The Meat & Potatoes of Life: Military families have a hidden ‘I’ in team — responsibility

| April 18, 2014 | 0 Comments


Lisa Smith Molinari
Contributing Writer

At regular intervals throughout his 26-year military career, my husband has been promoted. Each time this happens, there is a little ceremony, during which my husband gives a brief speech.

After two decades of being married to a Navy man, I have that speech pretty much memorized.

“Captain so-and-so, thank you for the wonderful introduction. Also, kudos go out to Petty Officer Whatsisface for the lovely decor and delicious cake. (Then, he clears his throat.)

“When I joined the Navy (#) years ago, I never imagined making (his current rank). I merely aspired to learn, to travel the world and to serve my country. But I stayed in the Navy because I love my job.

“And the reason I love my job,” he continues, “is because of the people I’ve been fortunate enough to work for and with. (Then he names various people in the command, to include Adm. Whooziewhat, seated nearby.) But there is someone else here that I need to recognize. Someone, without whom, I would not be standing before you all here today. Someone who has been my teammate for (#) years, my wonderful wife, Lisa.”

Women swoon, men wink, cameras flash, I blow my husband a kiss and he smiles in return. And every time, at that moment, I actually believe it’s true.

Soon after, I find myself alone, changing the wiper blades, taking the dog to the vet, paying the exterminator bill and ordering our son to shave. My teammate is not around, because he is halfway across the globe. It’s not his fault; he’s working to support our family.

But, when I become the sole manager of our family, I am often frazzled, overwhelmed and unshowered, walking around like a crazed zombie in search of Sauvignon Blanc.

My personality waffles between deranged inmate and catatonic robot while I try my best to handle our chaotic home life on my own. This way doesn’t feel like teamwork, but more like some bizarre form of solitary confinement.

My husband just left for Italy. He’ll be gone for a only a week, then back for a week, then gone again to Alabama for a week, then home another week before he’s off again to Texas for another week. These little work trips are minor annoyances when compared to the long deployments other military folks are enduring, and besides, managing the home front alone gets easier the older you get, right?

Uh, not so much.

Like a blender that gives off a burning smell every time you try to make a frozen margarita, I used to work really well, but the older I get, the more likely it is that I’m gonna’ blow.

The kids tiptoe around the house, wondering whether I’ll force them to eat cheese and crackers again for dinner. But with the distraction of the DVR, therapeutic happy hours with the neighbors and a secret can of Pringles stashed in the laundry room, I know I will cope until my husband gets home.

I must admit I have come to enjoy certain aspects of my solitude — control of the TV, sleep uninterrupted by snoring, cheese and cracker dinners. And he, too, relishes his “me time” while on travel — total control of the TV clicker, sleep uninterrupted by his wife telling him to stop snoring and restaurant dinners.

B4_Military-Spouse_Hidden-Team_wDespite the suitcase full of dirty laundry and the generous gift of hotel mini-soaps he deposits with me upon returning home, we are undoubtedly happiest when we are together. But as a military family, we must often work separately toward our common goals.

As sports writer Amber Harding once said, “There most certainly is an ‘I’ in ‘team.’ It is the same ‘I’ that appears three times in ‘responsibility.’”

(A 20-year military spouse, Molinari appears in


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