How a military family copes with active service

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army, army life, active service, PapTont.com
British troops boarding a an RAF Merlin helicpoter in Jordan. Pic credit below.

One of my absolute favourite bloggers is Tony Pitt, the man behind the LifeOfTont blog. Tony is a military man. I thought I’d ask Tony what impact it has on family life when you are deployed on active service for months at a time.  Here’s the brilliant post Tony and his wife provided. I’m over the moon to be publishing it here.

For me, the beginning of a new job brings with it the realisation that I am now outside of Army harmony guidelines. Individuals should not exceed 415 days of separated service in any period of 30 months. My last tour was in 2012, which means as I start my new job the chance of me being told to go abroad is that much greater.

On the whole a soldier’s day-to-day routine is actually quite simple. Within the circles that I have moved, the working routine is mostly 8-5, sports afternoons on Wednesdays, and an early finish on Fridays, all in an attempt to maintain some degree of work life balance. Others of course find themselves regularly on training exercises or working demanding hours, but on the whole the Army is a regular working environment. This does come with a caveat: at any given time, as individual augmentees, we can be mobilised and asked to be on an aeroplane going to different climes within 24 hours to 30 days notice. This degree of uncertainty is exhausting, and I have apologised to my family many times for putting them through it. You can’t plan for anything; you can’t make long-term arrangments; and you have to be conscious of where you go to visit family just in case you have to rush urgently back. You learn very quickly to take out cancellation insurance with every booking you make. Above all though, you have to always make sure that the family is prepared for your disappearance for any period of time.

But this post isn’t about my thoughts on going abroad. Too much focus is on the impact that our working commitment has on us; what about the family we leave behind? The military spouses, because there are Army husbands too you know, have to deal with everything in our absence and I mean EVERYTHING; often because of the locations we work, they are estranged from their own families and have no support. One blog that I would thoroughly recommend reading, if you want a taste of what military spouses have to contend with, is The Real Military Housewife aka The Nomad Who Wears Lipstick. Her post From Prayers to Prosecco shows us in great detail what is required:

“From childcare to mealtimes, groceries to doctors appointments, dog walking to lawn mowing, house work to parent / teacher meetings, play dates to paracetamol, football practice to tea parties, hosting to bin collection, tantrums to teenagers, homework to period cramps, nursing to nightmares. All on us. No respite. More often than not alone with no family within helpful reach. This can be for a week to months at a time.”

But her post From Deflate To Relate really resonated with me. She bravely and graphically shows how close the arduous nature of living the military life as a spouse can push you to divorce.

So for this post, I have asked my wife to write 5 pros and 5 cons that she has personally experienced from the times that I’ve had to leave the family:


• The worry. Constantly wondering if they are safe and ok, where they are, what they are doing and if they are happy.
• The fear. IF they will return home at all. The most awful and upsetting thing to think about, but is always at the back of your mind. Feeling sick with fear.
• The time apart. It’s difficult in many ways: you miss them, so try to keep busy and normal, especially for the kids but then feel massive guilt when you do smile or have fun without your loved one. They are so far away, in a potentially awful place doing an extremely demanding and important job.
• Absence from the children. Will the kids forget who daddy is, or will they be ok? Constantly worrying about whether the kids will be sad or withdrawn, how will they cope with just one parent at home? What about when the absent parent returns, will the children return to normal when they come home?
• The responsibility. Being left to be responsible for everything is cripling and at times overwhelming.
• Mixed emotions. You spend so long developing and building a routine, a life without them and then, if fortunate enough to get some R and R, they just demolish it for 2 weeks before disappearing again and leaving me to pick up the pieces. You are so happy for them to be home, even if it briefly, but then they are upsetting the apple cart.


• Time apart. For some this can be a good thing as it gives both parties a chance to reflect and learn to appreciate the other all over again, developing a deeper respect for one another. Absence really can make the heart grow fonder.
• The pride. It’s heart bursting. That feeling of utter pride of your partner is the best feeling in the world.
• The home-coming. The butterflies and excitement. Feeling wonderfully warm, fuzzy feelings when they’re back in your arms is like falling in love all over again.
• The money. Often being away means getting a little extra money and is a fantastic opportunity to save some money.

I for one think that it is not the soldiers, sailors, or airmen that make the Armed Forces so great, it’s the supportive families behind them. The parents, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and children who all dig deep and put aside their own personal agenda in order to show their respect, love, and adoration of the service person in their life.






Super Busy Mum


Pic credit: SAC Tommy Axford. Reproduced under Creative Commons agreement.

41 thoughts on “How a military family copes with active service”

  1. What a wonderfully written piece. It fills me with pride when I hear serving spouses acknowledge the role their partners play. Your wife is so incredibly spot on in her list and I admire her honesty.
    Thank you so very much for mentioning my pieces of work, it’s really nice to know that we are all in this together. We are a special breed aren’t we?! Well done, Tony!

