Hey you guys, I’m back! All I can do is massively apologise for letting my blog slide these last few months pretty much a year. But like I’ve said to you before, I felt like a fraud, a trickster, a charlatan, basically for being happy.
The mythical shore draft was everything we have dreamt about (and by “we” I mean navy wives, not sailors).
I’ve had almost 18 months of help, of weekday evenings watching TVtogether, of having an actual adult physically there to co-parent with.
I have been living the dream and loving it.
But unfortunately, like every dream at some point you have to wake up
So I will be a “normal” navy wife again soon. Popeye is due back on ship at some point in the not too distant future and I will go back to living my life and routine at the whim of the Royal Navy.
It was fun while it lasted. I guess now the kids are a bit older I will have more stressful and slightly unhinged hilarious anecdotes to share with you.
I have visions of parents evenings, after school clubs and general feral children running through my mind. I can only assume that that, plus marriage to a sailor, will provide good writing material?
I’ve always been a glass half full kind of girl.
(P.S don’t forget to subscribe to Homeport magazine for exclusive articles written just for them! They are basically like the ones I write for here except Mike the Editor won’t let me swear.)
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.
I haven’t posted in a while, and to be honest it’s because I’ve been ashamed. And embarrassed.
You see, after about seven or eight years of back to back ship drafts and a deployment every year, Popeye finally, FINALLY got the holy grail of drafts. A shore draft. For 18 months.
I was excited. I was elated. I was apprehensive. We have NEVER spent this much time in the same area. He has NEVER been able to come home for this many consecutive evenings.
It was unsettling at first. Unnerving. Having to share my space and meal plan and consider him too. It was odd to have another adult around so consistently to parent our girls. It was weird to find housework tasks done, and to be able to split chores equally and daily.
And the reason I didn’t blog about this before now is the total overwhelming all consuming guilt I have felt, and still feel, about how awesome it is.
Despite several Well Meaning People giving me sage advice like “you’ll be sick of each other in a week”, and such nuggets of wisdom as “you’ll be wishing he was back on deployment in no time” what I have actually found is that I love having Popeye home. It’s great having the love of my life, father of my children here. Physically, emotionally here.
With that came huge waves of guilt.
How could I possibly blog to hundreds, possibly thousands of other military partners about how great this is?!?!
Surely that would be rubbing salt in the wound that is deployment.
But. After speaking to my sister, and some of my Navy Wife BFFs I was urged to blog.
The whole purpose of this blog is to give an honest account of Navy Wife Life. And this is part of that life. To ignore it because I’m awkwardly British and don’t want to tell anyone how happy I am would be doing you guys a disservice.
Also I want to shine a light and let you know there are such a thing as shore drafts! They really exist! They do! Spread the word!
Like some mythical unicorn Popeye has a shore draft. And for a chef to get a shore draft is really quite mythical indeed.
So for a few more months at least I’m going to enjoy every second.
After all these years I think we’ve earned it. Your time will come. And when it does be proud, shout it from the rooftops, and try to ignore the little voice in your head reminding you that soon, this bubble will burst and it’ll be business as usual.
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*
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.
I was so worried Popeye wouldn’t bond with our eldest, Sweetpea. He was deployed for 7 months and I was terrified he would miss the birth.
Which of course he did, by about 35 minutes.
At the time it was my worst fear come true. But after a few hours in labour I really couldn’t give a flying fuck if he was there or not as I realised only I could do this. Not him. Me. Even with my amazing sister there as support, there was only one fandango available for the 8lb 3oz of blessing to shoot through.
So Sweetpea arrived safely at home, as planned. Phew.
Popeye turned up half an hour later which gave me just enough time to arrange myself like My Lady Mother complete with non medusa hair and clothes on.
I was petrified he wouldn’t bond with her.
He was only home for four weeks and after that gone for another 5.5 months.
I spent those four weeks willing them to bond, to have a magical father daughter connection etc etc. This is very tricky when exclusively breastfeeding a baby with a tongue tie and jaundice who spends 23 hours a day onyou.
Not that much “quality time” could happen.
Turns out this is normal for new babies. Babies need to be on their mum. Next to them, being held, being fed, puking all over, shitting all over, sleeping on their mum. Then feeding some more for good measure.
So Popeye left me with this four week old feeding pooping machine and flew back to his ship in the Middle East.
Time passed, homecoming happened! We were reunited as a family at last.
And it was fine.
Popeye and Sweetpea bonded brilliantly. They had an immediate connection and she’s now a real daddies girl. Breastfeeding her had no negative impact on their bond, it just meant I was stuck doing bedtimes for a bit.
