stationed when their husbands deploy or if they should go home.  I’ve seen this question asked on military spouse forums and on blogs quite a bit lately and I’ve seen the answer NUMEROUS times that the spouse needs to “put on their big girl panties and stay where they are” and not take the easy route by going home. 

I’ve done both.  I’ve stayed put (in a foreign country with a toddler) by myself when my husband has been TDY for anywhere from 2 week to 2 months.  And during this (6+ month) deployment, I decided to come back to the States and live with my parents.  The way I see it, there are advantages and disadvantages to both options, but I find it interesting that people seem to think that going back to live with family is the easy way out. 

I decided to come back to the States this time for a few reasons.  Italy was starting to wear on me (not at all my friends or anyone that I knew, just the Italian culture in general) and it had been a year since I’d been back in the States.  I am pregnant, which obviously adds a little bit more challenge when dealing with a 2 year old and I wasn’t sure if I was going to have the HORRIBLE migraines I had with my last pregnancy again.  My husband wanted me to come back and be with family so he didn’t have to worry about me being by myself in Italy.  Our families have had very little chance to see Abbie since she was born due to the military lifestyle and I wasn’t sure when I’d get to spend an extended period of time with them again, guilt free (since I wouldn’t be leaving my husband by himself) and give her the chance to really get to know them.  I haven’t lived in this area in 5-6 years and I missed my friends that live around here and I wanted to spend time with them while I had the chance.

My parents have obviously been a HUGE help with Abbie.  They watch her for me so I can go out to lunch and dinner with my friends multiple times a week.  Or so I can go shopping by myself without bringing my little “helper” along.  I’ve gotten to go to a few movies with friends and I don’t have to bring her to my OB appointments with me.  AND I don’t have to pay them $10/hr like I pay my babysitter in Italy.  My mom does most of the cooking and cleaning and even does our laundry at times.  I have my own car that my dad bought me when we got here (that he’ll sell for probably more money when we leave) and they let my weina dogs out occasionally and feed them for me.  It has been very nice and they are obviously loving getting to know Abbie.  I am worried about them getting depressed when we leave and their house is quiet and toys aren’t strewn everywhere.

But being here hasn’t been all roses and puppies, that’s for sure.  It was a pretty big adjustment for both of my parents and Abbie and I when we got here.  The first month or so was pretty tense at times and we had a few “family meetings” because I was ready to pack up and go home.  It’s not easy being a guest in someone’s house and even though I used to live here, this isn’t my house anymore. While I’m comfortable and relaxed most of the time, it just isn’t the same as having all of my stuff and being in my own space.  My parents house isn’t toddler-proofed at all, so when my parents aren’t around to help me watch Abbie, I don’t get a break from keeping a constant eye on her, except for when she’s sleeping.  There are LOTS of things she can get into here, unlike our house that is pretty much completely kid proof.  At home, I can put a baby gate up in the office doorway and go in there to quilt or work on the computer and Abbie can go between her toys in the living room and her bedroom and I don’t have to worry about her getting into things she’s not supposed to since everything is locked up or put away.  Abbie loves to be outside and at home, I can let her run around in our fenced in yard and she can play with her slide and water table to her hearts content and I can keep an eye on her from inside, but my parents don’t really have a yard like that for her to run around in.

The argument is brought up frequently that you grow as a person quite a bit when you don’t have your spouse around for an extended period of time and you’re forced to handle everything on your own.  And I completely agree with that.  When you are by yourself for a month or two, whether you have kids or not, you have to deal with everything life throws at you on your own, and you do become a stronger person and gain confidence from that experience.  When you don’t have any choice, you learn to cope with being an army of one.  However, I haven’t been completely by myself this time, and I still think I’ve grown as a person despite having others around.  Having your husband in a combat zone fighting a war changes you as a person no matter where you are or who you’re with.  It puts a different spin on things that you only understand when you are married to someone who’s life is in danger every day.  I don’t even think that parents or siblings of deployed service members fully understand what a spouse endures during a deployment since their situation is different.  I do agree that you learn more about yourself when you stay put, but I don’t think there is a completely lack of growth when you go home either.

The longer I’m around this military lifestyle, the more I realize that everyone has an opinion on everything, which is natural I suppose.  It’s just like having a baby, when everyone and their mother is more than willing to share their experiences and advice with you whether you want to hear it or not.  I think it’s great to share experiences and advice, but I think it’s helpful to remember that what has worked for me, might not work for you and vice versa.  Heck, it might not even work for me later on down the road.  Being judgmental and pushy doesn’t help anyone and in fact, usually ends up hurting someone.

The good thing is that the vast majority of military spouses are very supportive of each other, no matter where they decide to go during a deployment or what type of underwear they’re wearing.


Kristi said...

lol! "no matter what type of underwear" oh that made me laugh! :)

Alison said...

I used to be a military spouse, and I too chose to live with my parents for a 3 month period when he was gone at one point, simply because it made sense. I think it's funny it's such a hot topic, but it certainly doesn't surprise me. I have a lot of great friends still military spouses, but I have to say, I just didn't fit into that opinionated community too well :).

Jessica Lynn said...

Wow, I didn't know people had such strong opinions about this! I've also done both during deployments and you're completely right—going home is not the "easy way out."

I think people realize that as military spouses we need to do what works well for us and our family.

When we're out there, my husband will deploy for 6 months and I'm already considering going home for part of that and convincing friends and family to come out and visit during the other part. But especially if I had children, I think I would go home for longer. Being near family is so freaking important in a military lifestyle. It hurts me, even now without kids, thinking about how much they won't be near family, that I want to take advantage of any situation where I can go home.

On that note, I think it's important for some spouses to stay home. There are several I know who have never been on their own before and even if it's just for a few weeks, I think it's incredibly good for them. But to judge someone for going home? No way, jose! To each their own :)

Christine said...

Wow. I think it totally depends on the situation. Like you said, you've stayed put before, and didn't this time. Different situations. I think living with your parents again for six months is very brave indeed. ;)

Elsbit said...

Grrr. That annoys me that people are so judgmental about this type of thing. Though it doesn't surprise me! It seems that military spouses are always the most opionated on boards that I frequent! As a non-military gal I find nothing wrong with wanting to visit your family and friends. What a PERFECT time to do so? Seems to me that those who complain need to put on THEIR big girl panties: grow up and keep their noses out of other people's private business. ;)