It Takes a Village

I had the most refreshing conversation the other day with a fellow military spouse and businesswoman, and it was something I immediately knew I wanted to write about.

Almost two years ago, when I decided I wanted to start this Daddy’s Deployed world, my brother, an incredible entrepreneur, sent me a book about being a mom and starting a company. Most of the examples in the book were about blogging and, with my English Ed background, I thought that would be something I would want to incorporate. This book is great, and one of the sections said that you should blog at least twice a week. That was my goal…one that was doomed before I even began. Twice a week? With a baby? That turned into twice a month…which turned into twice every few months, and as the business grew, and my baby grew, my time to blog shrank (yes, I just looked up to make sure that ‘shrank’ was the correct version of ’shrink’ to use here). I am going to try to do it once every other week, so please hold me to it!

About six months or so after my husband and I were married, he approached me with the idea of having children. He has always said that his first priority would be to provide for me, and our children. I knew he (thought he) was ready for kids, but I was not. I had just finished my first two years of teaching, and I was hungry for more. I wanted to get my Masters of Ed, I wanted more experience. I remember saying, “I just went to college for four (ok, ok, five) years and what was the purpose of that if I’m not going to work?” He accepted it, but it wasn’t until a fellow aviator (call sign Rev) told him that it wasn’t right until I was totally ready, and that I would tell him when I was. Eventually I was, four years later. Note: to those that don’t have children yet, wait a year after you “know” you’re ready. I was sure I was…but I was wrong!

My darling daughter is just 18-months-old (going on sixteen). She is the apple of my eye, my world, my everything, insert any poetic metaphor here. She also has never slept through the night, has no real nap schedule, and stomps around the house like she owns the place. I know I don’t need to say how exhausting it is, so I won’t. I tiredly stumble around the house, park, office, etc., and hope to shower at some point during the day. Until recently we were co-sleepers, which was wonderful…until it wasn’t. The great thing about co-sleeping is that it takes away most of the worry about the safety of your child (unless you’re a violent sleeper, then I don’t recommend it), but it’s impossible to get up early to work out, ahem–blog, shower, etc. Now that she’s in her own room, I am able to do that, and the time I have to myself is nothing short of spectacular.

This child who refuses a schedule (we have tried everything: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby, The Baby Whisperer, The Happiest Baby on the Block, The Happiest Toddler on the Block), paired with severe separation anxiety, is sometimes too much for me to handle. I feel like I have researched everything (to death), and I was flailing. More than a few authors oh so kindly reminded me that “it takes a village to raise a child,” so to rely heavily on family and friends. Well, as military families, most of our family and friends live a thousand miles away, right? I felt insulted every time I read that. Of course we have our military family/friends near by, but with everyone being on differing deploying schedules, and from different parts of the country, it seems like we are all in the same place for maybe four months of the year. What about the other eight?

Perhaps the most difficult thing for me is being away from my family. I’ve always been extremely close with my parents and brother, and I know how great it would be to live near them. A few weeks ago, when things were really hard, my husband had a hard time understanding that I felt “alone” even though he was home. Well he was home, as in not on a detachment/deployment/et al., but he was working thirteen hour days, so he wasn’t actually home all too often. Tearfully, I said, “I would love to be able to call my mom and have her come over when the baby wets the bed so I can wash the sheets without her dumping the dog’s food into her water bowl.” (A few weeks later she dumped the food into the water bowl, and then the water bowl onto the floor during his watch, and he understood.) The point is, it’s hard to be a parent when YOU are the entire village. I know I’m not alone here. Right?

On top of that, I am not one of those amazing stay-at-home moms. You know who I’m talking about: the moms that have projects planned every day, day trips, activities, and amazing meals somehow magically prepared. How do they do it? How do they have the energy? It’s not that I don’t try to be like that, or that I don’t want to be like that, I do. We play all day, every day, but it doesn’t come naturally to me, I guess. My mom is one of those moms. I remember being young and people asking me what my parents did. I remember answering that my mom “didn’t work” because she stayed home with my brother and me. I now realize that couldn’t be further from the truth. She worked twenty-four hours a day (unfortunately I had a bed-wetting problem when I was young, so even when she thought she could rest, she usually couldn’t), and never complained. She made our meals, did our laundry, played with us, wiped away tears, healed us when we were injured or ill, and somehow maintained this amazingly positive outlook on life. She always thought of little things to make our days special, and still does. When we were in grade school, we would have picnic days once a semester when our parents would bring blankets and a lunch, and we would eat on the gym floor together. My mom would always bring the best lunches, and little surprises, like ants from one of our board games (because there are always ants at picnics!). I worry that I will never be as amazing a mother as she was/is.

