Monday, September 9, 2013

Military Monday: Separation and Reunion (Kathy Gaudet)

I'd like to welcome a very special person to the blog today: my sister, Kathy (Corey) Gaudet. Kathy has a special perspective to bring to the blog. She spent 9 years as a medic in the military, met her first husband (who also wore the uniform) there, and went through the pain and dark days of a difficult divorce. She persevered, reconnected with Bob, an old military friend, and they married a few years later.

Kathy and Bob know first hand the challenges of military family life, and over the past few years they have dealt with deployments and other separations, moves, retirement and the nasty echoes of post traumatic stress disorder.

Kathy has graciously offered to discuss a few topics with us over the next few months, and today she's talking about separation, and the problems that result from long periods of living apart. I'll let her tell it her way...

My sister! Kathy (Corey) Gaudet
The Hard Stuff (by Kathy Gaudet)

No one every said it would be easy being a military wife and it wasn’t.  I understood that my husband would be away frequently, but I never anticipated raising 3 kids on my own for a majority of the time.  I know that may military wives have similar stories, but this is mine.

For me, there was always a distancing period prior to my husband leaving for any tasking, course, or deployment. It wasn’t intentional, but instinctual. I started planning what I had to do and prepared myself for the task ahead.  I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my best friend, but there would be discussions and arguments about how things should work while he was away.  Planning if and when he would be coming home.  When leaving for a deployment, there was always fear that he would not return....

While he was away, it always took about a week for things to start running smoothly.  I became Mom and Dad.  We generally did not get posted close to family, so we were on our own.  I hope that I could rely on my friends if anything happened that put me out of commission for a few days.  I made sure there was a list of emergency phone numbers for family by the phone.

I learned to wait patiently by the phone in hopes of hearing my husband’s voice, even if only for a few short minutes.  I counted the days on a calendar down to the minute when I would see him again.  I prayed daily for his safety and that I wouldn’t have a Padre show up on my door step, which is never good.  Many nights I would cry myself to sleep, just wanting it all to be over.

Reunions were bittersweet.  With my husband being constantly away, there were the constant transition periods--the days when he did make it home on the weekends after being away.  There was always tension when he got home and some days you could cut the air with a knife. Should he be helping more, because I was so tired of doing everything?  While he was away, I did everything from making sure the kids got to school, working, my schooling, grocery shopping, cleaning the house, transporting kids to activities, paying bills, mowing the lawn, repairing the toilet, and so on. 

I was so used to running everything my way, I would become angry when he didn't do it the way I did.  I would fold and put laundry away in a certain spot, when he folded clothes, nothing fit in the drawer the way it normally did.  Not putting his dishes in the dishwasher just about drove me crazy, it meant more work for me.  It may sound trivial to get mad about that, but what was wrong with the way I was doing it? I don’t want another person to pick up after! 

Kathy and her husband, Bob Gaudet
When disciplining the children, I would ground them and stick to the punishment.  When dad got home, the kids always asked him if they could go out, they new he would generally say “Yes.”  He didn’t know they were grounded or had restrictions for reasons, because we hadn’t spoken about it due to time restraints. Or he wanted to be the good-time dad because he was leaving again in a few days and wanted to see the kids happy.

It was difficult for the kids, not knowing how to deal with discipline from two parents and at times they would play us against each other.  I would be lenient in some areas, as I just didn’t have the time or energy to fight with the kids over minor things.  I loved it when the kids were invited over somewhere for a night.   I could also be very strict, and I worried more than the average mom about their safety. I didn’t need more things to occupy my mind. 

As for my husband, he wanted to have some rest and relaxation, stay at home doing nothing. I wanted to get out and go do things--things normal couples do, like dress up, going out for dinner, and just have some adult time.   While living apart due to work, my husband stayed in hotels or under canvas (in tents).  He would eat military food or meals from restaurants almost every night.  When he came home he wanted a home-cooked meal, wanted to sit in his chair, have a beverage, and spend time with his family.

Hope this gives you a small glimpse into what it is like for a military mom.
Thank you, Kathy! Living apart is never easy, and the weeks after military spouses return from a deployment or other military duty are often incredibly stressful. Thank you for your honest account of how difficult it can be. I'm sure many of my readers can relate.


  1. Thanks Kathy, for an open and honest story. It doesn't matter how many military wives have lived this story - you've expressed your story so eloquently. Your journey is not one to be undertaken by the faint of heart. You rock.


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