With the return today of HMS Defender (and if many of you wonder why I bang on about this ship in particular ok I will just say it- it’s Popeyes old ship where I met most of my NWBFFs and felt part of the Royal Navy community for the first time and not just some kind of Lone Ranger navy wife freak) and im filled with such excitement on their behalf, I’m so crazily proud of the families who have waited 9 months for them to finally come home.
(After doing basically a 7 month deployment about 2 mins before this one- mental).
I can see the wives and the girlfriends, the sisters and the brothers and the mummy’s and daddy’s in my minds eye in a few short hours, finally getting that hug and kiss they’ve waited and waited and waited some more for.
But as well as all of this excitement for them, and soppiness and nostalgia it’s reminded me that it’s my turn to say goodbye next. For 9 months.
And I am seriously freaking out.
After I did my first deployment and met Popeye at the homecoming I was naive. I didn’t pause to think there will be another one. And another and another.
The second he stepped off the ship a new countdown started to the next time he would deploy.
What happened? We had a minimum of a 6 month deployment with less than 12 months inbetween for four years. That’s a lot of deploying.
It was awful. It was hard. It was surreal.
But it was doable. I look back at “deployment Olive” with no small degree of awe. She was hardcore.
“Did I really do that?”
“How did I do all those deployments?”
“Can I really do it all again?”
(in a very small voice, like a stroppy toddler) “But I don’t want to!”
Thinking about this upcoming deployment is filling me with dread. Not just because I know how hard it will be, but because this time I’m on my todd with our two gorgeous baby girls. No pressure then.
And that’s going to bring a whole new level of shit and heartache and stress and strain that I haven’t encountered before.
And that is a type of deployment I know nothing about.
So watch this space my lovelies. Hopefully my blog will stay the chirpy quirky space it’s always been. Not some kind of weird online written record of my unraveling.
I need success stories please!
So as the WAGs of HMS Defender wave that mighty ship home, with the sodding brass band blasting, and the little tug boat getting zilch recognition; my thoughts are bitter sweet and let’s be honest, a bit “me me me.”
This navy life is (as my good pal Ronan would say) a roller coaster.
What deployment is really like. And what it’s really not like.
It’s not all staring off into the horizon in a floaty white dress with a single tear rolling down a polished cheek.
It’s not about getting a long awaited dog eared letter in the post, hugging it to your chest in quiet bliss and rushing up to your room to flop down onto the bed to read it in matching pyjamas.
It’s not beaming ear to ear with pride whilst waving a Union Jack (well homecoming is but that’s only a couple of hours out of the whole thing).
It’s not romantic. It’s not magical.
It’s cereal for dinner.
It’s explaining again and again and again where they are and why they couldn’t make it.
It’s wine. Or gin.
It’s weddings and BBQs and Friday nights and Tuesday lunchtimes alone.
It’s having to take both kids with you to your smear test because there’s no one else to help.
It’s suffering the same questions at every family gathering.
“Where is he now then?”
“Heard from Popeye lately?”
“It can’t be much longer now surely?”
It’s making coffee for one every morning.
It’s being ill and having to carry on.
It’s dutifully sending one email (at least) a day and hearing nothing back for days.
It’s learning to carry the ache of missing them around with you and realising that it won’t go away until you’re back together again.
It’s checking your email a zillion times a day just incase, and keeping your phone within arms reach for months without fail.
Deployments are not what people think they are. They are marathons not sprints and we are running in a race we’d rather not have to enter.
But we get to cross that finish line eventually and that part of the illusion is true. That moment is indescribably scrummy and romantic and fantastic.
So even if well meaning family and friends don’t have a clue of the reality of a deployment, or even if this is your first deployment and you’ve realised you didn’t have a clue, just trust me, even if the race is a steaming pile of groundhog poop, that finish line will be so worth it.
You know, one of those military partners who joins the military wives choir or raises a squillion pounds doing a charity hike or a sexy pin up shoot or sends a gazillion parcels out to the ship at Christmas. Each one with a handwritten note.
I wish I could do those things. But I am SO insanely busy looking after the two girls if I get/were to ever have free time it would be a serious toss up between wine and sleep. (I know, I know it’s obvs- I’d drink wine then sleep).