One of the reasons I feel like that is because (and I can’t even believe I’m going to say this), I miss working. My mind goes a million miles a minute and I can’t shut it off. When I first came up with the idea for Daddy’s Deployed, I literally didn’t sleep. I would lay down, and have to get up and write down everything I was thinking. I couldn’t stop. Not only do I feel like a part of me is incomplete because I’m not actually going, I feel like I’m not contributing to our family as much as my husband, since every penny I make goes into continuing to build our company. He, of course, does not feel this way, since, as I previously stated, he has only ever wanted to take care of me/us. I know it’s me, but it’s a hard thing to shake. The only “good” thing is that in North Carolina, where we live, the cost to send our daughter to a daycare I would approve of would be greater than my salary as a teacher here (in one of, if not the, lowest paying states in the country), so it’s never been a real option. Plus, the idea of being away from my daughter that long makes me weak in the knees…in a bad way. I know that I’m extremely fortunate to be able to stay home with her, and that so many moms wish they could stay home with their babies. That being said, I said I would always be honest in my writing and I miss teaching on an (almost) daily basis. I miss the kids, the material, everything except the politics.

I find that our society doesn’t help this dilemma much. If you are working, people judge you for not being home with your children. If you are home with your children, people judge you for not working. This seems to be especially true in the military community. As my dad would say: “why can’t we all just get along?” I think the point of this post is that you have to just be true to yourself.

I respect you all and thank you for being a part of the Daddy’s Deployed family. Please post comments below! Do you have any fun activities that you do with your kids? Please post them below as well! How about fun outdoor activities? We do lots of bubbles, water tables, ball time, and visit the pool in our neighborhood, but I’m always looking for new, exciting things!

Band of Brothers

My husband recently had some time off, and we were able to travel home to the Midwest to see our families. My grandfather was in the hospital, so one of our first stops was to visit him. We had a nice visit, and as we were getting ready to leave, my husband, Craig, took an air medal out of his pocket, and presented it to my grandfather. My grandpa flew on the PB4Y-2 during World War II and, at the end of his time in the service, all of his military belongings were stolen. My grandpa was very touched by Craig’s actions, and there was not a dry eye in the room. I think the thing that affected me most was that Craig had decided back home he was going to do this, bought an air medal for him, and brought it back with us. Craig’s grandparents are all gone, and have been since he was young, so this was a gesture not only of love, but that he felt that my grandpa was his as well. I’m not sure if he didn’t tell me because he wanted it to be a surprise, or because he didn’t want me to start crying (as tough as I am a military spouse my family, especially my grandparents, is my weak spot), but it was one of the most touching things he could have done, and it meant so much to the family. As I tear up while typing this, there was no greater moment than we were getting ready to end the visit. Craig said, “We will see you again before we leave,” to which my grandpa, a stubborn Irishman who is usually not heart-broken when his guests leave, shook Craig’s hand and quietly said, “I hope so.” The military bond is strong.

My dad had told us earlier that Frank Perconte, one of the few surviving members of the real Band of Brothers (I’m sure you’ve heard of the HBO series?), was in the hospital as well, recovering from a fall. He asked us if we wanted to meet him, and of course we said we did. Frank is 96-years-old, and is in remarkable shape. Craig was very excited to talk to him, as he’s read the book and seen the television series. He quickly started asking him questions about the other men in his group, and Frank was thrilled to share his amazing stories, sharp and witty as ever. As I stood there, I couldn’t help but hope that when Craig is Frank’s age, someone will respect him as much as he does Frank, and everyone else that has served before him. All of Frank’s stories were awesomely entertaining, but the story of how he joined was the one that made me smile. He and one of his friends were at a movie (he called it a “motion picture show”) and, beforehand, there was an Army recruiter who came out and told the audience members that if any of the men were interested in signing up to be a paratrooper, they would make an extra $50 a month. Frank and his friend watched the movie, and then went to sign up the next day. Just like that. When he saw my surprised face, he said, “Well we were going to be drafted the next week anyway! I wanted that $50!” I could respect that. In order to get that extra $50, they were required to pass five jumps. FIVE! (As someone who is afraid of heights, I figured something more practical, like 100 jumps, would be needed before I could trust myself to jump out of a plane in the middle of a foreign country). After that, they were deployed. I stood there, and found it hard to imagine a time like it was back then. A time when you were forced to go to war, at such a young age, and how many of our service-members wouldn’t have returned. Mr. Perconte is one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met, and I hope that he lives for 96 more years. This was an experience that I wish I could have shared with all of my former troubled students, as it gave me such respect for a man I had previously never met, and someone who had done so much for our country.

I hope you all have a great weekend.