The problem: military life can be really, really stressful. Why you should keep reading: because you know you want a laugh and need to unload some of your stress too!
The heavy burden of military life stress
Usually, my posts are positive and encouraging. But I am also honest. And today, I’m not feeling very positive. I’m dealing with military life stress.
I’m tired. I’m cranky. I’m short-tempered with my kids. Yes, it’s because my husband is gone, but he hasn’t even deployed yet. He has been gone a few weeks for each of the past few months, and now he will be gone for a few more. All this training, just to prepare for the real deal: the 7-month deployment hanging over our heads.
Today, in a lousy temper, I tried to decide what was bothering me so much. After all, my husband being gone is a fairly common occurrence for us, as it is for many military families. I am used to running the house and managing our four children without him. But it is not just the fact that he is gone or that we are looking down the barrel of a deployment. It’s all the million other examples of military life stress. Because, let’s face it–sometimes this life is hard. Military spouses are strong and resilient and can deal with almost anything. But we’re still human. The many types of military life stress can gradually wear me down until I feel like breaking. Sound familiar? Then stay with me here.
What are these exhausting burdens of military life stress? When I sat down to list them, the list just kept growing. On a good day, the average military spouse deals with at least two or three of these. On a bad day, they may face ten or more at once. We are strong. We are patient. All of us carry this military life stress around with us. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy or that they ever get any lighter.
“Military spouses are used to carrying stress around with us. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.” ~The Seasoned Spouse
Sure, a non-military family may deal with sick kids and car trouble too, I know that. But every burden is heavier when you are in a strange town, far from family, and your spouse is deployed. My fellow military spouses, if you are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated by seemingly trivial annoyances, I hear you. We all have bad days. So for just a few minutes, let’s sit down, open our packs, and look at our burdens together. Maybe airing them will make it a little easier to pick them back up.
101 stressful things about military life
- Waiting for deployments to start.
- Waiting for deployments to end.
- Worrying about your spouse’s survival during deployment.
- Always having to take care of everything on your own, because your spouse is gone, your family is far away, and none of your friends’ husbands are around, either.
- Not hearing from your spouse for days, weeks, or months at a time.
- Not being able to call your spouse, and worrying you will miss their only call.
- Hoping that uniformed officers won’t show up at your door during deployment.
- PTSD and changed behavior in your service member after Homecoming.
- Hearing your children ask repeatedly for their deployed parent.
- Being pregnant and alone during a deployment.
- Giving birth alone during a deployment.
- Potty training alone.
- Sleep training alone.
- Doing bathtime and bedtime alone.
- Parenting alone.
- Sleeping alone.
- Missing your spouse and the sound of their voice.
- Being sexually deprived.
- Always erasing dates on the calendar and telling family members, “we just don’t know.”
- Wondering if you will need travel insurance. (The answer is almost always YES.)
- Hurry up and wait.
- Always reheating dinner.
- The regular phone calls from your service member asking, “Can you do me a favor?”
- The phone calls of, “Go ahead and put the kids to bed without me, it’s gonna be a long night.”
- Nights when your spouse is in the field, on duty, away at school, TDY, or gone for any other various reason.
- Wondering which military benefits will be on the federal chopping block next year.
- Dealing with Tricare insurance.
- Dealing with military hospitals and doctors.
- Trying to get dental insurance that an actual dentist will accept.
- Waiting at the base hospital pharmacy.
- Broken appliances.
- Car trouble.
- Broken electronics.
- Sick kids.
- Sick dogs.
- Cleaning the laundry after having sick kids and dogs.
- Waiting lists–for housing, medical care, insurance, and child care.
- Wondering if you will have to move next year.
- Not knowing where you will live next year.
- Answering your kids’ million questions about the potential move.
- Cleaning out the house for the potential move.
- Wondering if your pets will survive the next move.
- Waiting on paperwork for the move that may or may not happen in a few weeks.
- Filing new paperwork after the originals are lost.
- Filing new paperwork for everything you own every time you move to a new state.
