by Melinda Jones, Guest Contributor
Three years ago we had a PCS that was so bad, to this day we refer to it simply as The Move.
Our 12-year-old daughter cried every day for 3 months; everything about the area and our new home apparently “sucked.” My husband and I pampered, babied, cajoled, yelled and ignored. We did everything we could think of to bring our daughter out of her funk.
Yes, we even got a dog.
We told her that Dad only had 4 years of service left and we would do what we could to stay here and not have to move again. It took our daughter 2 years to fully assimilate and find her niche, 2 years to finally admit that she liked it here. Two years, the approximate length of 1 sea tour. As our daughter prepared for high school and my husband’s sea tour was coming to an end, we crossed our fingers and hoped that he would get shore duty in the area.
He didn’t and we were faced with our toughest decision yet: do we follow Dad to his next assignment, possibly endure The Move Part II or do we let him go alone and become a geo-bachelor?
I’ve been married to the military for almost 16 years and, up until last year, I thought we had been through it all: deployments, TDAs, moves gone terribly wrong, last-minute change of orders. These however, were all obstacles that we knew we would probably encounter at some point. We never anticipated being in this position.
Do We Move or Do We Stay? The Questions We Asked Ourselves
Do we let him go and reassure ourselves that we’ll be able to see him every few months? Do we justify it by telling ourselves that the time in between his visits will be shorter than a deployment? What about our marriage? This would be the first time that I wouldn’t be accompanying my husband not because the Navy said I couldn’t go, but because I chose to stay.
When I got married, I knew that separations were a part of the deal. In this case however, we’re not talking about being separated for a deployment; we’re talking about living separately.
How on earth are we going to keep from simply growing apart? It’s always a huge adjustment when he returns after a deployment, but what about after living separately for 2, possibly 3 years?
We talked about all of these questions and more. We weighed the pros and cons and we weighed them again. During the process, it struck me not only how odd it is to say “it’s OK for the kids to be away from their father for months at a time because it’s something they’re used to,” but also how odd it was that a family is even faced with such a decision. Not wanting a repeat of our last move, wanting our daughter to be able to start and finish high school in one place and realizing that our son was now at the age where moving would be hard for him as well, we decided it was best if the kids and I stayed.
Our Venture into Geo-Bachelorhood
We are now 1 year into it and I still grapple with whether or not we made the best decision. I feel like it was a lose-lose situation: either I risked my happy kids’ happiness and well-being once more as they are forced to say goodbye to everything, yet again. Or I live without my husband and the kids live without their dad for up to 3 years.
It’s hard, but honestly I think it’s been hardest on my husband. The sad truth is that the kids and I are used to him coming and going. Shore duty is supposed to be a time to reconnect with the family; to go to ball games and swim meets, to be at the parent teacher conferences, to share in the day-to-day ups and downs of family life.
Instead he’s 1,000 miles away, trying to connect through a series of 5-minute phone calls as we’re dashing out the door to one activity or another. It’s one thing to miss events when you’re out at sea, but to be “home” and miss them is proving to be very hard.
He has made it home every few months and things go pretty well, for the most part. We have learned that we can’t, and shouldn’t try to squeeze all of the important face-to-face conversations into a one-week period. I have also stopped second guessing myself. Will this prove to be the right decision three years down the road? I don’t know. All I do know is that we did what we thought was best at the time.
Melinda grew up in Oregon where her family has been for over a hundred years. Always the one to “do something different,” she married a sailor and has been moving ever since. Self-proclaimed professional mover and chauffeur of her two kids, Melinda writes wherever, whenever she can (often times while sitting in the car). As a freelance writer she’s had articles and stories published online and published a short story, “My Dad’s Delivery” in They Lied! True Tales of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Breastfeeding!