I thought I was brave before. When he deployed. I thought that getting on with it, spending Friday nights with a Criminal Minds box set, Ben & Jerry’s and a bottle of Pinot Grigio was brave.
I thought going to friends weddings and birthdays alone was brave.
I thought spending my birthday without him here was brave.
I thought navigating the “sideways head tilters” was hard.
I knew nothing.
The gut wrenching sobs of your child when Daddy drives away to deploy. Hiding your feelings of dread, anger, mama bear protectiveness, pushing them right down, deep, deep inside you so you can comfort and try to reassure them.
Denying yourself your own big sobbing session, clamping the lid down on your own emotions and holding your babies as they either cry, or get on with what they were doing, not quite grasping the enormous vast stretching amount of time in front of them.
Dropping them off at school and letting their teacher know (again) that Daddy’s gone away, whilst your child tries to convince you they have a tummy ache and really can’t go into school today. Walking away from them as they call out for you and just hoping and trusting they will have a good day and get the support they need.
Unflinchingly cancelling Friday evening zoom plans with friends because for the last few nights, you’ve all camped out in mummy and daddy’s big bed. Because they need your physical presence to reassure them you aren’t leaving too.
Trying to convince them that 2/6/9 months really isn’t that long and feeling like a total and utter fraud because it is a bloody long time. They know it and you know it.
Being brave doesn’t always wear a uniform.
To all you brave mums, dads and children out there- you are fucking awesome. Keep going.
<This is an actual mid deployment email I just sent Popeye, my thoughts are added in italics.>
Hi Popeye, the kids are finally quiet in in the living room (eating ice cream and watching something American and squeaky voiced) and I thought now would be a good time to email you about how everything is here on the home front.
We have had a day full of good intentions , but, have been thwarted at every stage. We had planned to get your parcel posted today, then realised I had run out of brown tape.
“There is a simple solution to this problem” I thought, “lets go to the local supermarket and purchase some, excellent, splendid”. So we decided to go to <Insert generic supermarket name here> for tape, jolly ranchers (Note that Popeye had specifically requested these for his parcel, as he had decided only american candy will do, and I of course have all the time and resources in the world to acquire said item, and do so with a quiet sense of matrimonial pride, obvs) and some new pjs and trousers for Sweetpea (who is growing taller at an alarming rate).
We also needed a gingerbread man cutter for making gingerbread (no shit). I was attempting to be a wholesome autumnal earth mother doing Nice Things At The Weekend.
I had a quick google and <generic supermarket> apparently dont sell gingerbread men cutters. So I thought:
“We can quickly nip/pop/dash to <large chain craft store> then go to <generic supermarket>. Simple”.
All before the post office shut at 12.30. Easy. So we get up and leave at about 10.30 (#achievement) and proceed in the torrential rain to <large chain craft store>. Sweetpea and Sproglet (now aged 6 and 4.5 dear readers) especially enjoyed it when mummy drove through the big puddles/floods making huuuuge splashes over the car. We get to <large chain craft store>.
The queue is along the whole front of the store, and around the corner. I suggest fucking it all off seeing if <generic supermarket> have any sodding gingerbread men cutters. This was met with severe disapproval from the board. SO at circa 10.50am we are found waiting in the sheeting rain, huddled in our 2m square boxes, limping towards the entrance.
WE GET IN.
Upon reaching the doorway and the member of staff (guarding) the entry way I feel the same rush of exhilaration I used to get upon entering a nightclub. Ignoring the feeling of dismay at my lost youth, I battled around the shop whilst the kids informed me they DESPERATELY NEED everything in sight because they miss daddy. I do not fall for their ploys. I tell them they can have something from here or a magazine from generic supermarket. The magazine offer wins. Then we round a corner and find the cooking section! (I also lost Sproglet for a minute or so at one point but thats another story, all was fine.)
They have sodding gingerbread sodding effing cookie cutters!
“Fuck yeah! I am a good Mum! Holy shit I CAN DO THIS!!! I ROCK!” I think.
