Family: Husband, Chris; sons, Caleb, 5, Dalton, 2, and Bradyn, 2.
THE CHILDRESS FAMILY: Bradyn, Monica, Dalton, Caleb and Chris
Military Matters: Chris is a C-17 test pilot with the Air Force and was deployed to Afghanistan for seven months. He’s stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California until a cross-country transfer to Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., in August. This will be the Childress’s fourth state in 11 years.
You were nursing twins, had a 4-year-old and your husband got orders to fly in Afghanistan. Tell me.
MC: We knew it was his time. We were happy to support the war effort. I was nursing when he told me. Then I was crying. He kept saying he was sorry. And at the outset, I didn’t know how we were going to make it …
I immediately interviewed mother’s helpers, six or seven different people, and found a great high school senior who came 4 to 8 P.M. three days a week, helped me with dinner and bath and bedtime. My mom came out for a month too, which helped tremendously.
Any guilt for hiring help?
MC: NO. I knew my limits. I knew I’d end up in a very bad place if I didn’t have help up front … even though it’s hard to ask for help, when you ask, it blesses others, as well as you. I learned I am capable of so much more than I thought I could do.
MC: I had the babies at their 18-month well-check. They’d just decided they didn’t like the doctor’s office. We’re in the waiting room, and they are screaming. And my friend carries in my other son, Caleb, who was jumping on their trampoline and broke his leg. He’s screaming too … I was so flustered I couldn’t tell the twins apart all of a sudden. I had to look for a birthmark. Never felt so alone.
Later a friend lent me a triple stroller, which I needed even to get to the mailbox. That was a month before Dad came home.
What has surprised you about military life?
MC: I know women who feel challenged if their husband is out of town for a day. That would have been me too, except that I learned about a whole different level of support you need to have for your husband. I never imagined the military would be about me as much. But spouses play a part in their success … When he’s at the controls, I hope I’m giving him a distraction-free day. That he doesn’t think or worry about us while he’s flying. That’s not his job right then. He needs to focus. One number wrong, it can mess up everything — his life, and others’.
Chris Childress communicated with his children via the webcam program known as Skype. He watched gift-opening on Christmas and saw his twins begin to walk. Caleb tried to put things through the camera to Daddy and went through a phase of being angry and hiding his face. Monica preferred the phone for their conversations.
“It’s all about your attitude,” Monica Childress says of military life and inevitable separations. Moving three time zones will be tricky for maintaining friendships, Monica said. She belongs to Edwards AFB Chapel MOPS.