- Discussing a Will and funeral arrangements with your spouse and deciding who will raise your children if you both die.
- Trying to find good deals on stuff that will fit in the new house, when you just gave away everything from the old house.
- Looking for new schools in a different time zone or country.
- Trying to buy or sell a house in a different time zone.
- Getting lost trying to find a grocery store or any other store when you first move to your new town.
- Never really feeling like you are ‘home.’
- Wondering whether or not Housing will charge you unexpected costs after your move-out inspection.
- Wondering whether Housing will charge you an abnormally high electric bill.
- Wondering if your job will let you work remotely when you move.
- Looking for a new job every time you move.
- Making a good friend, then learning that one of us has to move soon.
- Meeting a new friend who seems to click really well, then having your spouse tell you that you can’t hang out together as couples because the service members work together and are different ranks. (Darn fraternization rules).
- Finding a new tribe of friends. Again, and again, and again.
- Doing time zone math to remember what time it is every time you want to call family or friends.
- Missing your family back home.
- Not being able to afford plane tickets to visit your family.
- Only seeing family once a year (if that).
- Missing friends from former duty stations.
- Missing former duty stations.
- Getting sent to duty stations in the middle of nowhere.
- Stupid ‘mandatory’ spouse events for your service member’s unit.
- All the drama that surrounds spouse events at your service member’s unit.
- Trying to wear the appropriate attire to unit events without being judged by some busybody.
- Strangers asking rude questions like, “Aren’t you worried that he might die?”
- Strangers who go out of their way to tell you they don’t agree with America’s foreign policy.
- Strangers who feel the need to discuss politics with you, simply because you are married to the military.
- Always needing to locate uniform pieces in the wee hours of the morning.
- Trying to wash a uniform without breaking anything or messing it up.
- Always tripping over gear, or seeing it overflow from closets, shelves, bins, and the garage.
- Taking uniforms to the dry cleaners.
- Picking uniforms up from the dry cleaners.
- Scheduling Sundays around haircuts and the line at the barber shop.
- The base housing water supply that may or may not be poisoning your family.
- The base schools that may or may not be giving your children a sub-par education.
- The bases houses that are old and cramped.
- The neighbors on base whose dogs are always barking just outside your windows.
- The neighbors on base who are always throwing parties in the middle of the night.
- The neighbor children who always ring your doorbell.
- The base housing rules about yard maintenance.
- Base speed limits that are 15 mph. Seriously. And they are enforced!
- Never having enough money.
- Applying for government assistance programs like WIC and free school lunch.
- Wondering if there will be enough money saved for retirement.
- Wondering if the G.I. Bill will help your kids pay for college.
- Needing to ask for a military discount.
- Getting mocked or judged after asking for a military discount.
- Customer service reps who always tell you no, then needing to speak to a manager to explain military exemptions.
- Needing a Power of Attorney to get anything done.
- Always being asked for your sponsor’s Social Security number when you want to talk to a doctor.
- Dealing with horrible military spouse stereotypes.
- Eating too much during a PCS move or deployment.
- Having low body confidence after stress-eating.
- Planning a post-deployment leave that will satisfy you, your spouse, your kids, and all relevant members of the extended family.
- Answering questions from your spouse’s family members and dealing with family drama.
- Crying during country songs, the Pledge of Allegiance, or anything patriotic.
- Wondering if your kids are going to turn out okay after all they have been through.
Yes, this life has plenty of challenges. I hear you. I am right there with you, just struggling to get through it all. Even though it’s hard, I also know that we’ve got this.
How to deal with military life stress
If you are dealing with some of these hassles today, I encourage you to:
- Take a deep breath.
- Eat something somewhat healthy. (I’m always crankier when I’m hungry).
- Find someone to vent to, preferably another military spouse. I recommend the comments section here. I always respond!
- Get some sleep. Turn off the phone or computer and go to bed! Half of my bad days are caused by not sleeping enough the night before.
- Ask for help. If the problems are still there tomorrow, start reaching out for help. A friend, neighbor, or military resource can help in many of these situations.