Life as a "military wife".

By Esther Rachel Lai. - 10/11/2016


You've probably stumbled across our story somewhere early this year but if you haven't, well, here's a little background: Shane and I were 19 when we made the decision to get married because I was expecting our child - yes, to put it bluntly, it was a shotgun marriage and yes, I was a teen mom. Fast forward 5 years, my husband made the decision to join the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) after assuring me that he wasn't doing it for the money (because we were young and obviously needed money to raise our child) and that he genuinely found interest in having a military career so, as a wife, I gave him my utmost support and that's when my journey as a military wife begun.

It's been 2 years since and I try as much to keep my husband and his career out of the limelight for obvious reasons, but today, I decided to share a little on what it's like being the wife of a military man or, in layman terms, the wife of a "regular".

Not have to worry about "stability".

We all know that the SAF rewards our servicemen pretty decently. I say decent because a career in the military allows soldiers to provide enough for their families to live comfortably enough. Not luxioriously. So unless your husband is holding an appointment of a general, don't dream about leading a Tai Tai life. One thing's for sure though, you won't have to worry about not being able to put food on the table and him getting retrenched. It's as stable a career as it gets unless of course, if the country goes to war then it's a whole different kind of instability we're talking about.

What I do can involuntarily affect him and his career.

What you DO have to worry about though, is your actions. The SAF upholds and instills discipline and strong morals into its servicemen but this doesn't just stop there. Because I'm his wife, what I do also reflects on him so I have to be wary about the things I say or do especially on social media or it might have adverse effects on him and his career, which is also why I don't really like to talk about his job on social media (with the exception of this, "generally-speaking" blog entry).

He can't always be there.

Over the years, I've learnt that protecting the nation isn't just a job. It's a commitment and one that military men and women pride themselves in. This means sacrificing even family time to respond to his call of duty. My husband spends minimally, a day or two each week away from us and during crunch time or outfields, this can even extend to week(s) - and I'm not even talking about overseas exercises (like right now, when he has to be miles and oceans away from us for a month and leave the kids + wedding planning entirely up to me *cues dramatic sad violin music* ). Meh. But really, we don't have dinner together as a family all the time either because even when he comes home, it's often after dinner time. I also have to deal with entire weekends without him because of his "duties" that eat into the weekend at least once every two months or so. As a wife and mom of two kids, sometimes it can get really frustrating because I really want him to be around more often. Being a military wife really takes a lot of adapting, understanding and patience on my part to "fit" my life into his military lifestyle.

It forces you to be strong and supportive.

Eventually with time, you'll learn to juggle everything independently - not because you want to but because you have to. His job requires a lot of support and understanding from me as a wife. Sure, there have been times even up until today where we struggle with his absence and I get mad at his career choice but I know that everytime I do that, it greatly affects his morale and motivation to do his job and it doesn't help us in any way at all. It really isn't easy and I can count the number of times I've called him crying when he first signed on but things are a lot better now as I've learned to understand the need for me to be strong and support him in his career and for us to work together towards our future instead of "holding him back".

He can hardly be the "second alternative childcare arrangement".

When one of our daughters are sick and I'm unavailable (Read: Woes Of A Working Mom), the odds of counting on my military husband to be on "standby" is almost zero. Ironically enough, he's always ready and on standby 24/7 for his country though. So everytime there's an "emergency" my go-to person will always be either my mom/dad, in-laws, relatives, friends etc...anyone except my husband, unfortunately.

Sometimes, it can be really difficult to reach him.

Unlike the "outside world", the military has certain restricted zones where he's not allowed to carry his mobile phone with him and sometimes when I really need a reply from him on something, that makes it almost impossible to reach him - unless I call up the ops room or his superior but the idea of calling up some "higher authority" just to ask if my husband can "pick the kids up tonight" cause I'll be "held up at work" seems pretty ridiculous don't you think? & even when he's not in "restricted zones" it can still be tough to get him because part of his job includes attending/conducting PT, going for runs etc. so he doesn't always carry his phone with him. Unlike a regular office job, he doesn't always end work at 6pm. When he stays in camp, it usually means he's going to have a long day so it's not unusual for me to only be able to talk to him when it's bedtime. Even then, I'm always preoccupied with the kids so we'll normally just drop each other a "goodnight" text and turn in, sometimes, only replying each other the next morning.

