Communication during deployments has come a long way. I feel spoiled when I think about my fellow military spouses of a generation ago who didn’t have the luxury of the technological advances we have today. Nowadays, we have email, Skype, Facebook, and blogs. Even letters and care packages sent through snail mail arrive at their destinations at an alarmingly rapid rate. As difficult as it is to be apart from our service members, most of us can’t complain about our means of communication.
I often wonder if my conversations with my husband during his deployment would be different if we didn’t have such a vast means of communication. Thanks to email, I can tell him anything at any time. But sometimes I question whether I should tell him everything. I don’t know how much he wants or needs to hear about the life he’s missing at home. He should be concentrating on his job, not worrying about his family on the home front.
Should I tell him about the rough days even though I know that my hardships can’t compare to his? I don’t know if I should tell him about stepping on a rusty nail in the attic and my subsequent tetanus shot. I don’t know if he needs to know about our washing machine that kept stubbornly tripping a breaker and the electrician who offered no answers other than our breaker box requires serious reorganization. Then there are the trips to the clinic and the auto shop, the rumors about the family of foxes roaming our neighborhood, and his plants that I somehow managed to murder (although technically it’s manslaughter because after all, I didn’t plan to kill them). Does he want to hear these things or does hearing them make him feel helpless?
How do I handle phone calls when I’m in a bad mood? Most of the time, the simple hello on the other end is enough to turn my rotten mood around. But there are times when the atmosphere in my house is beyond recovery. When both kids are throwing tantrums and I escape to the backyard so I can actually hear his voice over World War III, I still have to deal with my 2-year-old daughter running outside after me. Naked. I can’t exactly call him back when I’m in a better mood or the kids aren’t stripping off their clothes to wrestle. And I don’t want him hanging up the phone thinking his wife has lost her mind.
Part of my indecision about appropriate deployment conversation is that I’m tongue-tied. My husband and I are both talkers. But because he can’t discuss much of what’s happening on his end, I’m responsible for most of the conversation material. And I tend to buckle under the pressure, blurting out the first thing that comes to mind, which unfortunately includes whatever series of small disasters Murphy’s Law threw at me that day.
So I think back to those military spouses of years ago. Did they waste precious phone calls talking about the electrician? Probably not. I imagine they used their limited time to share loving words of encouragement. Then why did I waste the last phone call with my husband talking about jumpstarting his car (yes, I managed to manslaughter his car battery as well) instead of gushing about how thrilled the kids were when they received the treasure maps he sent them?
After much deliberation and the consultation of experts (i.e., other military spouses), I’ve decided to share it all, but to keep in mind the importance of timing and delivery. This isn’t the time to be a drama queen. I’ll focus on the good days because I know he’s happiest when we’re happy. I’ll also continue to tell him about the not-so-good days. But if possible, I’ll wait until those minor catastrophes have resolved themselves and I can retell those stories with either self-deprecating humor or a sense of pride for fixing something myself. And how will I handle those calls that interrupt World War III? Well, even the best of us have our off days. As long as the neighbors don’t complain about my daughter streaking across the yard, then I’ll let her be the drama queen of the family.