Saying goodbye is part and parcel of my job, but is it worth it? Saying goodbye might be something I've chosen to do, but my wife and kids didn't choose this life.

Saying Goodbye To Friends And Family

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Saying goodbye is part and parcel of my job, but is it worth it? Saying goodbye might be something I've chosen to do, but my wife and kids didn't choose this life.

Saying goodbye is, unfortunately, a big part of military life.  As callous as it sounds, I chuckled when I saw celebrities on ‘Get Me Out Of Here’ crying because they missed their families after one week apart; I found it amusing when I saw ordinary folk so desperate to see their friends and family after 48 hours of escape and evasion on ‘Hunted’ that they risked capture and losing the £100,000 prize money.  I should empathise, but I simply can’t.

Saying goodbye, for me, is something that I accept as part of my job.  Every two years or so, I have to move me and my family to anywhere in the world that the Army needs me.  Of course I can cite preferences, but the Army is very clear that “…the needs of the Army come first, but the aspirations of the individual and their family come a very close second.”  That means new friends for my children; new teachers and school friends every two years; new friends for my wife every two years; new boss for my wife, new colleagues for my wife and an entirely new community to get to be part of every two years.

It’s not just us saying goodbye to them, it’s them saying goodbye to us as well.  My wife made a very good friend in Biscuit Lady, and she’s just found out that she’s moving in January.  It’s fair to say that she’s my wife’s only real friend here, and now she’s moving.  We expected it, it’s our life.  As we move every two, or so, years, so too do our military friends.  My daughter is losing her BFF, my wife is losing her BFF, and I’m losing the only person outside of work that I felt comfortable talking about life with.

I’m also about to say goodbye to my family in January and I won’t see them again for about four months.  Despite the ability to FaceTime and see their faces on a computer screen on an ad-hoc basis, for about 120 days I won’t get to tuck my kids in at night, help them with their homework, calm them when they’re scared, or cuddle them when they’re upset.  Even then, I will only get to see them for about 10 days before saying goodbye all over again for about two more months.  This period of “rest and recuperation” does absolutely the opposite for me.  The family get into a routine without me, they develop a system that does not involve me, when I come home I disrupt it.  I don’t just disrupt it, I tend to smash it to pieces in order that I can relax and clear my head ready to go away all over again.  But I accept this, I chose this.  My wife didn’t; my kids didn’t.

Me saying goodbye to the family, and being apart from them, is something that hurts me but I can take it.  Like I said, I chose this life and see it as a necessary evil to afford the quality of life we have.  The level of comfort my family can enjoy, comes at this price.  But they were thrown into it, they had no choice, and saying goodbye to me is something they’ve had to learn to accept.  In order to prepare for my time away, I’ve had to go on course after course after course.  This is on top of my already demanding work routine that drags me away from home for days at a time.

We measure our time apart from friends and family by measuring our ‘Nights out of Bed’.  Every 24 hour period that we are away in the last 30 months, gets recorded on our personal file.  I’m currently at about 380 nights out of bed.  In the last two and a half years, I’ve spent over a year away from my family, and I’m rewarding them by going away for another six months.  This may seem like a lot, but you’re not considered extreme until you’ve hit somewhere over 520 nights out of bed.  That’s quite a few times for your family to have to say goodbye to you, and have absolutely no control over it at all.  I chose this, not them.

So when I see celebrities or people on social media getting upset because they haven’t seen their families for a weekend, or a whole week, I should feel sorry for them; I should know what they’re feeling and respect it, but I just can’t seem to do it – well I can, but it’s only brief.

What’s the longest you’ve been away from your family? Do you have a family member who’s away all the time with work, how do you cope?  Is the job worth it do you think?

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13 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye To Friends And Family

  1. I work with a lot of retired army people (and some semi retired) and their stories always fascinate me but it means I’ve never seen that side of it all, where they move about as they’re mostly now trying to settle in one place. My husband and I spent 9 years having a long distance relationship and it worked fine as we were so used to it. But once we eventually settled its now a lot harder to be apart.

  2. BattleDad has been on the road for work on and off for the 6 years we’ve been married, although only Sunday to Thursday. It hasn’t bothered me because a year after we got together he moved to the UK while I finished my PhD in Ireland and we only saw each other every 3-4 weeks.

    My dad also worked away while I was younger, 6 months on, 1 month off and then 4 on and 1 off for six years in Angola during the civil war so I like to think his unusual jobs prepared me for the absences I’ve had with hubby. It’s also a choice we’ve made to be able to afford the life we have and provide for our son but it doesn’t make it any less hard, although it’s nowhere near the sacrifices you and your family have to make.

    Now BattleKid is getting that bit older he’s becoming more aware of Dad ‘going to work’. I also completely understand your comments on your wife and kids forming their own routine. BattleKid and I had a firm routine from Sunday to Thursday for two and a half years and since BattleDad started working from home more its been hard to try and maintain that routine without it seeming like Dad can’t do things ‘our way’ or to our timetable.

    So with that in mind we’ve decided to change things this year in terms of our family life. It’s going to be radical but we’re hoping it will be for the better, especially for BattleKid. Great post Tony. I hope it makes people appreciate the time they do get to spend together as a family, particularly those who have evenings AND weekends together.

  3. I can’t even imagine how hard this is for all of you. I moved 2 hours away from my parents and that devastated me at the time, I can’t imagine having to move every two years! Emily is only 17 months old but I haven’t spent any time away from her (by that I mean I spend every night with her, obviously she goes to nursery through the day) and I’m dreading the first night shift I have to work where I can’t tuck her in and read her stories, being away for so long must be so difficult for you all!
    I used to know quite a few lads who were in the army when I was a lifeguard, and I know how tough it was for them when they had to go on a tour anywhere.
    Xxx

  4. WOW that’s a long time away. I didn’t realise you were moved every couple of years as well.

    Since the kids were born the only night’s I’ve spent away were when I was in hospital with one of them.

    I even drove 2 hours each way, rather than an all expenses 3 nights in a plush hotel for a training course.

    In your shoes I’d be the same about Celebrities whining after a few nights away.

    1. You’re a fool, I’d have taken the hotel any day of the week hahahaha
      Like I say, I’m ok with the separation, well not ok but I tolerate it, it’s more my family that I feel sorry for.

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