A good friend whose husband is on a UT has just posted about her reaction to FLO’s advice regarding communication.
The reality is that a UT can be a really crappy time. (And that’s not to say we are having a bad time right now, just that given the circumstances, a UT could be a very tough time for a family.) While it can be hard on the spouse at the overseas post, the spouse at home generally has way more to think (and stress) about. Let’s not make it worse by offering advice that’s rooted in some sort of twisted 1950’s Mad Men/Stepford Wives scenario. Give those of us on the Homefront credit where credit is due. Trust me, we’ve earned it!
I didn’t have a “crappy time” during my husband’s UT. But I share her annoyance at the sheer lameness of the advice. Some excerpts, below. You can read the whole thing here.
Keep things in perspective, and don’t waste valuable time on the phone, Skype, etc. complaining about issues that are really out of your spouse’s control. Instead, value the time that you have to communicate with one another, and try to focus on the positive.
Instead of using the telephone or Skype, try writing a love letter to your spouse. Can you imagine how happy he/she will be to receive a thoughtful, hand-written love letter? If writing is not your thing, simply send a care package with items that communicate “I love you” such as a CD with a mixture of love songs, a book of poems, or a collage of pictures that illustrate “love.”
When my husband was on a UT, I had one kid in high school and another in elementary school. I did not have very young children, and so I wasn’t completely frazzled. But if I had, I would certainly have used ISMA to pay for help. Because, you know, I do actually know how to call a babysitter.
I had also been living in the DC suburbs for three years before he left, and was settled. I didn’t have to deal with moving on top of everything else, and for that I was grateful. But if I had to move, I can’t think of any field in which I have more skills and experience. Sigh.
The year was very busy, and there were times when it certainly would have been helpful to have another parent around, but really, we were fine. It was harder on my husband than on the rest of us, because, duh, he missed his family!
BUT: there was never any doubt in my mind, or in my husband’s mind, that what I was doing was just as important as what he was doing. This was not a case of “oh, you are off saving the world honey, so never mind that the house is on fire, I’ll deal.” We were both doing our jobs, they just happened to be in different places. I supported him, and he supported me. It truly was that simple.
FURTHERMORE: I was an adult. Not a teenage Army bride! If the sink was leaking, I called a plumber. If the kids were sick, I called the doctor. If the bills needed paying, I paid them. Seriously, I was not going to call my husband and ask him to deal with some dumb, normal, everyday thing. But if I had, he would have known that it was because I really needed his help for some reason. Because he is an adult, too. Because we have been moving all over the world together for years. Because I don’t expect him to be Superman, and he doesn’t expect to be met at the door with pearls and heels. I mean, seriously.
Oh, and BY THE WAY: If I had sent him a “collage of pictures that illustrate love” he probably would have been on the next plane home to put me in the funny farm. Because when a grown woman suddenly starts acting like a middle-schooler you know something is wrong. Very, very wrong.
So, I just can’t imagine who this sort of advice is meant for. Certainly not any Foreign Service spouses I know.