Today, Labour Friends of the Forces launches ‘Life as a military wife’, a monthly column by an anonymous military wife about the highs and lows of life in the armed forces community. If you have any questions for our columnist please comment below.
By an anonymous military wife.
My lawn is standing six feet high. The neighbours’ dog confidently roams about the back garden he has obviously claimed as his own over the past few months. My key doesn’t seem to work.
I wasn’t really anticipating ruthless military efficiency, but this was not the scene I was expecting to greet me at the start of my new life as a military wife.
Today is my first wedding anniversary and I am attempting to properly move into the military accommodation we hurriedly flung all our life possessions into a few months ago. And as I am surveying the jungle that seems to have shot up in my new back garden and wondering what on earth the neighbours will think, I hear a car pull up, bringing with it surely the best anniversary present anyone in my position could wish for?
For out of it climbs my husband. Tired from a journey that has lasted more than 24 hours. Dusty from several months spent in a baking hot desert. But, most importantly, returned safely to me from his first tour of Afghanistan. Any worries about the overgrown lawn seem to quickly fade into the background (although it will take us several washes to get that dust out).
As I am sure the sharpest of readers has worked out by now, my husband and I were married last year. Unconventionally, most of our first year of married life has been spent apart. He was posted to a new base soon after our wedding and then sent to serve overseas. So I, in turn, accepted work contracts that took me away from a new corner of the country I hardly knew, to be closer to my family and friends, during what I was sure would be a worrying time.
And so this is the very first time that I’ve lived the life of a military wife, on an active military base. And I’ve been asked to share the experience with Labour Friends of the Forces.
I should probably point out at this early stage that – as a feminist – I use the term ‘military wife’ with tongue firmly in cheek.
In fact, one of the greatest concerns I have about the military way of life is the challenges it presents to those aspects of me that go well beyond being a ‘wife’.
How will constantly moving around impact on the career I worked hard to forge? What about my friends and family, who live so far away? How much free time will the long and arduous commute to work leave me with to get to know the people in my new community? And how will a left-leaning political activist like me fit in amongst the rigidity of rank structure and ceremonial traditions of the base?
Only time will tell, I suppose.
Over the next year or so, along with sharing my experiences of life on the base, I’ll also be exploring some of the niggling issues that have already raised an eyebrow – like, feeling judged by my partners’ rank, rather than my own merits, or the worrying divorce rate amongst military families.
But I know there’ll be many upsides to life on a military base too.
For a start, it looks like a bloke on a sit-on lawn mower has come to cut that grass…..