It's tough trying to plan things.

Because it's so difficult to reach him at times, it makes planning impromptu things a real headache. Sometimes even planning ahead for celebrations or a get away can be quite frustrating since he always have to "see his schedule for that month" first and until that happens, we can't really go ahead with anything. We always have to wait it out and see (& it gets on my nerves because I'm one who hate putting things on hold and procrastinating) but it usually works out fine in the end (just that sometimes I'm too kan chiong to get things done luh).

You won't know what exactly his job entails.

It's no surprise that the military has a lot of private and confidential matters that regular civillians should not and cannot not know about so for some military wives, it takes a lot of trust on their part in that sense.You know, what with them being away so often and not being able to tell everything. For me, this doesn't really happen lah cause it's not like he's super high-ranking or what. But most times, I don't know what his job entails simply because, I don't get it. You think by now I would understand much of the military terms, jargons and stuff. But to be honest, although I've asked him to explain it to me countless times, I can't even get the order of formation right, much less the rankings and what confusing military stuff that he does! So basically what I know is really just what I THINK he does. hahahaha!

He leaves early and comes home late.

When my husband does come home, he usually leaves the next day bright and early before the sun even rises. His alarm goes off at 5-ish and he's out of the house before anyone of us are even awake & that's because military life starts early (duh!). They have physical training and life runs that start in the early morning, before the afternoon sun comes up and his day can end as late as 11pm or later - which is why he chooses to stay in sometimes instead of coming home at 12 midnight and then leaving at 5am the next morning.

He has to spend evenings attending "cohesions"

This one drives me completely nuts even until now. Everytime he tells me, "Babe, I've got a battery/battalion/company cohesion to attend next week." I'll be like "WHHHAAAATTT?!?! DIDN'T YOU JUST HAVE SOME COHESION LAST MONTH?! & THAT OTHER TIME?! AND JUST A FEW MONTHS AGO?!?!" but apparently there's a cohesion or gathering every once in a while for the different formations - i.e. small scale, medium scale, large scale. Although I find it really annoying cause they techinically just gather to bbq/drink/play bowling/make merry etc. but I know it's not exactly avoidable either - especially if the chief of the formation is attending it. I mean, you cannot expect him to tell his superior "I can't make it cause my Commanding Officer (aka wife) wants me home". I get that being a unit/battalion/battery etc., they need to have these sort of things so the men can bond from top down but you know, it's just really annoying sometimes like...Y U NO BOND WITH ME AND THE KIDS HUHHH?!?!?! hahahahaha I kid. But really, cohesions. ughhhhh!

You learn to appreciate his presence more.

But it's also because of his absence that I learn to appreciate his presence more. Usually when he gets back, he helps me out with the kids and I/we can have an early night *smirks* *wiggle eyebrows*. We also spend quality time as a family a lot more especially when he comes home from being away for days/weeks. Quality > quantity basically, so we always make it a point to have a good family weekend out. I guess in that sense, it makes you cherish your time together more.

Your children look up to their father in awe.

I definitely can vouch for this one because although Shane doesn't think he's doing anything great or honourable (or he's just tryna act humble hahaha), Kylie most certainly thinks the world of her "Sergeant Daddy Shane". Kylie would at times, thank him for "protecting the WORLD" (HAHAHHA! YES, YOU HEARD ME, PROTECT THE WORLD LEH! Like Captain planet or something LOL!) and would always listen to his outfield stories in wide-eyed amazement and even try to mimic him by doing salutes, push ups, sit ups etc!

Most of all, being a military wife has taught me to learn and appreciate the men and women in uniform a lot more. It is an unspoken knowledge that our servicemen do not receive as much respect and honour as the troops in the States simply because they don't "fight wars". But I for one know how much pride, passion and commitment they put into their jobs everytime they put on their uniforms. I've also gained a new-found respect for other women who similarly, have to juggle taking care of the household, striving for their career, raising kids and yet at the same time, give moral support to their husband who are freqeuntly away for work.

