By Sunshine Burgess – Deployment & Resilience Contributor
Military dependent. I despise that term. We can call ourselves spouses, loved ones, homemakers, entrepreneurs, etc.; for me, it’s “domestic manager”, but to the Department of Defense, we are dependents. I think the reason it has always bothered me is that it is so misleading. We often rely on the military for our main source of income (or maybe you are actually the breadwinner in your family) and we definitely depend on the military to choose the location we will live (that dream sheet is such a dream), but military spouses, as a whole, are actually very independent and don’t let anyone convince you that you can’t manage on your own.
Deployments happen and they are never easy. When you get notification of the first one, your initial thought is, “How will I do it all by myself?” The reality is that you already do much of what it takes, you just may not quite realize it.
Most days are just normal. Don’t stress over the normal. On a typical day, what happens when you have a kid who wakes up sick? You spend your day pushing meds and fluids, cleaning up and disinfecting the house. Your military member goes to work, because if they aren’t the one who is sick, if they aren’t put on quarters, they don’t stay home. This is normal. So what changes when they’re deployed? Maybe you have to call a friend to run to the commissary for you or maybe you ask a neighbor to watch the “not sick” kid while you run to pediatrics or UCC, but you can do it. You will figure it out. We always do.
What if your car won’t start? Maybe your spouse has a job where they can’t get a phone call and run to your rescue anyway. It could be that they are in the middle of a big inspection and can’t leave work. You would call AAA or maybe a friend to bring their jumper cables or maybe you call a garage and arrange for repairs (after asking for recommendations on several of your local military spouse Facebook pages). You have options, the same options that someone without a spouse has. Just because we have a spouse does not mean that they take care of everything. Most of the time we take care of all those little unexpected things and give them updates after the fact, and we can do that from any distance.
A couple of weeks ago, we woke up in my house to no hot water and toilets that were backed up and almost overflowing. My husband went to work. I, however, put in a call to maintenance and then reorganized my day to deal with plumbers who had to flush main lines and replace pipes. Not what I had planned for the day but all got fixed and my husband was only five minutes away. So what would change if he were on the other side of the globe? Absolutely nothing.
The point I am trying to make is that when you are facing that first deployment or even the fifth, don’t think about what you can’t do. Give yourself some credit. You are not dependent no matter what the DoD says. You have all the survival skills at your fingertips for those daily disasters. The days won’t always run smoothly and you may often want to throw your hands up and say you give up (and that is completely normal!), but I promise you that tomorrow will be a new day and with each bad day you survive, you will feel accomplished and stronger. Every day that you check off of that countdown to your loved one coming home will be one more battle you have won. At the end of the deployment, no matter how short or long, it will be one more war on the home front that you have won and one more notch on your belt of experience that you can claim.
When Friedrich Nietzsche said “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger”, he could have definitely been referring to military spouses.