By Anita Doberman: Guest Columnist
As if being a military wife is not difficult enough, I sometimes find myself wrestling with what I call the “super military wife syndrome.”
This condition lies dormant, but can become very aggressive when activated.
It peaks during husbands’ deployments, when the sufferers attempt to become Super Heroes. In the wives who are affected, the symptoms usually manifest as taking on a million activities for the kids (all sorts of sports and play groups), and for one’s self (spouses club, squadron support functions, volunteering for parties, welcoming committee, parent-teacher groups), with the inevitable result of not being able to fulfill every obligation, and falling short of these unreachable standards.
The first sign that I am under the spell of this syndrome is an obsession for keeping things organized. I have an urge to box everything in sight into cute Pier One baskets (concurrent problem, I yearn to buy lots of expensive baskets).
If I could, I would wrap my entire home in wicker. Having five children, ranging in age from newborn to 5 years old, two dogs and a cat, this is not an easy task. How many times a day can I tell my 2-year-old to put things in her own basket, and try to keep the house neat now that daddy is away?
Next, I attempt to become a super hero. I decide that I need to get more involved. Does any military spouse committee need volunteers? Should I host a coffee at my house? Should I help out with the thrift shop, run for president with the parent-teacher organization at my oldest daughter’s school?
I find myself trying to fill my imaginary basket with many impossible tasks while telling others that I am doing great. I can barely tell my husband is gone. I am so busy I forget when he is getting back, never mind the large Xs on my calendar — they are solely for my children’s peace of mind.
I see the same phenomenon in other military spouses. One of the wives in our squadron decided to change the carpeting in her home by herself before her husband got back from deployment. Her level of stress reached unparalleled heights. She had to call a professional shortly after attempting the impossible task and driving herself on the verge of a breakdown.
Another wife, who home-schools her children, decided to try and double up their schedules so they could be done with school work by the time her husband got back — they fell very behind.
One particular wife, immune from the super military wife syndrome, announced to other wives (which unbeknown to her were affected by the syndrome), that she could not handle the separation from her husband, and was going to move back home for a few months, until he got back.
Her words echoed through our group and soon became gossip. “She cannot even drive herself home; her dad had to come and pick her up. She is going to seek professional help for her ‘problem.’ I have heard she wants to get a divorce.”
This wife’s actions accentuated our syndrome. Our response was the result of our inability to admit that we also needed some help. True, many of us did not have the luxury of going home to our parents (maybe we would not want to anyway), but this wife showed us she was not afraid to admit her fears.
The cure for the super military wife syndrome is found in her attitude. We may not be able to drop our world because our husbands deploy (in our squadron we would have to drop it every four to five months), but we can admit that we cannot do it all by ourselves, without feeling guilty or inadequate.
It is very difficult to be two parents at once; to continue with our usual roles and fulfill our husbands’ tasks at home — OK, the few that they have. In admitting that we need support and help, we find strength with other wives who step in and give us a helping hand, a good laugh, or a much-needed cry.
So, next time you are affected by the super military wife syndrome know there is a cure.
And if anyone knows of a really large basket, I would love to get my hands on it.
Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida. The family expects to be moving to Cannon Air Force Base in the next year. Contact her at: