By Heledd Kendrid
The day I married my husband I didn’t realise how much I would be marrying into the institution. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a rant. It’s not my nature and equally wouldn’t go down well with my counterparts, who have lived this reality for years without so much as a rumble of complaint. However, last night was a typical day for me really.
I’m working long hours at the moment to get my business off the ground and with two young children to manage I’d be fooling myself if I said it was plain sailing. Being a Military Mum is different; you’re a single parent 80% of the time added to that you’re away from family, friends and the natural support structure you would have created for yourself had you been a single parent. You are everything and more; you are the cook, the cleaner, the taxi service, the disciplinarian, the mother, the entertainer; you do bath times, storytimes, fun times; you spend your time formulating a structure that makes his job easier as you can’t rely on them to be there all the time.
I know because I’ve been a career woman working in the City of London, Canary Wharf with the suit and the power pay. I’ve also been single Mum, on my own with a young child. I met my husband when my daughter was a few months old having left her Father, because he was blatantly a completely unsuitable Father. I fell in love with my husband because he was a caring , good man who worked hard and loved my daughter as if she was his own. (But that’s another story, I married him because I loved him.) You see, I know the struggles of a single Mum on benefits but now I know the struggles as a military mum and believe me the latter is a much bigger struggle.
Take last night for example, it was a family social occasion. I was expected to have clean, tidy presentable children by 5pm at the mess, not to mention myself in high heels and a clean tidy happy me wearing a dress which covered my shoulders, was knee length and was not too revealing, ( I do have images of a slut march through the camp at times) the dogs needed walking, the guinea pigs feeding, oh, and the kids. Sprinkle this, with a working 14 hours a day from home at the moment.
It was 4.15 (sorry, 16.15 hours) and sometimes things have to give. Last night was one of those nights. We had meltdown from my 4 year old daughter, who was so tired from a busy weekend camping (I had decided to drive down to Cornwall with 2 kids to take them camping as Dad was working) she just wanted to snuggle down in front of the telly. She unleashed the full monty of tears and tantrums.
I called my husband who again couldn’t answer the phone as he was too busy to explain to him that we couldn’t possibly make it tonight. By now it was 4.40pm. Harri my 2 year old had dried baked beans smeared all over his face and Aderyn was only beginning her meltdown. All I wanted was to get them to bed and sit down with a large Gordon’s gin.
Like a Flash my husband arrived, briefly played with the kids, ran up the stairs leaving a trail of destruction amongst what was an already chaotic house, showered and left saying he needed some aftershave. I had a quick peck on the cheek and he was gone.
6am the next morning, no husband, I call, (this is not out of character as I’ve been here too often), eventually he stumbles in through the bedroom door. Immediately, he was on the defensive, telling me that he wasn’t that drunk, slept on the sofa as not to wake me and went to work telling me that I over reacted and I need to take a grip.
Now, reading this you would think this is the most objectionable man you have probably met, but without sounding like a doormat, it’s the job. It’s OK to drink and expect your wife to pick up the pieces, despite the mad day she’s having. Some wives I know they don’t allow it but then apparently these guys aren’t respected at work. They’re seen as feminine and under the thumb, ‘pussy whipped’ and that doesn’t demand respect from your soldiers. Funny that the military push the fact that a strong home underpins good fighting power and in turn an effective workforce. So falling short of me walking out nothing will change him.
You see, my husband comes from a good family. His father is a headmaster, his mother runs her own childcare business, his brother happily married is a teacher and his sister is a nurse you couldn’t find a more supportive family. Even with this stable base, my husband feels he has something to prove, an identity, one of the lads, someone who is in control of him and his woman. As that is all I am to him and the military, there are three people in this marriage; myself, my husband and the MOD. If he had a job in civvie street this wouldn’t happen.