Granted, there are days when I think to myself "I wish he'd get a normal office job" but at the end of the day, I can't help but to feel really proud of my military husband and the things he puts up with (like the distance) just to provide for us AND the nation (plus, how can I complain about his fit body?! Hahaha!! *smirks*).

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  1. Super like yr post especially on the cohesions portions. :)

  2. Hi nice post. on a side note, where did u get ur shoes?

    1. Hi Jamie! Thank you! I got them fron Leftfoot at Cineleisure!

  3. I'm sorry but honestly a life as a SAF regular is no different than any working man in any other career. SAF regulars don't go to war unlike the US.

    1. Try signing on then. ;)

    2. Work in the SAF is unlike most other careers. Like Esther has mentioned, the people who protect our country have to be physically fit and this means that apart from working hours, they will also have to do PT, sometimes be on standby and clearly many other commitments that you do not understand. So no, it's not no different than other working men. Also, because of the confidentiality of the nature of work, we are likely not to know when there are enemies or other dangers that go on in the country to avoid public hysteria; aka for our safety too.

    3. If that's what you think and expectbyou wouldn't last more than a year.

    4. I could go on about why i think a career on the SAF differs from the corporate world but I don't want to because you're just as much entitled to your opinion as i am. What i do like to say though, is that Singapore's peace didn't come about out of nowhere and I think it's really sad that only if our country goes to war, then will our servicemen and the peace we have right now, be appreciated.

  4. Coming from a fellow regular, I salute you for your commitment to and understanding of your husband. It is true that most of the public knows and might understand, but not everyone does. And because of that, we value those we love very highly because of their encouragement and support; that's what most of us initially sign on to protect and fight for in the event anything happens. Not just that we want a steady job, but some of us truly want a safe home for our loved ones and would do anything to defend their separate lives. The training and work is on a different scale from most jobs because unlike a working man in another career, our daily work involves not getting people killed in training, keeping our men safe and returning them to their families after they have done their duty to the nation. We don't go to war, but we definitely sacrifice more family time and relationships than most of you would understand or know about (freshly single as proof of it). And just because you've met the regulars who have nothing good to show for it, or lack the drive and passion already, doesn't mean all of us are like that. There are the ones who are sloppy, but there are also the ones who train and prepare for any eventuality because we genuinely want our homeland to be safe and secure for our loved ones. This goes out not just to the Army regulars but also all other uniformed services; we do it not just for monetary gain or job security but also for the honour of serving our nation in the highest calling we know how (without going into politics of course). So thank you for this post, it really means a lot to me too and I hope you remain happy with your husband :)

    1. Indeed, that's my husbandms exact sentiments. Though there might be a few rotten apples, ultimately, most regulars serve with pride and passion. So here's a thank you, for being one of them :)

  5. As an nsf, I can't seem to agree with what you've said. The army is one of the most seriously disorganized organizations in the world. And I attribute that to why your husband comes home late every night, because he's dealing with something that is very troublesome.
    Despite all that, the reason tht your husband will never be there for you or any other husbands to come is probably how your husband, with a presumed low education level that he has, will instill and enforce dubious values in his men.

    1. There's nothing wrong with disagreeing with what I wrote and I take no offence in that. But there is something very wrong with you attributing education level to values. The only thing that's "low" is your mentailty. Education has nothing to do with morals or values. Please don't talk to me about values when you're publicly dissing somebody else based on presumptions (as you mentioned yourself) and masking yourself behind a screen. People like you are the reason why Donald Trump is running for presidency. So pardon the crudeness but you can kindly, take your elitist mindset and shove it up some place someone will actually give a shit about. Thank you :)

  6. As a military wife, I agreed it's tough when our husband are oversea. Luckily for me I have support from my parents when he's away. My children attended every family day or get together his camp organised and I'll get to know his colleagues wives too and we get in touch.
    We also have date night once a week which I think it's important.
    Probably your husband could let you know his schedule for the day so you'll know when will he be able to see his phone bcos this is how it's work in our relationship.

    1. Yeah, i guess it all boils down to really squeezing out time for each other. most of his peers are really young and unmarried though. But he does introduce his colleagues to me of course. Thank you for the advice and for taking the time to read my post though! I wish the best for you and your husband!