    1. It’s quite ironic, while I like to shy away from my military service and keep quiet about it, she really swells with pride. I was once attacked in Peterborough just because I was in uniform and try to be as discreet about it as possible when I’m out and about in case someone takes offence at my job. It really saddens me that I don’t get the same feeling wearing my uniform in public that the Americans do.

      1. Oh wow, you were attacked simply for being in uniform? That’s shocking. Really sad that type of thing happens.

      2. Absolutely Prabulous

        I’m utterly amazed that you would be insulted for being in uniform. You’re right, the respect the Americans have for their soldiers is amazing.

    2. Thanks for commenting Jade. ALl creit to Mr & Mrs Pitt. I used to work with a lot of RAF guys and wanted to shine a light on this aspect of military life.

  2. Great article from Tony. It really helps to put in perspective the issues and benefits we have living the lives we do. Even though I have a spouse who works shifts in public service and sometimes feel like a single parent myself, I’m never going to experience the kind of fear and worry that a military spouse does. It also helps me to understand the challenges my sister in law has faced over the years. Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout John.

    1. A pleasure to link up Sam, but on this occasion all the credit goes to Tony and his wife. Thanks for hosting.

  3. Thank you for sharing and for all that you and your families do. I can not imagine what life would be like with my significant other in the service. You all have a great deal of courage. #wineandboobs

    1. I can’t imagine how military families and marriages work. I have the greatest of respect for those that live this life.

  4. Katie @ patchworkgiraffe

    Thanks for the interesting read. My husband is in the TA and served in Iraq. We often talk about what it would be like for him to be posted now that we have kids and if it would be worth it. #wineandboobs

    1. I can only imagie what those conversations are like! It would probably be very different second time aorund. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Thanks John for giving me the opportunity to put this on your blog. What would be great would be if a military husband came across this and shared his view on the matter; whether it’s the same or different and whether being a husband of rather than a wife of makes him feel more or less welcome within the spouse community.

    1. Tony, thanks for your efforts. I used to work with a lot of RAF guys and girls and so I had a little insight into this already. I just think it’s a part of life that most people know nothing about and I wanted to raise awareness. Brilliant post! Thanks for contributing to my blog.

  6. This is a really good post and thank you for sharing it. I don’t think many of us stop to think about the family required to support our military. The family are the real heroes and I don’t think we congratulate, thank and recognise their long suffering efforts enough. These military housewives are better women than me. I certainly couldn’t do it, but I have the utmost respect for those who do. Thank you for your post. I really enjoyed reading it.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. The credit must go to the man himeslf, tony from the Paptiont.com blog. Oh, and his wife for her valuable contribution.

  7. Absolutely brilliant post and I will definitely be looking up those blogs mentioned. As an Expat with a hubby who worked away Monday to Friday for the first 6 years I know the challenges and loneliness of raising kids largely alone. But my husband wasn’t going to work in a potentially life threatening situation! I think you are right. It is the families who take this pressure and who also deserve real recognition. Thanks for sharing this! #MMWBH

  8. Jennifer {The Hollyhock Door}

    Really interesting post — I’m the first generation in my family who is not or don’t have a partner in the military so this gives a much better sense of what so many of my loved-ones have gone through. Thanks for linking up #mmwbh

  9. Wow! That is an amazing post! I have so much respect for members of our military and knowing how the spouses and other family members deal with them being gone is so educational and can really put things into perspective. Thanks for sharing!

  10. What an insightful post. I saw this on the Dad Network Facebook page and wanted to check it out but got sidetracked. I glad I found it on #wineandboobs. I don’t have any experience with a military family but I can certainly appreciate the sacrifices that both spouses and children have to make. Good job.

  11. Great post Tony, very honest and insightful.
    I’ve always had the utmost respect for my mum who went through numerous deployments with my dad all whilst looking after 4 kids, crazy lady! Coming from a military family I’ve seen first hand just how strong the ones left behind really are, well done on highlighting their side of deployments.

    1. It’s a unique situation they find themselves in, for sure. The majority don’t choose this life, they just happen to fall in love with someone already in it. I remember my mum having a t-shirt that read “Army wife, hardest job in the world” while I don’t necessarily agree with that, it’s certainly up there.

  12. Great post and lovely to see the insight from both sides of the relationship. It really brings home the sacrifices that are made by everyone in a serving soldier’s family, not just the soldier themselves.

  13. A truly lovely heartwarming post
    What you and your family go through every time your called up for duty must be difficult but I can’t say Thank you enough. It’s because of committed families like your that the rest of us get to live the lives we’ve become so accustomed to

  14. Absolutely Prabulous

    Lovely post. I particularly related to the preparing for the spouse coming back and then going away again and the ‘upsetting the apple cart’ bit. We’re not a military family but my husband worked away for two months at a time for three years while our 3 kids were all under the age of 8. It almost finished us to be honest. One of the toughest times in my life.

    This is a beautiful post. Thanks for writing it. #thetruthabout

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