I ask because today I read a letter in a Sunday magazine agony column. A woman wrote to say that her husband, whose job is in jeopardy following redundancies, has for the last nine months been working away from home during the week. The possibility is that this will continue for another six months or year. She has one 2 year old and is pregnant. She says that he likes to see his friends at the weekends when he comes home (I wonder why?), that they argue and 'he feels guilty when I bring up how lonely I am.....he does miss us'.
Am I a complete cow to think that she should maybe grow a pair; be thankful her husband has a job; and stop laying such a guilt trip on him when he comes home after a week working away? I guess I must be because the agony aunt starts by saying 'This could not have happened at a worse time - when you have young children you really do need your husband around'. Erm....what about suggesting that she concentrates on making their home a great place to be in when he comes home so that he won't want to go out with his pals; that she stops moaning and telling him how lonely she feels (because he isn't lonely in a strange town away from his family, is he?); that she cherishes her little child and looks forward to her new baby, and the time they'll all spend together in the future; that nothing lasts forever and for now SHE is the constant in her son's life and he needs her to stop drooping around?
I'm sorry but this lack of moral fibre really bugs me. Believe me, I know from personal experience that life can be tough when you're trying to cope on your own - I'm the daughter of a trawler skipper (three weeks in Iceland or Greenland or the Barents Sea, three days at home, repeat ad infinitum - the most perilous job of all) and the wife of a submariner who left for a six month tour of duty the day I brought Red home from hospital. In those days there were no emails, no phone calls...when boats went on 'sneakies' you could send two separate 40-word familygrams during the trip, that was all. My dad didn't see any of his kids being born, Big Man saw two out of three. These were tough men doing hard jobs and they needed their wives to match them in backbone and resilience. They needed to go to work knowing that someone was holding the fort at home. We had three children under three, Big Man was either under the sea or living in barracks in Plymouth whilst we lived where we live now, 140 miles away. Neither sides of the family within 200 miles and I worked full-time too. Hard but not as bad as it was for Babcia who did have her (admittedly crazy) mother nearby but also had the worry every waking moment of hearing on the news that a trawler was missing. Nowadays women marry soldiers and live in fear of the knock on the door but they keep going, they have to. Someone has to hold things together for when the men come home again. Isn't that what a partnership is?
Of course you could say that I and Babcia and all the Forces wives of today knew what we were getting ourselves into when we met and married these men. That's true - Big Man was a matelot when I met him and my dad was a decky learner fresh off the boat train when he came across Babcia. However 70 years ago thousands and thousands of women didn't intentionally marry servicemen but ended up with them anyway. Some were apart for years, each not knowing whether the other survived, bringing up children their husbands had never seen, working hard in factories, risking their own lives on airfields and army bases - keeping the Home Front going in other words. Strong, capable, resilient women who suffered the hard times because they knew their husbands were having a pretty cruddy time too, and because they hoped their sacrifices would bring better times. I think that's what some women today can't or don't want to understand. That if you can support each other and stand together, even though you're apart for a while, then you're paving the way for the good times to come. You have each other. And, maybe, a whole lot of self-respect.
Works for me.