Plus to be honest with you, it’s just not in my character. I’m just not that *good*.
I wish I could be one of those good wives. One who is happy with her lot in life. I wish I could just accept this is how it has to be. Or as a compromise, I wish I could just stop constantly moaning about having to limit or give up my career/put it on hold because of his stupid job.
I wish I could be one of those good wives that actually loses weight whilst they’re away. Or actually starts a project or hobby. Unfortunately I like wine, chocolate and TV too much to ever ever hit this target.
And now to the main (current) guilt trip I’m experiencing (again):
I wish I had the balls to go wave the ship off when they deploy. But I can’t. I haven’t. I won’t. Because I’m just not that good of a wife. I’d rather be in bed hiding from the world or at work acting like I’ve just dropped a tab of speed or bumming around doing motherhood shiz watching a never ending vacuum of Peppa sodding Pig than up at the round tower.
I wish I could be all supportive of the other wives and girlfriends of the ship and all bestie friendy at the build up and beginning of a deployment. But (and this is another reason there will be no waving “daddies gay boat” bye bye this deployment) I go into some seriously freaky deep denial when they leave.
I literally don’t think about deployment. I don’t want to talk about it, and I definitely don’t want to hear about it and I sure as hell don’t want to see it actually happening. For me it would be like some early-morning-slow-mo-horror-film with banners where I go shopping at Gunwharf afterwards and grab a “we can do it girlies” latte in a queasy state of shock and a cold sweat coating my newly abandoned body.
I wish I was more like those good wives but I’m barely holding it together at the best of times. Let alone on the day that marks the longest time I will be apart from the love of my life.
To those I’m about to do this deployment with: I’m sorry. I will be completely and utterly rubbish and keep to myself for the first few weeks. When I’ve put enough of my heart back together I can come and be a good friend. I can come and be supportive. I can give being a “good military wife” another shot.
Ok so I’ve been nominated for Blog of the Year, Best Blog Writer and Best Lifestyle Blog awards as part of the MAD Blog Awards 2016!
Then I’ve just found out there’s only five more days to get nominations in (shit) AND that if I want to be a finalist (which I wouldn’t mind at all, really) you need to be in the top FIVE highest number of nominations per category.
So (and I promise this really is the last time) please please please could you nominate my blog www.oliveoylnavywife.com only IF you think it’s good enough of course.
I love love love writing my blog and you guys often say you’ve enjoyed reading it, so it would make me SO FREAKIN HAPPY to get stacks of nominations and get to go to London in a posh dress and leave the kids with Popeye.
The categories I think make the most sense are the lifestyle and best writer ones, but you could always nominate me in more categories, if you felt thusly inclined of course.
Please SHARE this post too if you feel my blogs are worth it, (like l’oreal, but less hair swishing).
This special guest blog post is by one of my NWBFFs, “Pepper” (see what I did there- running with the condiments pseudonyms like a boss). Pepper is tackling a 9 month deployment after literally just finishing a 7 month one which is when we met as SWAGs (Sailor Wives And Girlfriends don’t you know). She’s here to tell us what the eff to expect and how shit it really is *gulp*. Take it away!
The 9 Monther
Ok so “monther” isn’t actually a word, but it is what I and other MW are calling it, in fact it is the polite term used for this long, looooooooonnnnng deployment.
I have to confess that I haven’t been a navy wife for very long, just under 2yrs in fact, but in that time I have dealt with him leaving for a 6.5 ‘monther’, several mini deployments(3-6wks), BOST, extra sea trials, and we are just over the half way mark of a 9month stint. Yay! Deep-End well and truly jumped.
He was on the 6mth tour when we heard the dreaded news(via the news funnily enough, I mean why give us actual navy families a heads up? Let’s sell the idea to the all knowing civilians first), and safe to say us wags were pretty upset. BUT, our guys were already deployed so this won’t affect us for ages, right? HA! Wrong!
4mths back just before Easter leave, the sailors are told they will be getting important news, WHEN THEY GO BACK!!! Seriously? Well done RN, just let us stress throughout the only time we’ve had in ages with our sailors. Well we did stress, as the RN are as transparent as clingfilm stretched thin on a toilet seat and just as unpleasant.
