Cat is a Navy submariner’s wife and new mom to baby Cora. She spends her time breastfeeding, cloth diapering, singing, baking, volunteering, and blogging about these adventures and others at Cartwheels & Windmills. Her husband is separating from active military service very soon.
Hi everyone! I’m Cat, and I love reading Poe’s blog because of our many similarities. Just like Poe, my husband and I are not from the same state, so there is no mutual “home” to return to when he separates from this Navy lifestyle next month. And unlike Poe, we don’t plan on staying where the Navy has landed us. While our current home of Pensacola, Florida, may be touted as “the Cradle of Naval Aviation,” it certainly is not “the Cradle of High-paying Jobs for Former Submarine Officers.” So instead of those options, we are treating this almost like another PCS, just with more control, more money spent out of our own pockets, and about the same amount of stress.
My husband’s job search has been a big adventure, but I, personally, have very little to do with it. So instead I want to focus on what his military separation means to me. For one, I can only call myself a Navy submariner’s wife for just a few more months. It all goes away August 31. For the past few years, I’ve let his military service define our relationship and also myself. I met him after he had already joined, so immediately I was a Navy girlfriend, then I “got promoted” to Navy wife, a milspouse, a subwife, etc. What will I be now? A veteran’s wife? (But wasn’t he already a veteran while on active duty??) A Reservist’s wife? (Actually, we flip-flop a lot about him going that route.) A former milspouse? (Doesn’t that sound like we got divorced?) I guess it’s not the best idea to define yourself in terms of someone else, but when your primary roles are wife and mother, it’s hard not to do precisely that. Since there are at least a billion other women with the “wife and mother” title in this world, it’s nice to find a niche. Many define themselves as a “crunchy momma” or a “Christian mother”—perhaps I will adopt a moniker along those lines.
Aside from a change in title, what else does this military separation mean for me? Well, for one, a slight loss of security. A lot of military spouses might say they feel insecure about certain things, like moving dates, deployments, and the like. But there is stability to this lifestyle. There are family support centers, financial assistance programs, and a community of people in the exact same situation as you. There are rules, standards, and reasons that make life easier. In my husband’s job, he generally doesn’t have to question someone’s motives, and dishonesty and corruption are reprimanded accordingly. My husband currently cannot get fired on a whim, leaving us without income or insurance at the drop of a hat. Wrongful termination, harassment, embezzlement--this kind of stuff happens in the civilian world, often being covered up or with a lot of finger-pointing. Other jobs normally don’t require each employee to take an oath before their first day, so that stability is now lost.
This separation also means a possible forever home. I know many who would love to stay in one place, but I’m not sure I’m one of those people. The Navy actually kind of put a damper on my nomadic lifestyle. I moved to Jacksonville, FL, on my own after finishing college in my home state of Georgia. I had originally planned on checking out life as a west coaster and perhaps even trying another country for a bit. However, I met my husband that year and decided to move to Norfolk, VA, to be near him. As much as we tried to make the west coast or another country happen, the Navy had other plans for us. I have officially spent my whole life living below the Mason-Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi. And now we’re trying to keep it that way, since our families are in that vicinity. To be honest, it kind of freaks me out. But at the same time, I’m excited to settle in somewhere for real and even buy a house after a bit. (Don’t pity us too much, as we have had the opportunity to travel both in and out of the country, and I hope for that to continue.)
As much as I’m looking forward to never having to deal with another underway, deployment, or duty night ever again, there are a few perks of this lifestyle that I will miss. My top three: a free gym, commissary shopping, and free healthcare. If you’re a milspouse, never ever take any of those for granted (especially that last one, just trust me). Even though I will miss these things, I am ready to move on and start our civilian life!
What would you miss about military life?