Pretty please can he have leave? With a cherry on top?

I want to talk about leave. More explicitly parental leave. Like when your toddler has decided to throw up at 7.35am and you’ve got a huge important meeting to go to. Or when your kid has conjunctivitis and your childminder can’t have them for one day. Or you’ve used up ALL your parental leave after the last d&v bug did the rounds and now you are facing eating into your annual leave or taking unpaid leave. Whilst your partner is around.

In most couples you have the option of one of you staying home for the compulsory 48hours or whatever until you can whack them back into childcare.

In military couples you are on your own. Shore draft or not. It doesn’t matter.

Although the Navy spouts that it will be flexible in terms of releasing service personnel when they are able to (I.e they are alongside, the ship is in dry dock or have a Mythical Shore Draft ) this, in my experience very very rarely translates to actual help. To an actual parent being ALLOWED to look after your sick child.

If you go to the Welfare service (which is ace but stringent- to weed out the piss takers obvs) or the Naval Families Federation then you can get help and be pointed in the right direction.

BUT that is very hard to do for the following reasons-

  1. It’s 7.36am you’re covered in vomit and you can’t get in touch with your Popeye

2. You can’t ring Welfare or the NFF because it’s sparrows fart o’clock in the morning and you need to ring Work for another parental leave day or sort out some last minute childcare NOW.

3. Your military partners boss has a stick up their ass that they can’t dislodge.

Now. Points 1&2 are either out of our control or are long term solutions to long running child healthcare issues. Point 3 is what really winds me up.

I get the feeling it’s very much of the school of thought of “Well it never did me any harm”- which can be roughly translated to:

“Well I was never there for my wife and she divorced me and that’s why I haven’t handed in my chit coped fine. He should do the same”

This attitude massively pisses me off for one thing it totally disregards the partners career- what if I am the main breadwinner?! Even if I’m not does that mean that my career is less important than his?!?

Does it mean that he shouldn’t be there for his child when he can be???

(Spoiler alert)

No it does not.

(*disclaimer* this whole blog post is very much about the ship being in dry dock/alongside/sitting around waiting to be fixed with harry black maskers/ mythical shore draft- I’m not talking about when the might of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy is flying at full sail.)

The other thing that really really pisses me off is that it actually goes against the Navys own ethos about supporting family life.

The very high ups would be shocked and disappointed that the lower ranks were are abusing their power in this way. Using petty technicality to foster resentment in a relationship, inequity in marriage and ultimately the discrimination in career prospects and performance for the military spouse is quite simply- wrong.

So- speak up! Get shitty! I know that your Popeye (if they are anything like mine) will be mortified that you have taken the initiative and contacted Welfare or the NFF. But do you know what?

It doesn’t matter. I know he will be scared that you speaking up for your legal and policy based rights complaining to Welfare will end up with him getting stick from his superior-

But it’s high time that, in this era of defence budget cuts, 9 month deployments and serious recruitment and retainment issues (and putting operational commitments aside) this culture of “it never did me any harm” should be totally stamped out- and a new culture and understanding of flexibility and responsibility was fostered by the Armed Forces.

Muchos love, Olive x

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Screw your “normal”.

Screw your “normal”.

I don’t want normal.

I want heart racing, pulse hammering homecomings.

I don’t want mundane.

I want treasured kisses, appreciated gestures and hugs in the doorway that squeeze out my breath.

I don’t want “taken for granted”.

I want to feel a thrill when our eyes lock across a noisy family table.

I don’t want to become invisible.

I want tingles up my spine when you watch me walking back into the room. 

I don’t want to lose that lust.

I want you listen to what I have to say, because you respect me and my opinion.

I don’t want “yes dear”.

I want us to keep making an effort with our appearance.

I don’t want to get complacent.

I want to keep you guessing about me.

I don’t want to become predictable and average.

I want you sailor.

I don’t want ordinary.

Give me extraordinary any day. 

Muchos love,

Olive

X

The Navy effect: When goodbye doesn’t mean goodbye.

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.

(not actually popeyes hand btw)

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.