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Boy have things changed since hubby and I first started dating. When we first met he was a Sergeant in the US Army. He was confident, determined, and….well..he looked goooood in that uniform. While I worked off and on during that time, I also had several years that I was a stay at home mom.
Fast forward 5 years.
My husband’s completed his time with the military. We’ve moved to a new state, where neither of us really knows anybody. I’m a working Mom and he’s a stay at home dad. The transition from a military family to a civilian family was a strain in itself. On top of that, assuming these new roles and routines has not been without its struggles. It can be hard, especially for my husband, who grew up being taught that it’s a man’s job to provide for his family. Even though my husband contributes financially (50% to be exact), he still struggles with feeling like he’s not doing enough.
Personally, I love our little family and how our roles have evolved. It pisses me off that we do get the occasional sly remark about my husband staying at home. I’m quick to put those fools in their place. Nobody would blink an eye if I were staying at home with the kids and my husband were working. But reverse it and, well, God forbid.
I’d like to add that hubby, bless his heart, is every bit as devoted to his role as I was when I stayed home. He cooks, he cleans, and he takes the girls to their activities and to the library. He makes sure that they are taken care of. He’s the reason I’m able to focus on my career, and not be overwhelmed with guilt all the time. Not only that, but he makes sure that when I get home, that I relax and take time to myself. I don’t know what I’d do without him.
Here are a few things that I’ve learned about having a husband stay at home and the transition from the military:
Forget about Stereotypes
Forget about what you were told a husband or a wife was supposed to do and what roles you’re expected to fill. Focus instead on what your family needs and the best way to manage those needs. Who cares who does the dishes at your house if your kids are happy and your bills are paid?
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Then communicate some more. Be clear with one another about your expectations. A college professor of mine once said that the number one reason for divorce is the difference in expectations. If you expect the other to help out in a certain area, say so. Don’t get mad when they don’t and assume they can read your mind (guilty!). They can’t. This has been a big one for us as we are both always concerned about the potential to hurt the others feelings. But in the end, it’s better to be open and honest rather than biting your tongue and de-valuing the situation.
Take Time to be You
Take time for your marriage. Scheduling regular date nights and alone time is crucial for your marriage. You’ll be a happier couple and happier parents, and your kids will notice. Remember, one of these days your kids will be grown and on their own. You don’t want to look across the table and realize that you don’t know how to be just a wife without being a mom too. So be sure when you do have time to yourselves, that you’re not just talking about the kids, focus on who you are when the kids aren’t around.
If you or your spouse is transitioning out of the military, be sure to get the support you need. Don’t try and pretend that your problems aren’t there. Instead, find a support group, a counselor, whatever will help. What works for me, might not work for you. But there is help out there. And if your spouse is struggling, it’s understandable that you may be under stress as well.
Personally, I found it very beneficial to go with my husband to one of his counseling sessions (note that this was not through the VA). His counselor had invited me for a group session and explained how some of his actions and thoughts are impacted by PTSD. It was very informative and eye opening for me to see how various pieces of the puzzle fit together. Afterwards I was much more aware of certain triggers and how I could help him if he was having a bad day.
When my husband transitioned from a soldier to a stay at home dad, he struggled with the fact that he had been so highly regarded as a soldier, seen as a hero, and now feels like he has no status. Offer reassurance and understanding when you can. It does get easier, I promise. I also suggest reading the Five Love Languages. This book helped me understand that my husband needs words of appreciation and love, whereas I feel more loved by acts of servitude (like doing the dishes). By learning how the other person feels loved, you can tailor how you show your love.