  7. I can attest to your husbands commitment to the nation, having been on course with him before. My wife suffers a lot of the similar issues you go through, less the fact we don't have kids. I'll just link her to this to let her know she's not alone. Unlike Shane, I'll be leaving the force when my contract is up because I can't bear to see my wife go through this anymore.

    1. Aww, yes, please tell her that she's not alone and that she's a really strong woman. On another note, I really respect you for making the decision to give up your career for your wife.

  8. Fully agree with you on this. I am a military wife for 11years and counting. Missing birthdays and wedding anniversary because of execrise. We learn to be independent and strong not because we want to but have to so that they can concentrate on their job. That is the support we can give their as their spouses.
    My lit girl adore her daddy in uniform that whatever she see a uniform perssonel in the same color she will say same as daddy...


  9. cohesion is only once a year, oh oh

  10. Surprising he has so many cohesions. It didn't happen during my active yrs. Looks like they have alot budget to waste on eh? Doesn't sound like a norm.

    1. Hahaha, okay i might have exaggerated it a little. It doesn't happen every month but once every few months and when it does, it comes all at once (battalion cohesion then battery cohesion and the full scale cohesion) so during that period, it'll seem to me that he keeps having cohesion after cohesion. But of course it's not a monthly thing. I never mentioned it was a monthly thing.

  11. Hello,

    You obviously have a very dillusional idea of regular in SAF. Shane wouldnt be holding any secrecy appointment based on his rank (many diploma holders NSF reach that rank during their first year of service and ORD as 2nd seagent). He probably is just doing some menial work inside, so please be more informed before you glorify his job.

    On the other hand, I salute you for your dedication to your family. Many things you said are also true, including the one where u cannot contact your husband in camp. I can empathize with that.

    Jiayou. You will make a good mother.

  12. Hello! Yes, i know and am well-aware which is why i mentioned it doesn't really happen cause it's not like he's super high ranking. i think you misinterpreted my main point, which is not knowing what exactly his job entails mostly because i simply don't get it. i rephrased that paragraph though, so it's clearer to say that this only happens more often with the higher-ranking servicemen :)

    But thank you for your kind words though!

  13. Quite an "insightful" appreciation post. This post have been garnering lots of social media attention. As somebody that served the army before, I believe that your post is pretty accurate.

    There are the peak periods in the army where the situation is as you described and there are also the lows where you don't really have much work to complete (Most of the time it's low though). It really depends on the culture that his boss (CO) inculcated in the unit. Do remind him to do a regular hearing test though as he is from the arty.

    Lol, actually i'm more shocked at the direct negative comments. Nevertheless, keep the support up.

  14. In the SAF there are a variety of vocations across all the 3 services. Each of them have their own traits and time commitments, notwithstanding the distinction between commissioned officers and specialists (sergeant levels)/warrant officers.

    I'd say it's really a privilege for combat regulars to be able to book out everyday when there're no outfield exercises.. Those in training institutes as trainers have it better than active units (which your husband is in one). Perhaps it'd be a good idea to add a disclaimer stating that your experience is linked to that of being a wife of a combat regular, as after all, various combat vocations and service side (e.g technical related / supply roles) vocations will have different forms of challenges to tell

  15. I've been dating a regular for a few years now, and hell could I relate to every point you say.

    Starting out, I felt like I was ready for this - to be a military girlfriend. I see my man went through all sorts of courses, training & deployment. It never gets easier. More of like a test of faith, trust and mental strength I guess?

    There are points I question whether this is all worth it. And my answer to it would be yes, the love does get stronger. We just need to talk it out sometimes, and especially the civilian counterpart (aka 'us'), needs to have more patience and understanding. The doubt only lies when usually, the military man is away and like what you mentioned, "not there" for important events such as birthdays, or annivesaries. I am slowly learning to accept the fact that him signing on means being also a dedicated man to his job.

    Taking cohesion as a means of forming camaraderie, which is significantly important during a life event such as a war - them (a unit together, fighting against a potential threat).

    I don't wish to know what is going on (secrets and ops likewise circulated in the mil.) because I feel like sometimes ignorance is really bliss. :P

    So glad to come across your blog, as I needed someone, whose feelings couldb empathised on. We can all be strong, at least for our love ones too. 💛