However they are quite small, actually, they are teeny tiny. Sweetpea provides excellent verbal feedback that this will not do and is UNACCEPTABLE in a cookie cutter. She had much higher expectations and this pathetic excuse for a biscuit cutter does not meet her creative vision.
Undeterred ignoring her whinging, we venture forthwith to the tills. Only to be met with a queue to rival the one outside, albeit slightly drier. Then, right on time, Sweetpea needs the toilet, now, this very second. “No mummy I cant hold it in. We need to go noooooow.” Then bladder synchronicity occurs, as so often does with small children in public spaces, a strange phenomenon as now Sproglet too, needs the toilet and is jumping around declaring it to all customers and staff in the large chain craft store.
I admit defeat. We leave the full basket and the premises. I realise the garden centre next door has loos AND theres no queue.
Feeling that my luck may have FINALLY changed, we venture in. Only to suffer immediate auditory, visual and olfactory assault. There is Christmas shit EVERYWHERE. Bear in mind it is early October. I do love Christmas, but this looked like some kind of weird festive acid trip. The girls ran off, shrieking (again) about how we needed EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW. My calls of social distancing and not to touch stuff falls on deaf ears, their bladders mysteriously reinvigorated at the sight of so much sparkly plastic tat.
We ended up spending over £20 on, well, nothing much really, we got something for your parcel (still unwrapped and unposted, sitting in the dining room) and left.
Upon securing the children ready for the drive, Sweetpea suddenly realised, she in fact felt very car sick. She felt car sick if I drove slowly, if the window was open or shut, if she closed her eyes. She did the puppy dog eyes and moaned quietly. She made fake retching noises. She stated her complete and utter inability to visit generic supermarket for essential parcel sending items and the hunt for the fucking cunting gingerbread cookie cutter.
I gave up. We came home and they had lunch, the mystery nausea disappearing as she realised we had pickled onion monster munch in the cupboard.
And so, my love I decided to buy everything on Amazon Prime. Fuck it all. Fuck it all to buggery. Jolly ranchers, brown tape and gingerbread paraphernalia will be here on Monday and I will get everything posted then, if I can, between work and the school run (which is at ridiculous 2.30pm now, basically just when my morning coffee has kicked in and im about to be fabulously productive working from home). And Popeye, when you reallllly think about it, by getting lots of stuff from amazon, im actually saving us money on boxes. So its win win. Sorry about the jolly ranchers.
We miss you loads and I hope youre doing OK. Loads of love, Olive
p.s I may make this into a blog post, its alright isnt it? Love you!!!! p.s2- from Sweetpea- “Write I love you daddy and I hope you come back soon love from Sweetpea then do a full stop”. p.s 3 from Sproglet- “love Sproglet.”
I’ve been finding it hard to blog lately. Like real hard.
I’ve been being a full time mum, working for the NHS in a vaguely serious if-you-fuck-up-at-work-someone-could-get-really-hurt capacity.
I’ve had to accept my childhood demons. I’ve even named them. I’m working through all that shit and I’m doing ok. Popeye is here, but he’s not really (in my head) because he’s like, totally drafted to an actual ship and stuff.
I love blogging. I love being 100% honest with you. But I’m beginning to think the reason I haven’t blogged so much recently is because, well, the truth hurts.
I know you read this because it picks you up when darling sailor has buggered off for X number of months.
I know you read this because you (bloody rightly so) need a giggle on an evening.
I know that this blogging malarkey helps you guys. Like. Just a tad. In the utter shit storm of deployment I hope it’s a teeny weeny nugget of “yeah yeah that’s MEEEEE”.
Because that’s what I get from it too.
I just write some stuff down, don’t proof read (apart from typos- and even then I think fuck it), I don’t first draft or second draft. I don’t send it to my NWBFF for a quick “is this mental?” Check. I just write.
And you lot read. And you read and you read and you like. And you comment. And you message.
