I am with you here, Tessa. Thanks for the diary! -Elisa
I don’t know about you all, but it has always bothered me that the MSM only seemed to highlight the trials and tribulations of the mothers who are left behind when their spouses go off to war. I have repeatedly sat through Nightly News or CNN simply amazed that some producer hasn’t clued into the fact that the population of mothers in combat has jumped significantly in our latest conflicts; which in turn means there are husbands left behind as single parents.
Well, finally, Reader’s Digest has caught on.
At work, there is a daily clipping service of national news stories related to defense that is posted on the website. I read it everyday as a routine, and today, this article was the top of the pile. I have no idea what’s wrong with me, but I’ve been a bit of an emotional basketcase lately, and reading this made me cry in the middle of my work day. Hooray.
I’ll start with a little humor:
Before Christine left for Afghanistan, Clinton Collins slept dead to the world. Now his sleep is fitful as he listens for his little girls in the middle of the night or an unexpected phone call from his wife.
Ah, so this is a skill that can be learned? DH is in trouble now.
On to the tougher stuff:
But today, women account for about 200,000, or almost 15 percent, of personnel, and men are stepping into the caregiving role….They may be even more challenging for war dads. In the past three decades, the military has created a vast support network to assist wives and their families, providing counseling, child care, even lawn care. But the few men who have attempted to plug into the system say they feel awkward and often unwelcome.
This makes me sad, that even in such situations male caregivers are uncomfortable. I was at a birthday party for DD’s friend this weekend, and there were three dads at the party, and the division was definitely there, although unintentional. Since I had DS, I ended up hanging with the dads, and it was surprisingly awkward. I’m a bit disappointed in myself. I’d like to think if I had a neighbor in this situation with a deployed wife, I could reach out and find a way to help, but it seems to be harder than I thought.
This part of the story is what got me crying in the office:
As Kadet’s overseas deployment stretches on, her absence is keenly felt. On a spring evening at Hollo’s house, just outside Fort Campbell, Nick colors and watches cartoons. He squeezes a stuffed turtle’s flipper, summoning his mother’s voice: “I love you more than anything in the whole world. You’re the best little boy ever.”
“He used to squeeze it constantly,” Hollo says, then adds, only half joking, “I was afraid the batteries were going to die while she was over there.” Nick doesn’t squeeze the toy quite as much these days
What a daunting role for these men, to figure out the emotional pitfalls of the situation. Since many of these men in the article are former service members themselves, they don’t exactly come from a culture that encourages men to be touchy feely.
Some dads are slowly realizing the upside of the situation:
There is an upside to all of this. Collins says his relationship with his children is now deeper (though he has not yet mastered hair braiding). “My 12-year-old was getting to an age where she was relying a lot on her mom for girl talk,” he says. “Now she’s more open to discussing things with me, like what boy she thinks is cute in school. We’re becoming better friends.”
I feel like these dads haven’t been given their due, so I’m very happy to see this article in Reader’s Digest. Kudos to the editorial staff there: finally, someone figured it out. And I hope hope hope all of the moms come home, soon.