A blog from Army&You’s summer edition by Clare, @StokieBird
Up until getting married in 1998 my only association with the army was through my grandad, who served as a PTI in the Royal Artillery.
I remember my mum saying that he used to go away for years at a time and my nanna had to bring up her six children alone. I never thought that I would end up married to a soldier. I’d never lived away from home before and presumed everything south of Birmingham was London. I remember wondering how different my life would be away from my family and friends. I needn’t have worried because when you’re based on camp, you soon make friends. The wives’ club was my saviour when he was away, as was the antenatal group when I became pregnant with our son. A couple of years later our daughter came along on a posting to Northern Ireland.
Little did I know that my husband would be leaving me for seven months at a time, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. I remember my little boy running after his dad’s car as he left. We both cried as we returned to our empty home. Those were the most difficult months; my husband away, two children and trying to complete my degree in social work. Those times were heartbreaking, especially as we knew not everyone would return home. I was one of the lucky ones.
In 2018 the little boy who ran after his dad’s car told us that he wanted to follow in his footsteps. My heart sank. He’d decided this was the career he wanted. I felt emotionally drained throughout his training at Catterick. I was upset as we left him; worried about whether he’d be eating properly and would make friends.
There are similarities to being an army spouse and army parent – we worry, we cry, we wait, we wonder, we’re proud, and we’re relieved when they return home. However, the difference when my son joined up is that we could see what he was doing each week with video updates on social media. This helped me to understand his job and I found it very reassuring – something that wasn’t available to me when my husband was serving. The thing I find most difficult is that one minute there’s a house full, wanting to eat everything in sight and the next they’re away for weeks on end. It takes a while to adapt to the change in routine and achieve some sort of normality.
Thank goodness for the army community and for the support that I’ve received from other military spouses and families on social media.