“That museum was exhausting. It’s a very stressful subject. I was glad we were done.”
This statement came from my mother-in-law shortly after she returned from what was, apparently, a stressful tour of the history and current workings of the Infantry at the National Infantry Museum (a very cool place, by the way).
My response? “Welcome to our life.”
The stress level of military spouses can seem like a mystery to the outside world, and that includes mothers-in-law. Yes, she understands that her son is often in danger and often poorly fed and, yes, that scares and stresses her. The mothers of servicemembers absolutely make incredible sacrifices in their own way.
My mother-in-law, like most of civilian society, cannot fathom what it’s like to live under the constant drum of military life. And when she encounters it she, just like any sane person, wants to run away and leave the “museum.” If only it were that simple for us.
We are very familiar with the stress she finds exhausting. I don’t need to enumerate to you all the burdens of deployment, TDY separations, field time and loss -- or the whole new realm of stress faced by the spouses of those with serious emotional, psychological and physical wounds.
But I think sometimes we share her attitude when we encounter others in this military life who have it “worse,” or at best “different,” than we do. There is, without a doubt, a hierarchy of suckiness in our world. My lot, at least at the moment, is a pretty easy one. My husband is home, uninjured, we live somewhere half-way decent and so on. And when I encounter someone who has it worse in a way that I cannot fathom, a tiny part of me wants to hide.
Civilian society may never be able to wrap their heads and hearts around what we deal with. And why should they? Remember back, before you married your servicemember? You had no idea then. Neither did I.
I am grateful, excited (and yes, a little bit skeptical) about the White House’s community support push. Reminders to the outside that we’re still here are never a bad thing.
I wonder, though, if before we get on the civilians to step-up and remember us we should get handle on supporting each other. I love to sit around and trade complaints, but when it comes to sacrificing my own precious family time to watch children for a neighbor with a deployed spouse or have my husband mow someone’s lawn when he could be cleaning out our attic, I’m a little less likely to pitch-in.
And what about those spouses of wounded warriors? When was the last time I wrote a card, brought a meal or actively did something to help someone outside my immediate circle of friends? I won’t say “never,” but it’s definitely been a while.
Military Spouse Appreciation Day is May 8th this year. Let’s take a minute to appreciate the sacrifices of each other before we harp on civilians (and mothers-in-law!) to do the same.
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