Greetings my fellow service members. I have just come from the belly of the beast and I would like to share my experience with everyone. You may be wondering what ‘beast’ I’m referring to. It is an experience that many of you have probably had— one that many have successfully survived with much more grace than I.
Temporary Duty Assignment or TDY is usually not a big deal. I’ve been on many a TDY without issue. But TDY is not the ‘beast’ I’m referring to. I’m talking about staying home with the kids, while your spouse goes on TDY. For all my dual-military parents out there, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I have never been on the ‘at home’ end of a TDY but let me tell you, I have a new found respect for the spouses who stay home to take care of the day to day operations.
Let’s set the stage, shall we. I am an Air Force reservist with the mighty 452nd Air Mobility Wing. I am your public affairs officer. My wife is in the 163d Reconnaissance Wing as a force support officer. We are both captains and we both love our organizations. Often times we argue about which wing is best, but let’s save some time for purposes of this commentary and agree that the 452 AMW is the best. So, a few weeks ago my wife finds out that she has to go to Germany for two weeks for some training. We were sitting at the dinner table and she asks me if I’ll be okay with the kids while she’s gone. I scoff and assure her that I am more than capable of taking care of our two young daughters while she is gone. I even playfully insinuate that I am better suited to take care of the kids than she is. She nodded, knowingly, and said, “Okay, we’ll see.”
That was that. A few days later, she left and I was in charge of the whole enchilada. No problem. That night I made lunches, laid out clothes, and prepared everything for the next day of school for the kids and work for myself. I went to bed proudly, knowing that I was completely prepared, possibly even over prepared.
The next morning I awoke and I was slapped with the harsh reality that there was definitely a problem for which I was definitely not prepared. As I was waking up my six-year-old and three-year-old, I realized that sometime in the middle of the night, my youngest daughter took the clothes I laid out for them and threw them in the toilet. I tried my best to shrug off the setback but then as we continued to get ready it dawned on me that I had to do their hair. Don’t get me wrong, I can tie up a ponytail with the best of them, but what I didn’t anticipate the pure anger and rage my daughters could display as I was trying to comb out the knots of the tangled bed hair. Flustered, we jump in my van and I got them to school with minutes to spare.
As we walked up to their classroom, I am greeted by their teacher with a disapproving look. “Looks like Daddy did your today, huh girls?” she said sympathetically. I sighed and took the dig. “Yes, I did their hair,” I say guiltily. Mrs. Teacher nodded and smiled mockingly. I got in my car, face the daily traffic and barely made it to work on time. That was two hours into day one of my time with my girls alone while Mom was away on a TDY.
As the days passed, I got better, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I really had no idea how much it takes to run a household alone. My hat’s off to all the single parents, military families, and anyone else who takes on the herculean task of running a family without a partner around to help. You all will forever have my respect. To the dads out there with daughters, if you’re looking on a tutorial on hair styling, YouTube has some great ones!