Remembrance Day is particularly poignant in our family, especially so for my husband. This year marking the hundredth year since the end of the First World War will be one where he’ll be notably reflective and one of the few he has spent not in uniform.
He has spent half of his life serving in the Navy. He only recently switched careers and came out of the forces, a huge transition in itself, and one he should perhaps talk about more.
Being a military wife was one of the main reasons I ended up working from home. It was a career choice that meant work was always portable, and I would always be able to pick up and go whenever the call arose.
The military wife
For a while, I was the wife who knew she wouldn’t see her husband for months at a time. Who relished a phone call at 9 pm when he’d managed to find a moment (and reception) to call, yet was left trying to suppress the rising disappointment that the call lasted less than 3 minutes, and I wouldn’t know when I’d hear from him again.
There was the frustration when at the moment he did call, from somewhere hundreds of miles away at sea, I’d be greeted with a prickling static crackle rather than his voice, and tried in vain to decipher his words; the moment when I almost wished he hadn’t called at all.
There were those times when he came home with the message, “There’s been a change of plan,” followed by the news that they would be leaving in two weeks’ time and would miss Christmas this year. When your plans to spend the next two months wedding planning are met with the words, “I’ve been bounced to a different ship; it leaves in three weeks.”
There were moments when I lay in bed, looking over at the space next to me, and wondered: Where are you? What are you doing right now? What is going through your head? What can you see right now? Is it the crash of waves you hear or something more sinister?
The times when emails went unanswered and there were no calls for days, and I hoped for my own sanity that it was just an impromptu comms blackout.
There was the deep pit of loneliness; the crying of your newborn, who you hold close, your little friend and companion on those lonely nights, whispering, “You’ll see your daddy soon.” But daddy is a stranger for the next 18 months.
There was the constant wondering and not knowing. The news that they’d been delayed, the news that: “Something has come up. It could be a few days longer.” But the days become weeks.
The life of a military wife is not always bad. However, it’s one of constant wondering, constant waiting, constant hoping. Waiting for the next posting, waiting for news, waiting for them to come home.
I’m grateful for the small things now; for being able to hang a nail for a picture I want on my wall, a wall I can paint whichever colour I want because my house now belongs to me, and is not allocated according to my husband’s rank. I’m grateful that I can put my children into a school where they can make friends and not have to be uprooted in two years’ time. I’m grateful I can pick up the phone and call or text my husband at a moment’s notice. I’m grateful that he can now share in the delight and incomparable joy of seeing his children change and grow.
Most importantly, I’m grateful that my husband comes home to me every night, and that when he goes to work, I don’t fear for his safety or the news, “There’s been a change of plan.”
Of course, I miss things too: the understanding of other wives and partners, that feeling of everyone looking out for each other, the sense of community.
There were moments when I lay in bed, looking over at the space next to me, and wondered: Where are you?
I know that privately my husband does too. It’s not simply the resilience, the discipline, the pace and adventure; it’s the trust you have in your team; the confidence that everyone with you has your back. There is no bond like those of men and women going off together knowing their lives are on the line.
The reason I wrote this was to give a little background as to how in part I come to be a homeworker.
It’s also my nod to those military partners whose strength and courage is inspiring; who raise families alone, who sacrifice their own jobs or career paths, who support and love people who might never come home.
It’s remembering those who still serve and continue to work for our protection, the families who are still waiting and wondering and hoping, and those who live each day with a hole that’s been left because of someone lost.
I often try to scrabble an hour or so at a weekend to do a bit of work, but I will be pausing at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, with so many others, to honour those no longer with us.
It’s a time when our nation falls silent to remember and pay our respects to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our security and freedom.
I have the freedom to work as I want, not just because I work from home, but because thousands upon thousands of men gave up their lives more than a hundred years ago.
I salute you. Lest we forget.