And sometimes you massively disagree which is GREAT because I have no idea what I’m doing and maybe you guys do.
So. I guess that’s what this blog post is all about. God sometimes I wonder if I should do videos. But that’s impractical because a- you would see my actual face
B- it would be some lame millennial thing that I don’t quite understand
C-(this is lame) I love seeing my thoughts be actual printed words on a screen. Because I know that words and feelings can be translated in that way.
In the way that only a military partner really gets. Reading that email. Getting that familygram. That true expression of love and faith against all odds.
I know there’s a lot of sad posts about deployment. I know there’s a lot of “you can do it champ” style upbeat articles about deployment. Complete with Kirsty Alsop worthy craft projects to “keep you busy” and also make you spend a ridiculous amount on chalk based paint in B&Q and leave you with what was a perfectly good chest of drawers looking like something from Barbies Ikea Dream Palace.
There are also a lot of articles written about taking up a new hobby to fill those hours that deployment has left you with. Such as learning French, going to the gym or other worthy self-improvement activity.
Unfortunately, after doing a couple of deployments following the above advice I do have a bit of a problem with the practicality of its application.
Firstly- I do not have the time nor inclination to randomly start hacking furniture apart after I’ve said goodbye to Popeye. I may want to take apart furniture but that is mostly from rage and not through a new feeling of domestic pride or energy.
It does not fill me joy and a sense of satisfaction to sand and paint and sand and paint and venture into THE SHED OF DOOM to find a screw or Allen key in the pursuit of a home makeover.
It has never been a Kirsty Alsop experience. My floral dress get ruined, the dog ends up covered in masking tape and I end up thinking sod the whole thing I’m going to eat chocolate and watch Friends on the sofa.
Secondly- taking up a soul balancing, calm inducing hobby is a lot easier said than done.
I’ve found that after Popeye has deployed I don’t actually have that much extra time to myself.
It gets filled up quickly with having to do 100% of the life admin stuff overnight. All of a sudden I’m responsible for all bathtimes, lunchboxes, clean clothes, healthy dinners AND breaking up World War 3 that erupts in the living room over whose turn it is to watch Peppa Pig or Nella the Princess Knight. Diplomacy in the Land of Oyl takes a up a lot of my headspace during a deployment.
With all the above there is little time to learn French apart from the difference between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
My gym involves running around after two toddlers and a mad dog.
I do make sure to have something planned each weekend. Just something simple like meeting up for coffee with a friend or going to hell soft play with the kids.
Then one day is a PJ day and then we are back on the treadmill again.
Take it from me, grand designs are all well and good but they are just that: Designs.
Keep busy doing the everyday and you will get there.
My patented Wine and Chocolate on the Sofa method has been tried and tested and is way more successful at keeping me sane, teaching me French AND I don’t have to go searching in the shed or take out shares in Dulux to achieve it-
My home might not be up cycled to it to it’s eyebrows but it’s a place of everyday comfort. And that is what I need most when getting through a deployment.
So, take your bra off, stick Sabrina on Netflix and relax. You’ve got this.
Why does no one talk about the Parallel Universe of new flung parenthood?
Sure there are a zillion million websites and vlogs devoted to telling you platitudes Such as “you’re doing brilliantly” and also the bloody classic “motherhood is so hard but it’s so rewarding”.
Well I am just here to raise a small flag (as a mother of 2 and 3 year old girls) to say to hell it is!!!
As a new Mum all you can think about is four things (mostly 1 &2 to be fair)
sleep. Glorious sexy wanton sleep. SLEEP.
breastfeeding- my boobs! They hurt! Am I doing this right? Are they getting enough and I can’t believe stuff is coming out of them!!!!
3. Am I clean? *sniffs self*. Nope.
4. I really should eat.
5. Sleep. I really want to sleep. I would commit a crime in order to sleep right now.
And that’s basically it.
For the first few week or so as a new Mum the entire world can just do one.
All that matters in the world is you and your little one. And getting the sodding bastarding latch right.
