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Maggie, Ryan and their toddler Alexander (all pictured above) have been an Army family for six years.
Army life is very different for us as we live apart a lot of the time. Ryan lives half his life as a soldier, living on camp and working, and then travels home on his days off. For me, he could really be doing any job away from home as we don’t live within an Army community and I have no friends who have partners with the same job. Living this way makes it much harder when he is deployed or away on exercise as it is even less time together as a family.
One positive is that we know Ryan is in a secure job. As we live in our own home we can decorate it as we please and make changes. It really feels like a home. It has meant we can be closer to family and we can separate our lives from Ryan’s work so life isn’t just about the Army.
The negatives are the uncertainty and how quickly things change. As we are not married and not living on camp we often feel forgotten about as a family. When Ryan was recently deployed for five months there was no contact from the Army to find out how I was coping. I was working full-time as a social worker with a toddler to care for. There are things like the JCCC but without signposting or a deployment welfare pack, this can go largely unnoticed and I only found out about it after he returned.
We have to cope as it’s our choice. It’s very hard though for Ryan to be away from Alexander and, with another baby on the way, it’s scary to think I will have to care for two children on my own most of the time. Thankfully we have family nearby who help when they can which is amazing.
The advice we would give to a new Army family in our situation is to be prepared for regular long periods apart from each other. You also need to accept that you will not get as much recognition or support as a married couple who live on camp.