The “news” as expected was a 9mth draft starting in 5mths.
OK, OK, Calm down, it’s not that bad, I mean, this is what we “signed up for” right? …urgh, worst comment ever! But 9mths, not too bad, 40wks, 280 days…OMG! I can’t do this, nope, I CAN do this…the truth? I HAVE to do this because he HAS to do this.
Anyway, you know the drill, we don’t see them much whilst they prepare to leave, if you’re lucky you get to spend a week or if you’re REALLY lucky 2wks just before they set sail.
You console yourself with the other navy ladies, we are strong, we make plans to make it all easier, “look at it in chunks, not the entire thing”, ” 3mths until Christmas”…Oh God, Christmas! He’s not here, ok, it will be fine, it will distract us, 3 birthdays in December, Daddy isn’t going to be here, that’s fine, Mums do it alone all the time. New Year, well who cares anyway? It’s just another night, that’s what wine and Jools Holland is for.
The next chunk takes us to mid-deployment leave…that’s right, you heard me, MID-Deployment leave. They can come home, funded kindly by the MOD, TWO WHOLE WEEKS, well 2 days travelling, but that doesn’t matter, 12 WHOLE DAYS, OK there might be flight delays, but we are positive souls us Navy wives, all that matters is our sailors are coming home, and we get to see them, the children get to see them, their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins…hang on! Where did your precious 12 days go? He hasn’t even landed yet and the whole thing is planned and your 12 days slumped in bed for lazy mornings, sofa days, the odd romantic meal, they’ve all started blurring into the distance before he even stepped foot on home soil.
OK you’ve got this, you’ve got the exact dates he’s home well in advance so you can sort things with work etc, oh wait! You haven’t, what? So begin the panicked emails to your lovely sailor man, you “understand, it’s not your fault dear”, until the 100th email with nothing confirmed, then it “IS ALL YOUR FAULT, YOU AND YOUR STUPID NAVY JOB!!!” You get so riled that you’re not even sure you want them home, think of the disruption. All of a sudden your 12 precious days have whittled down to 8, maybe 9 because you haven’t been able to sort work at such short notice, but that’s OK, he can check in with the relatives whilst you work…
D-Day, you’re at the RAF airport, ID badge proudly on display, you’re getting your sailor back, you’ve done your Homecoming Maintenance, THEY LAND…with only 2hrs delay. BOOM! Time to see if that water proof mascara you bought especially, will hold up. And then they start coming through arrivals, you’re soooo excited, nervous, stomach clenching, and you spot your sailor and HE’S IN RIG!(right there and then you don’t care about the mascara, or the limited days), he’s home.
First night you get home, he drops his huge black bag, and hugs, so many hugs, smiles, tears, kids, dogs, cats. So much love, giggles. You find yourself wanting to get him everything at once. Is he hungry? Does he want tea/coffee/alcohol? Would he like you to cook? Ooooo take away? He chooses of course, you’re in your own little sailor love bubble…then bed, oh sweet heaven this is the best moment you’ve had in the 4mths since he left. FINALLY you have someone to “Netflix and Chill” with 😉…
You wake up, and excuse the language, you shit yourself that someone’s in your bed, but then the sweet realisation hits that it’s your sailor.
From that point the clock is ticking, you know that this isn’t homecoming, this is all going to end soon, way, WAY too soon. So it begins, everything you planned, well it’s actually revised a little, you haven’t taken into consideration that he wants to spend an “hour” on the Xbox, or have a loooong nap due to working and flying. That’s OK, let’s take it easy. Which you do, a bit too easy, next thing you know 5 days have gone by and you have hardly seen any of your family members, he never did the rounds whilst you were in work, he was actually doing the chores around the house that you planned to take up a maximum of 30min, until he explains that a “broken shower head” is in fact a broken pipe and takes half a day. So you start arranging to visit people, resenting the precious time it is taking away from your time with him(or is that just me?), “wish I’d just planned a family get together, that would’ve only taken up an evening and then he’d be all mine again”
Day 9, the plans have gone out of the window, you wake up feeling sad, the euphoria of having him home has ebbed, leaving a rock in your stomach and a lump in your throat. You spend every minute you can watching him, smelling him, staying up waaaay too late so you can squeeze as much time together as possible. You know what’s coming, Hell! It was only 4mths ago that you were going through the exact same thing. This time though you actually REALLY do hate the navy. You hate the 9monther, MID-DEPLOYMENT leave sucks ass! Whose stupid idea was this? Who is so callous as to think it’s OK to dangle your sailor in front of you, only to tear him away again after a few fleeting days? You wish he hadn’t come home, you don’t want to say goodbye again. NO! NO! NO!
