MilSpouses Are Not Single Moms

deployment navy ship spouse goodbye 412
Military caregiver leave is the second of the two new military leave provisions now found in the FMLA

Let a military spouse murmur the tiniest complaint about missing a deployed servicemember, and the Single Mom is whipped out in comparison. 

It’s either: I don’t know what you are complaining about! Single moms have to handle everything by themselves all the time!

Or: Be grateful you aren’t a single mom and you have someone financially supporting you!

These two arguments tend to shut down military spouses quite effectively. What else is there to say without appearing churlish?

With all respect to single moms -- notably one of the most put-upon populations in our country -- military spouses are not single moms. We are married.

That is where the loneliness leaks in during deploymen t-- no matter how much you are loved. That’s the crack the heartache slips through. That’s the unpleasant surprise that sparks so much complaining.

Because marriage is not another income. Marriage is not just another set of hands. Any single mom or divorced dad can tell you that.

Marriage is that third thing that is created when two people love each other and build a life together. 

The third thing is the efficiency of dividing the work according to individual skills. It is the thing that makes sitting down at a dinner table together worthwhile. It is the thing that makes me put my head upon my husband’s chest and feel my troubles start to melt away without a word exchanged.

So it is a shock when the deploying servicemember takes not only themselves away, but that third thing too. 

How can I explain this so you will understand? Maybe deployment in a good marriage is like the 17th week of morning sickness when you can’t imagine not feeling tired and sick for the rest of your life. It’s like wearing a cast on your right arm for eight months and still driving stick. It is the hobbling along a UPS guy gets when his knee replacement never quite heals.

During deployment, a husband and wife can go about their work, but they do it with a loss, with a limping, with a struggle. I think it is the surprise of the struggle that sparks all the complaining.

Maybe every military couple doesn’t have that third thing. Maybe some people are just two people sharing a house so they don’t experience deployment as that much of a hardship. That’s OK, too.

I only know that it is the existence of that third thing that keeps me here waiting. 

I can make my own money. I can hire helping hands. I hope I can be a single mom if I must.

But that third thing is only available when a certain sailor is home again. The two of us can limp along without it until we are together again so I will complain as little as I possibly can.

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Jacey Eckhart Military Marriage Deployment Military Parenting
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Jacey Eckhart is the Director of Spouse and Family Programs at Military.com and a military sociologist.  Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan??

Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times.  Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.  

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