I am an Army wife and I relish every second of it -- the good, the bad and the occasionally ugly. For some reason, I feel incredibly proud of being a military spouse even though I wasn't the one who had to get through an extremely tough entrance test, go to the Academy and train to be a soldier. But my association with someone who did do all of that -- my husband -- gives me a lot of pride and pleasure.
Maybe it's because of what they say -- Army wives are the silent ranks, standing by their husbands and holding fort while they are away on duty. That's a pretty important job. And yes, it's a full-time job to be an Army wife. We are constantly moving, we belong to every place the Army takes us, we are experts at packing years up in black painted boxes, we stay away from our husbands for years at a stretch, our love for saris is well known, we are rumoured to party like rock-stars and we deal with everything in between.
Our civilian friends have a lot of things to say to us: "You are so strong!" and "How do you do it?" being the most popular ones. I also get "But what about your career? " a lot from concerned friends and random acquaintances who worry about my having a big degree and not slogging my ass off at a corporate to show for it. The fact that I am a published author, and am still working full-time isn't satisfactory to them. "But you studied so much!" they sigh. To all this I say eh, can't please everyone.
"Army wives are the silent ranks, standing by their husbands and holding fort while they are away on duty. That's a pretty important job. "
But here, I have five crucial aspects of an Army wife's life that outsiders may not know. Sure, you've heard it all. But do you really know how we deal with it? Do you want to know? Well, here you go:
1.Duty calls, and how
This one is obvious. This is the husband's profession, and the job requirement is such that the duty calls are, and will always be, over and above everything else. For us spouses, the Army is the first wife who demands a lot of attention and gets it each time. Add to it the dangerous job description and the inability to plan a holiday or even a family function, because duty can call literally anytime. Pretty daunting, right? But we wives learn on the go. We learn to respect our husband's profession, the challenges it comes with and the demands it makes. And though we may sometime crib about not getting enough time with the husband, most of us are pretty damn proud of his profession. I am!
2.Separations will test your mettle
As a result you will either get tired of living like a single mom every two years or so, or you will realise that distance really does make the heart grow fonder. Seriously, our civilian friends will never understand how tough it is to pack your life in 22 boxes every two years and move to SF (Separate Family) -- a term that I assume all Army wives hate as much as they fear the words ambush attack. I'd like to say this to all our civilian friends -- separation is never easy. We never get used to it. We miss our husbands incredibly, but life has to go on and we don't think there is any point in discussing it to no end. We do not need sympathy. Be friendly, don't give us your pity -- we don't need it.
"[Y]ou will either get tired of living like a single mom every two years or so, or you will realise that distance really does make the heart grow fonder."
3. Hierarchy of the wives
Ah, the most controversial topic of all time! Yes, it is true that a few wives wear their husband's rank as if they've earned it themselves. And it is also true that there is a lot of stuff happening that most of the wives don't see fit for the current century (and hence detest the entire Army Wife Club idea). Personally, I wish we had less of the unnecessary drama and more of productive exercises. I wish we had respect for each other in every situation, and not be rude or condescending with each other. But what people don't know is that the wives form a major support group in the Army. I have made amazing friends in the Army wife circle that I would not trade for anything in the world. Our friendships last for ages, survive several postings and phone-number-changes, and grow stronger with every military milestone of our lives. We bond over our unique trials and tribulations and support each other (who else can understand us better?). And oh, we also bond over etiquette classes (it's an inside joke for my girls. For those who didn't get it, read my book) and shopping tips for just about every town or city in India.
4. Constant moving
You've heard about it a lot, but you will never understand it until you are an Army wife. It's mighty tough. And I am not even talking about the packing and unpacking, the broken crockery and crystal, or the part where your husband's stuff goes to a different station and yours to another. I am talking about the leaving the friends part, the having no career part, the kid's good education and uninterrupted growing up part. Then there are small but still important issues like finding a new tailor and changing your phone number every two years. But we Army wives have the obvious things covered, and we learn to deal with the separation and the moving. In fact, I quite enjoy the life of a constant traveller. But leaving behind a life that you struggled to set up is always tough. We look forward to the new location, but we always leave a part of ourselves behind.
5.Our kids are the best
Really, they are amazing. Army kids are strong -- stronger than us at times. They are resilient. They are well adjusted, confident and gregarious -- even the shy ones. The life skill of taking to a new place, new friends and a new life comes easily to them. Or in proper Army lingo, our kids easily acclimatise to changes. That has to be the highlight here, really, because Army kids are a constant source of inspiration and awe to me. Watch them closely, there's a lot to learn.
This list can be a hundred points longer, I know, so if you have anything else to add to it, feel free.