You avoid looking at him, it makes you well up, when you catch each others eye, you both have that ‘knowing’ look. “I’m going to miss you so much” becomes the beginning of every conversation.
It’s time. Your bubble is burst, your sailor is in RIG and you hate it, he’s leaving you again. You tell each other you are half way done, “HEY! We got through the worst part, it didn’t go THAT slowly, we got this”…except you haven’t. Right there and then you haven’t got this. He’s leaving for over another 4mths, longer if it’s extended, shhhhh! That won’t happen. This time it’s only Easter, more birthdays, Spring/summer weddings, anniversaries, children’s exams, plays, graduations that he’s missing.
It’s basically another bloody deployment, and it sucks!
So we have survived the first longish stint of Daddy Being Away.
It was only about a month but Im feeling bloody proud that I have managed to keep both children alive with very little outside help and snotty colds and 8 week jabs. Im also a tad relieved that I haven’t lost it and left them at a nunnery. (And no this is not just because I don’t know any Hampshire nunneries).
Ive had quite bad mum guilt that I didn’t try to do more wholesome “making memories” shit. I didn’t even attempt any baking and I can safely say that the iPad is partially raising my toddler. We have watched a lot of Disney.
But they are alive so I’m chalking it up as a win.
Whilst Popeye was stuck down in Plymouth (because his ship was buggered-giant surprise) we were able to finally try out the separation pack we had been given from Little Troopers .
This helped with the mum guilt because I was getting so fed up of this:
Me-“on his boat.”
Sweetpea-“[see] Daddy soon?”
Me- (silent sob) “no see Daddy later. Daddy gone night night on the boat.”
Sweetpea-“bye bye Daddy”
Me- “yes that’s right, bye bye daddy.”
Talk about heartbreaking! And, after the gazillionth time, dare I say, a little bit annoying?
That’s when the separation pack really came into play. It actually helped Sweetpea grasp what was going on and helped me not lose my mind from having to explain it to her over and over again.
It gave the whole downer of being separated from Popeye/Daddy an actual positive vibe and I can’t recommend it enough.
What is it? An A4 pack of resources and ideas of things to do to help your children cope with a parent being away from home.
First I chose an area in the house to put it all up. I didn’t want to to be too prominent in the house- I didn’t want her to be reminded Popeye was gone all the time- I also chose somewhere quiet so she could go there to think about Daddy when she needed to.
( I also wouldn’t put stuff on the wall above the dogs water bowl if your child likes water play and pulling things off of walls. 😑)
I found an OK photo of Sweetpea with Popeye and put that in the special “Hero” (a bit cheesy for me but v sweet for children) frame. This gave Sweetpea something to focus on and she could go and kiss the photo good night or we used it to talk about Daddy from time to time too. She also put it down the loo at one point but I’ve told Popeye not to take this personally. (And photos don’t dissolve if you antibac them btw- who knew?)
My favourite thing about the separation pack was the chuff chart. It’s supposed to be for the kids but to be honest I was using it just as much as the Sweetpea.
The chuff chart is really practical- you can adapt it for any length of separation-you just add another calendar sheet if you need to. You can decorate or colour it in and there’s a “notes” bit if your trooper needs to jot anything important down. You can put stickers on it if you’ve been on day trips (not that we did lol) and really adapt it for your family.
As Sweetpea is quite little we did a ten day countdown as she only knows up to number ten. By the time we got halfway through she was getting the idea. She was running up to it first thing when we came downstairs ready to cross off another “sleep”! (Not sure if this is because the pack is really good or my daughter is a child prodigy/genius. Ahem).
