By Amy Jacquez
Welcome to my life. I am a stay at home mother of two amazing but messy boys and the wife of a great husband who is a civilian contractor overseas and retired soldier. With my husband working away from home, it is completely up to me to be everything wrapped into one. I have to play the role of mother and father. I am a taxi, school tutor, cook, maid, dog walker, accountant, housekeeper, handywoman, psychologist and nurse.
I get asked more often than not, “How do you do it? How do you keep your sanity? How do you deal with him being gone so long?” My answer is a simple, “We just do.” Although it’s really not that simple when it comes down to it — it’s a very bumpy and emotional ride.
My husband and I married in September 2005, and in October, just two weeks after our wedding, he deployed with the Army. The first 10 months of our marriage were spent apart.
During most of his deployment, I lived in my hometown near my family and held down my full-time job. Nine months in, I packed up and made the move to Fort Campbell with my 4-year-old son. I didn’t known anyone in the area, and I was four and a half hours away from any relatives. I was alone in a new place and scared to death, but I stood tall and stayed strong.
I drove around finding my way and settled into our new home by myself. A few weeks later, my husband returned from deployment. This made things much easier on me, but the true Army lifestyle was just beginning. I had no clue what I was doing and had no idea where I was going on post. Luckily, I became great friends with a couple of Army wives who helped me with the process.
Fast forward a couple of years to early 2008. My husband decided the Army was no longer a fit for him after serving eight years, so he opted not to re-enlist and decided to become a civilian instead.
He soon realized that the normal 9-to-5 pace wasn’t for him either. He was too tired in the evenings to enjoy home life, and the weekends ended up being “catch up” for things he couldn’t get done during the week.
My role at home was being pushed to the limits as well. Once again, I felt alone, having to do everything, but this time there was a huge difference. He was home physically but not mentally or emotionally. We had a newborn baby and two boys in kindergarten, including his son from a previous relationship. I had just left yet another full-time job to be at home with the baby, and now I felt like I had four kids to take care of.
I did it, and I did it well. I woke up every morning with a smile on my face and made the best of the day doing everything I could to keep our home in order. But, my husband and I were at our wits’ end as neither of us were used to this kind of lifestyle.
At this point, we thought it would just take some time and adjusting, but this phase lasted almost a year.
Between working locally and being on a road crew traveling throughout the week and home on the weekends, it was getting better as time went on. Sure I would get lonely while he was gone, but I knew we had been away from each other much longer before. His weekends home were short and sweet, leaving us looking forward to the next one.
In early 2009, our lives changed yet again. My husband was offered a job that he could not refuse — a contract job overseas. One day after our youngest son’s first birthday, he headed to start this new venture. I was alone again, left with all the household duties and our three children.
We were lucky enough to talk almost every day during his time away, but that did not make things much easier, rather it gave me something to look forward to at the end of the day. Knowing that we were doing what was right for our family kept me going strong. Days were lonely. Nights were long. I was starting to speak in baby talk (even to adults and not just some of the time, ALL of the time). My very few great friends here had all moved out of state and I felt like I had no one. No family, no friends, no husband. Just me and the boys.
There were many calls to my Mom to get advice on everything. Some moments I felt like I was having mental breakdowns. Moments where I felt like I just couldn’t take it anymore.
The key was to stay busy. I found ways to occupy my time between cleaning, cooking, laundry, soccer practice, doctor visits and school functions.
I love being crafty, so I’m always brainstorming ideas on new things to make, paint or repurpose. I also enjoy photography, so I picked up my camera and started clicking away. Hobbies on the side kept me sane and were a much-needed stress reliever when I actually had time for them. I would even get the kiddos involved in some of my projects.
It has now been almost seven years in this lifestyle of my husband working either away from home or overseas. During this time, a lot has happened.
The children have started to handle it very well and understand the reasons behind what we do. My stepson went back to live with his mother in 2010. Sure, the boys miss their Daddy every day, but when he is home, there are no distractions. There are no worries about work, and he’s not tired all the time. He truly gets to enjoy his time home with us for 28-30 days at a time. We wouldn’t give that up for the world.
As for me, I am still going strong. I have become quite the multi-tasker. I’ve taught myself many odd things about being a homeowner and handywoman.
We have a daily schedule that we follow, and our boys are a huge help with daily chores. We have even made time for some extra-curricular activities on the side for the boys and myself, including volunteering with the Christian County Weather Spotters and the local 4-H club.
It has become much easier to handle the stress and hardships of my husband being gone as years have gone by. He is an enormous help when he is home, giving me a break from my normal Superwoman duties. The day he leaves again, I fall right back into the routine.
It looks like we are in this for the long haul, and it has been a rough road, but one that I know we can handle.
Next time I am asked, “How do you do it?” I will continue to answer with a simple, “We just do.”
By Amy Jacquez