The Modern Military Parent

This week, I played The Card. And if you are a modern military spouse, then you undoubtedly have possession of this card and can wield it with the deftness of a ninja warrior.

The card is of course the one that reads: “I did this all alone when you were deployed and now it’s your turn.”

This week is my daughter’s graduation from elementary school. There’s a class pool party, the art show for my other daughter, music instrument return deadlines, library book hunting, orthodontist appointments, my work deadlines, summer camp organization, summer travel planning, kung fu white belt awards and grocery shopping for the final few school lunches. And I have a terrible cold. I know, these are “first world problems.” But in addition to all this, my husband, who just returned from an extended international business trip, was feeling jet lagged and tired and cranky and wasn’t engaging. So I played the card.

“I did this all alone when you were gone and I need you to help me now,” I said.

Yes, my husband hasn’t been deployed in a while and no, he isn’t deploying any time soon but every once in a while I bring the card out in exchange for a bit more help from him. Selfish? Yes. Childish? Slightly. Effective? Definitely.

As you know, it’s the military spouse who earns more frequent parenting miles than the service member. Factor in the number and tempo of deployments, along with training events, and there’s just no way around that fact. Military folks are gone a lot and the spouse is left to do it all, mostly alone. Every once in a while we need to call in those frequent miles in exchange for some help from our spouse. I feel only slightly guilty using the card because I know my husband doesn’t check out intentionally. He hates missing out on kung fu white belt award ceremonies, kid art shows and classroom field trips. But at the end of the day, I wield it only as a catalyst because once he realizes he’s distracted and sidetracked with work, he always drops what he’s doing and jumps in to help. As I lay in bed coughing, I could hear him reading The Candy Shop War to my youngest and later talking to our oldest about entering middle school. The card works, so milspouse friends, don’t be afraid to slap it down every once in a while.

And if that card is ever over-played, I’ve got one more left in my arsenal. It reads: “I had a baby all alone while you were in Iraq.”

Molly Blake is a freelance writer. Her husband recently retired after serving 20 years in the United States Marine Corps. She attended the University of Dayton and writes about issues affecting military families and other parenting issues. Follow her on twitter @mblakewrites.

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