There’s a little instruction leaflet that was brilliant for people like me who are permanently exhausted from single-parenting-without-the-benefits or (also like me) have the creative ability of the DVLAs phone system.
We did one of the ideas from the leaflet- we made a Post Box for all of the art Sweetpea did whilst Popeye was away.
It worked really well when he got home and they opened the box and she could show him what she had made for him.
If he had been away longer we would’ve posted them out to him. I really wanted to do the “send a hug” idea too but Sweetpea would not lie down and after trying and failing to pin her down to draw round her outstretched arms with a felt tip between my teeth I admitted defeat. Maybe when she’s older or when she’s asleep.
In general the activities and ideas are really varied and can be adapted depending on the age of your Little Trooper or what interests them.
There is a big map too where you can put stickers of where you’ve lived, where you’ve been on holiday and where your service person is. This was great but I felt it was a bit geared towards army families and soldiers that are based in one place for a long time, so to cater to our situation I cut out a picture of a navy ship from the patterned writing paper in the pack, and moved that around the map. You could get a photo of the ship for longer deployments but doing this worked fine for us.
There’s a bit in there that explains why the official flower of military children is a dandelion. Not going to give it away here but it had me in actual proper tears and I’m now thinking of getting another tattoo this time of a dandelion.
All in all it is a really useful little kit. You can join an online community of Little Troopers and they do meet ups, camps and events, so that your children can get to know other military children. This is especially useful to families like ours that don’t live in married quarters. And they are a charity so they do lots of fun fundraising stuff too.
I need to vent, here, in a safe space where I won’t jeopardise my marriage. First let me say I’m not so ungrateful that I don’t love having Popeye home as much as possible. I really really do.
Ok I’m a navy wife, yes sure, but also I’m a mum. I’m a woman in my own right with a career and friends and stuff to do.
As much as I love and adore and get a giddy thrill out of hanging around waiting for Popeye to turn up after however long bobbing around on the big blue it may shock you to know that I don’t like being messed around.
Saying goodbye is tough. In fact it’s worse than tough. It’s shit and getting shitter. Having kids has tipped me over the edge in terms of “goodbye tolerance”. Now, when it’s time for him to go, I just want him to go.
Give us each a kiss, maybe give me a cheeky bum squeeze and go. And more importantly don’t come back!
Let me elaborate, due to the “technical issues” the type 45s have been having, “bye” hasn’t actually meant goodbye in our family for almost a month. A friggin month. A month of goodbyes, tears, getting my bum in gear to cope, getting wine in the fridge, giant bars of chocolate in the cupboard, sky+ing “my” programs on TV and getting on with it.
Only for Popeye to turn up! Again! At home! His two feet decidedly still on the land!
Cue my heart leaping through my chest with happiness, soaring endorphins, goofy grins, cancelled plans with friends and having celebratory takeaways.
Until tomorrow. And tomorrow’s goodbye. Tomorrows heartache. Looking at our little girls face again and explaining “Daddy’s going night night on his boat, bye bye Daddy.” Waving his car off the driveway and wiping a tear away. Again.
Again I get my bum in gear. Again I shift, smoothly and silently into deployed single parent mode. I galvanise myself and my household into coping with Popeye being away. To this being a one-woman show. Complete with fish fingers for dinner, slobbing around watching Peppa Pig and not prioritising washing any of Popeyes stuff. Classy.
Hang on a sec! what’s that noise? His key turning in the lock? Joy of joys he’s home! It’s brilliant to see him, of course it is.
But keeping this up is exhausting for me! It can’t be healthy to be up on cloud 9 with a surprise bonus night or weekend of leave to then crash back down with a bump to the horribleness of goodbyes.
I know it’s not his fault the ship keeps breaking. I know it’s a fleet wide problem blah blah blah. But what is also a fleet wide problem is the families who are on a non stop roller coaster of not knowing which way is up, when their sailor is going to be home or what the hell is going on!
Planning a life, or any kind of stability, in this atmosphere of uncertainty feels like trying to eat a picnic in a whirlwind. Which is a weird analogy but it’s the only one I can think of that fits.
