Duty on the Homefront

This essay by BSF Director of Programs, Casey Spurr, originally appeared in the May 29, 2009, issue of The Flagship.

momSome days I feel like I should be a better wife. Other days I believe I’m a completely inadequate mother. There are even times when I think I’m not very good at either. I know I’ve complained too often about not wanting my husband to leave yet again. I’ve put my son to bed a little too early just so I can cozy up on the couch for the latest episode of American Idol, admittedly a guilty pleasure. And I’ve quietly (okay, sometimes not so quietly) envied my husband for an occasional night out on the town with his squadron mates when he’s away simply because I don’t have the time or energy to do the same, forgetting that he would much rather be in my position – at home with our family.

I sometimes struggle to maintain our family schedule and all of the responsibilities that come with managing our home as my husband comes and goes. There are certainly days when I’m at the top of my game and I surprise even myself, but other days I simply just muddle through. I don’t always remember to pull the trash to the curb on Friday. We eat takeout far more often than I’d like. My 2-year-old has seen every episode of Curious George that PBS Kids has to offer, even though I’ve read enough to know he shouldn’t be watching television at all. And I keep meaning to get to that clean load of laundry that needs folding. I just can’t seem to move it to the top of my list of priorities. It might mean I’d have to skip my shower today, and frankly, those fifteen minutes of daily solitude have become a personal luxury that is simply nonnegotiable in my mind. Pulling an outfit from the clean load of laundry seems like a reasonable alternative to me.

But the reality is, for all of my shortcomings, I’m doing the best I can. I’ve never promised to be perfect, but I have promised to give it my all. I want nothing more in life than to be the best wife and mother I can possibly be. Perhaps that’s a bit old-fashioned, but it’s really all I want. Sure, I have dreams separate from my family – I’d love to write a book, complete that graduate degree I’ve been talking about for far too long, travel more internationally – but ultimately, I will feel the most successful if I am a good wife and mother. And I’m trying. I really am. I may not always get it right, but it isn’t for lack of effort.

What I’ve learned is that as military spouses, we can’t do it all – and no one expects us to (except ourselves, of course). When we stop chiding ourselves for the dishes we didn’t do or the fact that we got our kids to school a few minutes late, we can learn to accept that we’re doing the best we can. Perhaps then we can remember that making time for ourselves is important, too. We must accept that we simply can’t do everything and still maintain our sanity. And that’s okay.

I was on the phone with a dear friend this week as she simultaneously discovered she had a week-old container of yogurt in her purse and had forgotten to throw away a dirty diaper she had changed in the car that morning. I could hear the frustration in her voice as she disposed of both and desperately tried to clear the foul odor from her car. Given that her husband is set to deploy to Iraq for a year, I’d say she’s doing quite well. Moldy yogurt and a smelly diaper are certainly just the beginning of the many things that will slip past her in the next year, and I hope she won’t be disappointed in herself as each new blunder outdoes the last. It’s to be expected in this unique life we lead.

Life as a military wife isn’t always easy, and I’m not ashamed to say so. In fact, I think I owe it to other military spouses not to pretend it’s effortless. The role we take in life is most assuredly a tremendous honor, but it is also an incredible challenge. Nothing could bring me a greater sense of pride than to know that my husband is part of arguably the most honorable profession in the world, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he loves what he’s doing. Being a supportive military spouse, however, comes with a certain set of challenges that only those who do it could ever really understand. I’ve heard on more than one occasion from well-meaning outsiders, “You knew this is the way it would be when you married into the military.” It’s true that I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I also knew it would be worth it. Having the knowledge in advance of the challenges ahead of me, however, doesn’t do much to lighten the load. What it does do is remind me that my commitment to providing a stable environment for our family is the only motivation I need to get through even the most challenging of days. And it reminds me that I have an important role in our military, too.

The truth is, while I sometimes secretly wish my husband worked a more traditional schedule and our family wasn’t faced with the obstacles of a military family, I wouldn’t change a thing. He loves what he does, and for all its idiosyncrasies, I love what I do, too.

Casey Spurr is a Navy spouse and lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and 2-year-old son. She is also the Director of Programs for Blue Star Families. To find out more about Blue Star Families or to become a member, please visit www.bluestarfam.org.

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