And I think that’s okay.
In fact I think it’s more than ok.
I think it’s a essential component of human kinds survival.
I think it’s an instinct.
I think it’s a way of saying that I NEED to hold my baby right now, thanks mother in law/ helpful now-great-aunt but this is MY JOB.
And yes- I don’t know what the fuck I am doing.
And yes!!! It fucking hurts!
And yes!!! I AM GOING TO KEEP GOING
It’s my baby and my body and my mind all involved in this gig called motherhood.
My body can tolerate more than my husband or partner will ever know.
I know my mind is strong. I’m the strongest woman Popeye will ever know and I’ve got this.
I look at my baby’s face and realise failure not an option anymore because I made this.
This total and utter perfection. This smallness. This beauty.
This infinite potential.
Let me tell you mothers of small squidgins of loveliness- the haze will lift. And you won’t even know its happening.
An hours more sleep here, a shower alone during nap time there, slowly the streams of babbling get clearer, they reach out a small hand into the wide world and grasp precisely what they were aiming for.
And suddenly they are there- demanding food in receptacles that YOU TAUGHT HER TO SAY. And she can sing all the songs from Frozen.
Now suddenly she can get dressed, tell me the plot to moana and insist she has pigtails today.
And I know. I’ve done it.
I’m a mother.
The fog. It’s gone. Her clarity brings my role sharply into focus like it wasn’t when she was my infant baby.
How did this happen?! From those first crazy days of learning how to latch, how baby wipes are an essential component of civilised society and wtf a jumperoo was- I really don’t know. But I did it man.
I never ever knew what I was doing.
I was alone and scared a lot of the time. During deployments with a newborn to a six month old, and another 9 month deployment with a 2 year old and a six month old. Woah.
I did that. We did that.
I don’t know how it happened. From the moment I found out I was pregnant it’s been like a runaway train. There was excitement. Then tiredness. And goodbyes. And homecomings. Then more goodbyes then (more) tiredness. And another homecoming.
I see them grow and bloom. And now I’m back at excitement again.
The Navy is endless dreams, limitless opportunity, ‘a life without limits.’
…from whose perspective?
The navy is weekending, spending week days apart and weekends at home.
The navy is rubbish signal, unanswered text messages, ‘one tick’ WhatsApp’s, and satellite calls- calls on a timer, non private calls, no calls as he’s at sea, drunken inebriated calls after a run ashore, quick calls as he is exhausted from fire exercises and desperately needs sleep.
The Navy is missed dates, missed appointments, missed opportunities, missed anniversaries, missed birthdays, giving birth alone.
Cancelled weddings, rearranged weddings, then ‘back to the original date’ weddings, to be ‘ship’s programme has changed again but nothing is set in stone so who knows? Weddings’.
The Navy extracts the usual impending excitement towards approaching milestones and events, replacing it with anxiety and worry; missed excitement because deep down you know that until he is in front of you and it is happening at that moment, things change and it may never come to fruition.
The Navy is deployments, the emotional cycle of deployment, emotionally distancing yourselves from the relationship as a form of self preservation, attempting to live a normal life when a ‘normal’ life is blatantly incompatible with retaining the serving person’s deployability and operational capability.
The Navy is the psychotic ex girlfriend who has the power over your every move, who can and will swoop in at any given moment to rain on your parade, exert her authority and remind you that no matter what SHE comes first and she always will, ‘suck it up buttercup and pull up your big girl pants!’
The Navy is arguments about whose fault it is, about resentment, loneliness and a longing for a sense of permanency.
The Navy makes you question what is important to you in life? What defines whether a person is successful, what your purpose is in life, are you doing the right thing? Are you, as the wife / partner selfish for holding them back by expecting their devotion to you and the family? Are you, the serving person selfish for expecting your partner to stay at home, suck it up, smile and get on with it, be the one who is left behind alone at last minute, be the one to pick up the pieces and cope with whatever life throws at you, alone… or is the Navy actually asking the impossible?