And they are still so close. Even when Popeye deployed again for 9 months this time, when she was two. They really are thick as thieves and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
All my worrying was for nothing to be honest. Him being deployed did not negatively effect his relationship with his baby.
It took him some time to get to grips with the practicalities. Like how to put babygros on them. And to always have a pocket of wipes within arms reach.
And the somber knowledge that we will never feel rested again was hard for him to get his head round but all in all I have never been so glad to be proved wrong!
Plus he owed me so many nappy changes when he came home. Kinda made it worth it in itself 😉.
When I was pregnant again with Sproglet I wasn’t so worried.
This was because I knew
Only I can give birth, so whether Popeye is there or not is kind of irrelevant when you get down to the nitty gritty.
They will bond, whether that’s now or in a few months.
It’s not the job that stops some men being the best dad they can be.
It’s not the quantity of time you spend with your baby it’s the quality.
Look on the bright side, he will have to make up for it with nappy changes and giving you naps for all the night wakings. SCORE!
In short it’s the man not the military that influence if they will be a good dad or not.
The phone rings- I go all Phone Ninjaand leap the dog to answer it- it’s Popeye of course.
My heart leaps, my pulse races- just to hear his voice on the other end of the line is AMAZING.
“What’s that I can hear in the background?” He asks.
“I’m cleaning out the bath with bleach” replies me, “we had a toddler incident this afternoon involving dog poo, bare feet and the slide- so what have you been up to?” <frantic scrubbing>
“Oh it’s awful here I’m missing home so much”.
“Yes Popeye we miss you so much too- but what have you been up to?”
“Nothing much, you know, I’m so so tired I’ve just sat by the pool and read my book”.
I pause from scrubbing possible dog shit residue out of the bath and stand there in our bathroom with bleach water dripping down my forearm.
“What did you just say?”
Not realising the danger he’s in, the poor tired lamb, repeats himself.
“I just rested by the pool and finished my book”.
I give a slightly maniacal laugh, perfectly timed against the background noise of toddlers screaming and yelling and some suspicious thuds coming from the living room.
“You. Have. No. Fucking. Idea.”
I literally bite my tongue. I’ve never done that before. It hurts but it works. It stopped me from going nuclear on Popeye.
I managed to condense it down to only a five minute rant about his lack of perspective, empathy or understanding of what my day to day looks like.
Because I bit my tongue I managed to scale it back to only a handful of F bombs and C words.
Because I bit my tongue I only once told him that he has no idea I would actually shave all the hair off of my head to be sitting by a pool reading a book. I would buy a wide brimmed hat and style it out.
I then stuttered that I had to go. Hung up on him and poured myself a very large wine.
I stuck my feet in the paddling pool and read slow cooker recipes off of my phone.
Whether or not Popeye is deployed, I like to think I am a fairly sane and rational woman. I like to think I’ve got it together, the house is towing the line, I’m ticking all the boxes at work and (now) also being a super-awesome-military-spouse-parent-unit thing. My life is organised and above all safe. Living alone without a big hulky sailor around can give you the heeby jeebies late at night. And so I take steps to make our house an impenetrable fortress of solitude and safety.
I will check the front door with Obsessive Compulsive thoroughness, once, twice a night, just before and during criminal minds or the walking dead, and once again on the way up to bed.
I will be so paranoid I’ve left the oven on I will wake up in the middle of the night to check, or (this has happen three times) turned around mid commute to work to double check I’ve locked the front door.
I don’t talk to strangers. I have my phone in my coat pocket whilst walking the dog. I have an attack alarm primed and ready to scream at any would be attackers. I always tell my mum or friend if I’m going to something possibly risky, like the pub gym.
I’ve noticed this homecoming though, that upon Popeyes fabled return to the Oyl homestead, I seem to display a flagrant disregard for the safety of myself, my family and my property that would leave my deployment alter ego shaking her head and swigging gin straight from the green glass teat.
All of a sudden it’s fine to leave the electric hob on. So we melted the dogs lead, it’ll make a funny story to tell.
The smoke alarm has been shut in the bathroom so it doesn’t go off when I make toast.
So you went out all morning and left all the downstairs windows wide open. Who cares , that’s what windows are supposed to do, be open. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be fulfilling their window destiny. Or something.
Slept all night with the front door not only unlocked but also open after a slightly heavy night of post homecoming celebrations? Been there done that my friend, and after all the hallway needed an airing.
Get to the car only to realise it’s been unlocked all night? Not a problem, ha aren’t we such crazy homecoming kooks! Lucky we’ve got car insurance and all our CDs are scratched anyway.
In short, when Popeye is deployed I may take the personal safety thing a tad too far, I admit.
However I think that when he’s home I go too far the other way. I don’t seem to give a hoot if the house burns down, because at least we will all be together.