Listen: Blogger and ‘Army wife’ Amy Darcy chats to Hope 103.2’s Clare Bruce.
While Anzac Day shines a light on the work of our Defence forces, there’s another, more unseen force at work; one that goes about quietly behind the scenes, keeping our service men and women strong.
They are the army wives, husbands, partners and kids. They are the families, who often have more time apart from their loved one in any given year, than they have together.
Amy Darcy is one of them.
She’s the wife of an Army Officer, a mum, a former lawyer, and a blogger at the health and wellbeing blog, Eat Pray Workout.
Amy described to Hope 103.2 some of the unique challenges that army families face: the danger of her husband’s work, the constant moving, and being separated for months at a time. She says that when she married Reis six years ago, she really had “no idea” what it would be like.
“I don’t think that any army wife really understands the full extent of it until you’re moving around and doing life together,” she said. “Thankfully with his job he isn’t on the front line, so he is a bit safer than some members of the defence force. But he’s still in dangerous countries, and you never know what’s going to happen.”
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The Constant Moving and Seperation
Many defence families move around a lot, some are transferred to a new city every two years. It has its pros and cons; Amy’s appreciated getting to know different parts of Australia, but the constant adjustment is hard.
For Amy, though, the biggest challenge is the long periods of separation. For the first three years of her marriage, Reis was away more than he was at home. This year, they’ll only have a total of two months together.
Recently, Amy had a heartbreaking moment with their 20-month old baby boy, Finley when he was distraught and couldn’t be settled. He was very aware that his daddy wasn’t there.
“He just kept crying, and I was thinking ‘surely at this stage he can’t know what’s going on’,” Amy said. “I asked him ‘do you want water, do you want food, do you want a cuddle, do you want to read a story? And he just kept saying, ‘Dad, Dad, Dad’. My heart just broke for him. I felt so bad, I couldn’t take the pain away.”
Amy said there’s also a big adjustment period when Reis comes back home after months away.
“My heart just broke for him. I felt so bad, I couldn’t take the pain away.”
“I get into my routines without him, and it takes maybe a month, and then when he gets home, it’s the same kind of thing. It’s about a month of feeling awkward, and there’s no nice flow to our lives anymore, because we’ve got to fit in another person. It sounds really funny because you look forward to them coming home so much, but it really jars your routine.”
Little ones grow a lot in six months, too; that’s another learning curve for both Dad and son, said Amy.
“When Reis comes home, things have changed so much in what Fin’s up to, especially at this young age. Reis might still be ‘goo-goo-ga’-ing to him, but Fin’s past that now. He’s talking, walking, running around.”
It’s a dynamic that many mums are familiar with: wives of world-travelling business executives, and fly-in-fly-out workers. Some write to Amy after reading her blog, saying they know what she’s going through.
Taking Care of her Wellbeing
As a health and wellbeing fanatic, Amy’s particularly conscious of taking care of herself when the going gets tough.
“Listening to my body and being aware of what my mind is thinking, are keys for me,” she said. “If I’ve been up all night with my son Fin and I’m sleep deprived, well that day work might have to take a back seat. I’m blessed enough that I run my own business, and I can do that.
“Being aware of the things that keep me energised and feeling refreshed are important. Things like exercise, eating well, getting out in the sunshine, spending time with friends, are all important coping mechanisms for me.”
The Strength of her Christian Faith in the Tough Times
Amy said her Christian faith is one of the big factors that gets her through the challenges, including the uncertainty of knowing what could happen to Reis.
“I do trust God with his safety, and I think that’s the only way you can really go about it,” she said. “We are just here to support him from home, encourage and pray for him.
“Even if everything is falling apart, God’s going to be there, God has a bigger plan than what my struggles might be right now.”
“God provides all the strength I need for this. It’s nice knowing, even if everything is falling apart, God’s going to be there, God has a bigger plan than what my struggles might be right now. So I just need to sit at his feet and say ‘OK God, this is not how I thought life would look, but you’ve got this. Strengthen me and help me.’”
One strategy Amy uses when she’s overwhelmed, is to write down her prayers in a journal: “That really helps me because it slows down my thought process,” she said. “It’s beautifully therapeutic putting pen to paper.”
How to Help Your Army/Navy/Air Force Friends
Amy says the best way to encourage a friend in the Defence forces, is to simply be there in the day-to-day.
“Drop them in a meal… or invite them around for dinner. It can get a bit lonely at home on your own. It’s really important to have family and friends around. Empathise with them, check in how they’re going, ask if there’s anything you can do, take the kids for a couple of hours or a day.”
Amy also finds support in the group ‘Solid Rock’—a Christian organisation for Defence wives with support groups all around Australia.
“I’ve made some of my best friends through that,” she said.
Read more about Amy and the life of a military family, at her blog, Eat Pray Workout.