How to Cope with the Unpredictable Nature of Military Life

iStock_000022989536XSmallTrying to nail down my spouse’s arrival time has been a battleground of mass proportions in our relationship. Every day, I’d call him, just once, around 4 p.m. to get a check on what time he planned to be home…not because I longed for his presence…which of course I did…but mainly because I needed to know if my plans to make salmon for dinner was a good move or not.

So, Hon, What Time Can We Expect You Home for Dinner?

The “what time are you getting home” throwdown became a pretty significant part of our dynamics. He’d always have a reason why he wasn’t able to be home.

  • A final tasker.
  • Called in by the boss.
  • Someone caught him on the way out.
  • He got sucked into a project and didn’t realize the time.
  • A meeting ran late.
  • He’d told me yesterday he wouldn’t be home until late.
  • The dog ate his watch and a unicorn shat on his car.
  • Whatever.

I’d try to hold off dinner…fuming about how inconsiderate my other half was.  Didn’t he know how difficult the hours between 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. were for me?  It’s not easy to be the ringmaster, entertainer, dance party enthusiast, cleaner of the dishes, bedtime-wrangler while trying to coordinate a family dinner that accommodated everyone’s schedule (except mine)?

We’d argue the finer points of why I needed heads up…he’d tell me it was out of his control. I refused to accept that…surely he’s exaggerating, it can’t be that unpredictable. Ultimately, we decided that it was somewhere in the middle.

There were times he could’ve and should’ve wrapped up and stepped away to be home for dinner and other times it was totally out of his control.   I admitted that I lost a bit of understanding and I needed to be a bit more flexible…or rather inflexible.

Finding Flexibility in a Fixed Routine

We opted to set a fixed dinner time and bring an end to the will-you-won’t-you-be-home-for-dinner discussion. Dinner is served at precisely 6 p.m., give or take 15 minutes or so.


If hubby makes it home in time for dinner, great. If not, so be it. It takes the guess work out of planning around his unpredictable schedule and it keeps me sane so I’m not playing a game of double dutch with my game of do-I-don’t-I start cooking now.

Sometimes, he gets home early and we treat it like a treat. Sometimes he gets home partway into dinner and he joins us as soon as he walks through the door. Sometimes we don’t see him until after dinner and he postpones his meal until the bath-time rush is over.

It isn’t a perfect solution, but it works for us.

How do you accommodate the unpredictable nature of your military lifestyle?


  1. I love this post because it’s something we went through during Drill Sergeant duty! The expectations we have just sometimes have to be flexible–for anyone–not just spouses. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  2. Kara Schulte (@kmschulte)

    With being on Recruiting Duty, having a family dinner is just not an option. I’m still hopeful though. “I’ll be home early tonight” is still 8 and by 6 my stomach is talking to me. Now I just plan meals on if he’ll be in town or out of town for training. Sometimes the left overs are still warm when he gets home 🙂

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