The Navy is ‘you knew what you were getting into?’ REALLY? How can you know until you live it? The answer is you can’t and you don’t!
The Navy is separate lives, living and breathing the ship, down time, work time, duties,
Living your life to the Navy’s ideology.
The Navy is awkward questions and discussions,
Strange activities that are somehow only within the military’s realm of normality and acceptance,
A shared sense of understanding as, for want of a better term ‘you’re all in the same boat.’
The Navy pushes you to your limit, your family to their limit, your friends to theirs-
It causes arguments, rifts, sleepless nights, anxiety, depression and uncertainty.
The Navy forces you to sink or swim.
In a couple or alone.
Faced with choices that either make you solidify your relationship and hatch a plan,
Or force cracks at the seams and force you apart.
The Navy has many positives as an employer but it is primarily the Navy and it ‘protects our nation’s interests’ but at what cost
Obvious statement alert: Deployment with children is very different to deployment when it’s just you to think about.
I mean, there’s the stuff you kind of know you’re going to have to do; like explaining where mummy/daddy is, doing countdowns with sweets and sticker charts et al but what about the other stuff?
The stuff pre-children-navy-wife-olive had no idea about whatsoever.
Before starting a family I could (and did) wear pjs for a whole weekend, eat my weight in ice cream and have mad nights out with friends to numb the pain. I could cry at leisure and put on destinys child full blast whilst painting my toenails at 11pm at night because it made me feel better.
Now I have to be Super Positive Coping Mummy. SPC Mummy puts on a brave front, answers any and all heartbreaking “where’s daddy?” Type questions with a smile and a biscuit. SPC Mummy doesn’t drink (much) lovely lovely wine the night daddy goes because no matter what SPC Mummy is available 24/7 to attended to all and any small people needs. Including needing jam on toast at 5 freaking AM. SPC Mummy doesn’t get to watch soppy films all morning huddled under the duvet with chocolate, SPC Mummy is carrying on with going to the park, walking the dog and remembering to take carrier bags with her to Lidl.
Pre children when Popeye rang I was able to (literally) drop everything, hurdle the dog and drop roll over the coffee table to get to the phone.
Post children- I have missed the phone ringing due to bathtimes, being stuck under a sleeping newborn who has finally gone to sleep with the phone just out of reach, not to mention the ringtone obliterator that is sodding tots n tunes. Ten or so toddlers “singing” wind the bloody bobbin up is unsurprisingly incompatible with hearing Popeyes personalised “captain Pugwash” ringtone.
And if by some strange fluke of chance you actually get to answer the phone you now have to share those precious few minutes with a small person covered in jam that just wants to talk about Peppa Pig/ an interesting stone they found/ how mummy won’t give her another chocolate egg (side note: my daughter is still devastated Easter is over. Several months later she still blames me).
I never even considered having to explain to my toddler that every single boat does not have daddy on it. I never thought for a second that I would have to compare our family unit to that of Danny Dog from (of course) that Pig cartoon. Because Danny’s daddy goes away then comes back and decides to never leave again. So thank you for that conversation Peppa. Because my daughters daddy isn’t coming home for a long long time and then will have to go away again. And again. Unlike Mr Dog.
During bedtimes (when no one will just go the heck to sleep) I’ve daydreamed about a cartoon where there is an actual military family portrayed, showing our strength and resilience. Demonstrating the sacrifices we make in every day situations and it’s no biggie. How we switch from being a parenting team to the practical equivalent of single parents in the blink of an eye.
SPC Mummy probably should have her own TV show. Or at least a cape.
If it were a cartoon the most important thing it could give my daughters is an example of how our military family is a normal family.
Even if they do have jam smeared on their faces and stones in their pockets, this is their normal and now a deployment with children has become my normal too.
SPC Mummy- away!!!!
*swirls around in her cape and flies off to solve another deployment related toddler question*
Ok *oversharing alert* family and friends click away now.
