Surprisingly, well maybe not, the Army is not good with domestic issues. And by that, I mean the home life of their soldiers. As my mother (a former Navy wife) likes to say: “They don’t issue familes.” So true. The Army has tried to help families of deployed soldiers, but, like a couple of teenagers fumbling around for the first time in the back of a car, the result is awkward and ultimately unsatisfying. Last go-around there was an overarching family support department who worked with the unit family support group made up mostly of the soldiers’ wives. To say that it didn’t go well is like saying the Titanic had a little mishap. My involvement in the FSG (Family Support Group), as it was known, pretty much became the bane of my existence and probably took a few extra years off my life. Some of the other wives and I did bond well over our shared work and frustration, but the overall experience wasn’t one I would repeat on a dare. The worst part was that I started to feel completely indifferent toward people which I had never felt before. I do grouse about my dislike of the public, but I’ve never actually hated someone enough to not care if they lived or died. It is not a particularly good feeling and it takes a long time to be replaced with anything positive. Needless to say, I’m not repeating the same mistake twice. Being pretty handy with avoidance, K. and I have made sure to tell the powers that be that under no circumstances am I to be included in any family functions. No phone calls, no pot lucks, no forced bonding.
As luck would have it, the Army seemed to notice that their FSG’s were not working as planned, and have taken a different tack lately (K.’s unit was not remotely the only one whose FSG shenanigans were like mainlining a season of Jerry Springer episodes). I admit I’m not always a fan of the way the Army works or thinks, but this time they at least realized that family life is not their forte and sought professional help. Since our last deployment ended, the Army has teamed up with Easter Seals to provide services to soldiers and their families before, during, and after the deployment. Today, I caught up with our contact, D. And D., if you are reading this, I hope you know that if I’m only going to deal with one person for this deployment, I’m glad it’s you. D. and I touch base pretty regularly to see how we are preparing and faring and find out what we need now and what we think we’ll need during the deployment (in my case, babysitting) so we can start getting that set up. She has all sorts of resources–especially when it comes to helping the kids deal with things before and during–and good questions. Most of all, she is an excellent listener and that makes all the difference.
I’m not good at asking for help–especially of people I am close to. I don’t want to burn anyone out and I’m always under the mistaken impression I can do it by myself anyway. I don’t want to be a bother and I don’t want to be hovered over. So, for me, like the Army, outside help is the way to go. The smartest thing I did, and the best money I spent during the last deployment was to hire someone to come to the house once a week to give me a hand. C. was a lifesaver and we are great friends still. She would come out to the house and either wrangle the kids so I could run errands by myself, or she would just help me do things around the house. It doesn’t take long to get to the point where if you empty the dishwasher one more time/change one more diaper/do one more load of laundry/give one more bath you will seriously consider putting a bullet through your skull. Getting any kind of relief is…well, a relief.
So, props to the Army for recognizing a gap in their skill set and doing something smart about it for a change. This is still a relatively new program here and there will no doubt be kinks along the way that need ironing out, but I feel good about it and my chances of coming out of this deployment happier and better adjusted than before. I guess we’ll all know in time!