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I’m Sorry You Are NOT a Military Family–So Put That In Your Pipe And Smoke It.



I’m in TJ Maxx and somehow I find myself talking to a stranger about the Navy and I become exasperated.

I’m so tired of hearing people say to me “I don’t know how you do it–I could NEVER do it”—referring to the fact that my husband is in the military. I can’t help but feel really annoyed.  I know there is a complement in there but it still bugs me.  To me, it’s saying “Wow I feel sorry for you because your life is so hard”. And, again, I know the intent is not to make me feel bad but it does.  My family might have different challenges than you but we all have challenges.

Yes, I have experienced deployments with small children.  This gave me the opportunity to flipping dig deep!  Want to know what you are made of?  Get rid of your safety net.  That’s what deployments do.  You are on your own and you have to figure it out.  Sometimes you are in a brand new place too.  And it’s hard.  You don’t always have the luxury of someone to bail you out, relieve you, or back you up.  What are you going to do?  Fall apart?  Maybe.  But don’t we all from time to time?  You pick yourself back up and keep trucking through.  I got resiliency training from those deployments.

Yes, I have moved a fair amount.  It has averaged every 3 years more or less.  Dislike your neighbors? Awesome, you get to move soon.  Don’t like your city?  Ditto.  Have too much stuff?  Well moving is a great motivator to purge.  Always wanted to try a new area of the country?  Or even world?  Want to make new friends?  Want to start over?  Want to create new habits?  Want to try a new job? Well we get to do that.

No my parents don’t live down the street, nor do any relatives live nearby, or my childhood best friend.  There are cars, planes, phones, new friends to make (and that doesn’t mean they replace the old ones), and now I get the opportunity to DIG DEEP (see above).

I have health insurance, my husband has job security, and I have friends EVERYWHERE.  For real.  I mean I really do have friends all over the country and the world.

Yes, I have to say good-bye to really good friends.  I also get to say hello to really good friends when our paths cross again, and again, because they always do.

I don’t want to live forever in my hometown.  I don’t want the same house for years and years.  I like making new friends, seeing new places.  No, I don’t like it when my husband leaves.  But I bet you don’t like things you have to deal with too.  It’s life.

I don’t want to pick on your life.  So if you see me please don’t say “I don’t know how you do it” because I’ll have to say the same thing back to you.


If you like this post check out:

Downsizing Part 3, Downsizing Part 1, Hurricanes, 11-11


  1. I know I am one of those folks that say…”I don’t know how you do it.” The intent was from a positive place. But after reading your blog, I can understand your view and will be more sensitive in the future. Love you DIL

  2. Larisa says

    Nice closing line. I may use it in my class. Don’t worry, I will copyright it. : )

  3. I am a military wife and I was taught to appreciate anything that is said with good intentions in mind. When someone says “They don’t know how I do it?!”, I take it to mean that they are acknowledging the fact that I have had to make sacrifices that they have not had to make. I appreciate the acknowledgement and move on. No need to be angry, I’m a military wife and don’t have time to read further into it than that. Let’s always remember that IT’S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS!!!!

  4. Stephanie says

    Loved this! My husband ran across this on FB and shared it with me. Turns out he knows your husband from the Navy!

  5. Darcy Durbin says

    Love this!! I’m enjoying some if these benefits now… job, moving to new part of country, PURGING!! I hope I get to see my friend again sometime soon!!

  6. Ingrid says

    Thanks for voicing how I have always felt. Love my military life and with retirement looming, it scares me to death ~ Not moving, staying in one place ~ I don’t know how I will do it!

    • Christy says

      We just retired in July, the couple years leading to retirement, the thought made me actually sick to my stomach.
      The last months leading, I felt myself “ready” and now, well I don’t miss a thing about AD, except that we won’t ever be “stationed” in Germany again, but we can always take a HOP over there!! 🙂
      Retirement has turned into a beautiful blessing!

  7. Kerri says

    I would have to agree with Laura that it’s the thought that counts. Your article I felt was so full of anger. Of course I’ve had this same sentence said to me usually during a deployment, but I always thought the person was trying to be nice and sympathetic. I hope you remember the next time you are talking with a stranger that you are a civilian too unless of course you have served in the military. We might know the lingo and the sacrifices, but when it comes down to it, we are just civilians.

    • Hi Kerri, Thank you so much for reading my post! Yes, 10 out of 10 times people are being kind. Sometimes the delivery of the statement, the timing, and/or how I receive it are not at their most optimal–and then I rant (lol). Thanks again for reading! Jen

  8. Jennifer says

    I don’t “hear” any anger in this post. It’s probably because I know the blogger personally and I can visualize her mannerisms, her tone of voice, and her good humor. When I read this I “hear” every other Spouse I’ve ever laughed with about the unique-ness of doing this thing that we do. Carry on … I’m with you, Jen!

  9. I have said this phrase repeatedly. And it is NEVER from a sense of pity, but one of wonder and awe. Take it as a compliment that acknowledges your strength and resilience. Because, I would wager to guess that – more often than not – that is the real intent.

  10. Michelle says

    Great article. I live in an area with lots of Navy families. I am sure I have said, “I don’t know how you do it”…and the truth is, I don’t! I cannot imagine moving all the time, or having my husband deployed, or missing holidays as a family unit; not to mention the dangerous work that a military person does every day! I have so much respect for military families…they make such sacrifices for our country and our freedom. (And I do mean the WHOLE family—as they are ALL making sacrifices, not just the individual who is deployed). I will try to be more thoughtful when I speak….but I do hope that, even if I say something insensitive in the future, the military person or family member will realize the gratitude in my heart and know that we pray for our armed forces EVERY night. It isn’t so much with pity that I say, “I don’t know how you do it…” It is more with a sense of awe and admiration and deep deep respect.

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