I keep trying to get on with our lives but then “the navy effect” happens and we are once again riding those emotional waves before Popeye has even got onto the real ones. Often with little or notice and whether we want to or not.
This is a washing machine. Fairly normal right? Just a run of the mill bog standard white household appliance.
But wait! Look a little closer.
That washing machine is in the house of a service person!
Recent research has brought to light a startling discovery, brace yourselves:
All household appliances built post WWII have built in Deployment Detectors™.
Deployment Detectors™ are a microscopic nano technology, invisible to the naked eye, that can easily be incorporated into motherboards, microchips, petrol caps, fridge lights and electrical plugs. These teeny weeny microchips can fit literally anywhere and in any piece of equipment you need to use in order to carry on as a functioning member of society.
Yes, I hear you cry, but what do they do?!
Well, after extensive and thorough testing at Oyl Labs we have found that Deployment Detectors™ use sophisticated sensors to monitor the environment. And in the house of a military family their true purpose is revealed.
When a deployment has begun, a chain reaction of drinking wine, having a good old cry, installing a countdown app on your phone and sleeping in “his” dirty t shirts causes certain pheromones to be emitted by the partner of said service person.
These deployment pheromones are picked up by household appliances fitted with a Deployment Detector™ which springs into life, randomly shooting out electrical/mechanical/spiritual signals into the appliance.
Deployment Detectors™ cause the appliance to break without warning. But only when your service person has left on deployment.
Note: They are at their most effective when you are late for work, have looked forward to something all day and/or have too much month left at the end of the money.
Why do Deployment Detectors™ exist?
Good question. Here at Oyl Labs we can only surmise that it was some evil Nazi plot to drive military wives and girlfriends over the edge during deployment. A second, more modern theory is that Isis have in fact infiltrated most high street retailers and they are doing this because they hate to see women (and men) kick ass coping with deployment. Further research is needed to determine the true origins of these devices.
All I can say for now is be vigilant, and don’t fight it. Expect for household appliances to break as soon as your Popeye sails over the horizon. And expect it to break at the most stressful time with the most stressful repercussions.
I want to talk about something that has happened to me every single deployment.
It’s not something I’m proud of but its still a thing that happens time and time again so I’m hoping that it is therefore, normal and healthy. And sane.
It happens when they’ve been gone for a good chunk of time. 2-3 months maybe. The longer they’ve been gone the worse it is.
Im going about my day to day fabulousness and I’m generally coping and looking pretty fly whilst doing so.
It hits me.
The crippling, genuine fear that I’ve actually forgotten what Popeye looks like and/or sounds like.
I’ve gone memory blind.
“Omg omg omg I am the worst wife/girlfriend/life partner ever.”
I blush and get a hot and cold panicky feeling in the bottom of my tummy.
Suddenly I pelt my poor deployment beaten brain with such questions as:
“What does his nose look like?!
What are the shade of his eyes?!
Does he have Gaston from beauty and the beast type chin or a Rick from TWD type chin?!
Does he like ketchup or mayonnaise?
Exactly how tall is he?!
WHO IS POPEYE?!?!?!!!!!!!”
Sure sure I could just whip my phone out and look at a picture. But that would be cheating. So instead I go for the self torture route. Of course. Very healthy. Very British.
I test myself. I quiz myself and berate myself for every question my memory can’t answer perfectly and instantly.
“What are the shape of his lips?
How do I hold hands?
What does kissing feel like?!?!”
These last two tie me up in knots as I freak out over whether I will remember how to snog on homecoming day.
Visions of teeth crashing together or accidentally giving him a Glaswegian Kiss sail into my merciless mind as I struggle to remember the slant of his eyebrows.
Cursing my memory to the depths of Hades- I give in and open up Facebook to see Popeyes smiling face. I let myself have a little cry and resolve to study every freckle and hair, every quirk and crease until they are tattooed on my memory.
And as for the kissing and hand holding I will just have to wing it on the day and hope that he’s feeling as beyond nervous as I am to see each other face to face again.
Besides if I do accidentally nut him in the face it will be one hell of an ice breaker, right?