My sailor won’t batten down the hatches!

My column in the June issue of Military Spouse magazine!

My column in the June issue of Military Spouse magazine!

Ahoy, fellow Milspouses! Are you tethered to a soldier who doesn’t know how to hang a ceiling fan? Does your airman plead ignorance when it’s time to program the remote? Are you anchored to a sailor who can’t assemble the baby’s crib? Does your marine call the plumber when the faucet leaks?

If you answered, “Aye,” to any of these questions, then I’ve got the scuttlebutt for you! Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful sailor’s wife who got stuck doing ALL the home repairs….


A couple decades ago, I left home to marry a Navy man. A true greenhorn, I assumed that military men were all “manly” types who tinkered with cars, hooked up stereos, and fixed stuff around the house.

For the first few tours, we rented or lived on base, so my misconceptions about my husband’s fix-it skills persisted. It wasn’t until we bought our first home in 1998 that the truth was revealed. I soon realized that, not only did my husband have no fix-it skills, he also didn’t feel an ounce of embarrassment if I handled the bulk of the yard work and home repairs.

In denial at first, I believed he’d change as the demands of our growing family increased. I decided to set a good example, and bought a manual on DIY. With a baby on my hip and a toddler at my feet, I replaced the kitchen faucet. I hung new ceiling fans. I assembled the baby’s crib. I aerated the lawn. I replaced the sprinkler heads.


Ladies, I even jig sawed my son’s soap box derby car — and loved it.

The feeling of accomplishment was so exhilarating, I forgot to notice that my husband hadn’t joined in my DIY efforts. He even stood idly by as I embarked on a two month project to build shelving along one 15’ wall of our playroom. I couldn’t see past the sawdust to notice that my husband hadn’t lifted a finger to help.

One night while simultaneously nursing our third baby and chopping onions for dinner, I asked my husband to assemble a simple table-top grill. Half an hour later, my husband sat looking cross-eyed and annoyed at the instructions. “I’m telling you Honey, you could strand me on a deserted island with this thing, and I’d never figure it out.”

A few days later, I was relaying my frustrations to another Navy wife while we watched our kids on the playground. Expecting compassion, I was surprised when she told me it was all my fault.


At first I thought she had no idea what she was talking about, because her aviator husband was super-handy; whereas, my husband was still uncertain about the term “Phillip’s head” and referred to the hardware store as “a haunted house.”

However, she explained: “I grew up on a ranch and am no stranger to a tool box, but that has always been my little secret. Try being helpless,” she whispered, “trust me, it works.”

Tragically, it was way too late. My husband had already seen me chop onions, nurse a baby, and assemble a grill all at the same time. There was no going back. And now, as a salty ol’ navy wife in my “roaring forties,” I’m still the one who programs the remote and assembles the IKEA dressers.


It might be too late for me, but if this is your maiden voyage as a milspouse, there’s still time! You may be perfectly capable of skippering your own boat, but don’t go overboard. Stow those fix-it skills in your ditty bag and play the roll of landlubber Ginger or sidekick Gilligan while hubby takes the helm. He’ll figure out how to replace the toilet tank float or fix the cabinet hinge in no time.

Be ye in a Navy port or on an Army fort, heed this whale of a tale and your DIY projects will always be smooth sailing.


  1. First printed in 1991, The Reader’s Digest New Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual is the veritable bible of home improvement projects. Order it on Amazon and give it to him as a birthday gift. [Hint, hint.]
  2. If your husband flounders in the hardware store, don’t be his safety net. Give him time to get his bearings, and he’ll navigate his own way.
  3. Be his crew: offer to assist without trying to take over the project.
  4. Rather than nagging hubby to be Cap’n Fix-It, positively reinforce his DIY efforts. He may not want sea biscuits, salt pork, and a jigger of rum; but a homemade lasagna dinner is a motivating reward for tinkering with the plumbing or car.
  5. Spread out your suggested projects, maybe motivating your sweetheart to tackle one home improvement project per month. He’s busy defending America, after all, so the boy does need an occasional break.
Pick up your own copy of Military Spouse Magazine today!

Pick up your own copy of Military Spouse Magazine today!

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Comments: 2

  1. Trooppetrie June 29, 2013 at 4:21 pm Reply

    cracking up because I may be that wife who acts like she can’t do things to convince her husband to do more. maybe this is why my girls are learning to change tires and change the oil

  2. energywriter June 21, 2013 at 2:10 pm Reply

    So true! sd

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