Male Spouse, Patrick Donaldson, shares a story about parents with disabilities.
By Aaron Brodniak
My journey as a military spouse began shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Within a week my wife was recalled into the U.S. Coast Guard and working as a sea marshal boarding ships and performing inspections. At that time, I was the primary breadwinner of the family and had a job as a regional brewer.
Initially my wife's return to active duty was an easy transition since her first duty station didn't require us to move. That soon changed and less than a year later we were assigned to a duty station that led to me leaving my job.
My first challenges were house hunting and trying to figure out what to do with my time. In my adult life I had served in the Coast Guard and then worked in the private sector; this was my first time not having a job outside the house. Since we were expecting our first child, we decided it made more sense financially for me to stay home and finish up my bachelor's degree before my G.I. Bill expired.
I went into survival mode trying to conserve money as I was unsure how to adjust to living on one income and becoming the dependent when I had been the primary bread winner. I was much too conservative resulting in a mix of cabin fever (staying at home) and an injured shoulder from excessive exercising.
In retrospect, I was my own worst enemy! What I should have been doing was enjoying myself by exploring the new city we were living in, which I could have done on a reasonable budget. Also, this would have benefited my wife who was concerned about me adjusting to our new duty station. It took me six months to fully adjust to the new routine and then things changed again with the birth of our first son.
Becoming a father is one thing, however, a stay-at-home, Mr. Mom type is quite another. I had a substantial learning curve to manage being at home taking care of my son and at the same time being a full-time student. My time at home alone with our infant child left me in need of adult interaction and going back to school helped me fulfill this need. As far as taking care of my son, phone calls and visits from my mother and mother-in-law helped me become a pro! This was especially important since there were not groups for Mr. Mom types to get together such as were for stay-at-home moms.
At our current duty station the effects of the recession led me to become Mr. Mom again; jobs are too far away, the cost of commuting and childcare would be high, and my wife's work schedule is demanding. Initially, I stayed at home attempting to keep myself busy with domestic duties and volunteering.
I soon realized I needed to keep myself much more occupied and decided to pursue a master's degree. Thankfully, my wife had some G.I. Bill benefits we were able to transfer to me, making this idea much more affordable.
Staying at home may not seem difficult to some, but I believe it is one of the most difficult jobs. My wife supports me completely in my role, but I have found the amount of emotional energy I use staying at home with my children is much more taxing than I ever experienced at work; the emotional investment one has in family is much more than you have for your co-workers. I have learned to appreciate that while I am not at a traditional job, the work I do for my family has tremendous value!
Running a household involves childcare, house cleaning, yard work, pool cleaning, home maintenance, grocery shopping, various errands, and cooking. In my case, taking one or two classes is added to my task list. Just as at work, I don't get everything done and priorities constantly shift.
It is not easy, but it is well worth the effort. The benefit to my wife is that while she is working she can rest assured that I am taking care of the family. And this results in less stress on the entire family.
About the Author:
Aaron Brodniak is currently pursuing his Masters in Management at American Public University with an expected graduation date of January 2014. When not in his role as Mr. Mom he enjoys making his own beer, bicycling and spending time with his family.