Popeye has just reminded me of something that has happened every deployment and I’m wondering if it happens to you too.
Thing is, it’s a tad embarrassing.
A smidge, a pinch, a wee bit cringe inducing.
When your partner deploys, companionship and wholesome friendship issues aside, it leaves a big gap in your sex life. There’s a *ahem* how do I put it- a romantic need that he just *ahem* can’t fulfill because he is several thousand miles away.
We all have our own “coping mechanisms” and this post is not about that. It’s about something else that happens after a “dry spell” spanning several months.
Every time Popeye has been on deployment I have had (occasional) rude dreams.
(This, so far, is pretty normal right? Stay with me. It gets weird)
Every time Popeye has been on deployment I have had rude dreams that are not starring Popeye.
(Ok ok we’re all grown ups here, we can admit that dreaming about someone other than your partner does happen and although totes cringey and not something you mention down the phone- not exactly something entering into the realms of bizarre.)
Here it is-
Every time Popeye has deployed I have had rude dreams about low status TV personalities.
Not even proper slebs! These fantasy dreams have starred such well known hotties as
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall
Each time I’ve woken up totally and utterly freaked out and emailed Popeye in a state of utter squeamishness.
I don’t know why my subconscious seeks out middle aged gardeners and organic chefs as prime X rated dream stars.
But it does. And it scares me. I don’t get my brain. When I’m awake, they do nothing for me. Sorry Al and Hugh, no offence but you’re just not my type(s).
Tell me I’m not the only one?
Seriously, you guys have had freaky weird sex dreams too, right guys? Right?!
I want to set the record straight once and for all about something that gets said to military wives frequently around homecoming time. It is usually said by our old pals Well Meaning people but can also be chucked around by randoms you meet out and about, who have all the quiet tact and discretion of HMS Queen Liz coming into Portsmouth.
Heres the basic script:
Military spouse: “OMGOMGOMG I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL POPEYE IS HOOOOOME!”
Well meaning twat person: “Aww thats cute. Give it a few days and you’ll wish they were away again. Lolz”.
Oh how we all laughed! These well meaning people, how spot on they are. How well they know what we go through. Its uncanny. Unsettling even.
(Heavy sarcasm alert.)
Why on gods green earth would we want them to bugger off again?
This is what I want to say to these well meaning people (because you cant really say it to their faces, unless you’re a total cow/self confident superstar.)
Statement of truth, from Olive, to all you Well Meaning People:
“When the loves of our lives return to us from the sea, or the land, or the sky, from war torn countries, landscapes filled with unimaginable horrors, dangers and poor wifi, we are elated.
They are home safe. We can speak to them again, we can touch them again, we can smell them again (not in a creep way).
After the initial dazzling, hazy period after homecoming fades, when all the friends and relatives have been visited, the family holiday completed, the special homecoming food and booze consumed; the return to real life commences.
Its not glamorous, its not perfect, its not chocolates and flowers.
Its remembering their annoying habits (leaving his toothbrush on the side of the sink), their idiosyncrasies (like letting rip with the hugest fart every morning when they wake), and their faults (cannot load the dishwasher correctly).
Its them getting used to being at home with us again too. Its very much a two way street. We change when they’re away too.
We are stronger, we are more confident, we can top up the oil in the car, get two kids up and out by 8am and we can manage the family finances alone.
It takes time to find the balance.
Healthy, normal couples find the balance by communicating. Synonyms for this include bickering, nagging, sarcastically reminding, huffing and stropping and of course, the old classic, moaning.
And here we come to the core of the issue-
None of this means we want them to leave again!
Yes they can do our heads in, and I’m sure I annoy the hell out of Popeye at times (infact I know I do, because he tells me).
But understand, dearest Well Meaning Person, that this in NO way equates to us wanting them to leave, to having to go through a deployment again.
What it does mean is that we, as a normal couple, are finding our way back to everyday life together, again.
So please, when you think of your “hilarious” commentary on my relationship, kindly STFU.