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For several days, and especially those first looong weekends after he left, I cried. A lot. I met up with a fellow Forces’ wife, whose husband was on the same tour as mine. We cried together. A bit.

‘I’m thinking of setting up as a florist…’ she announced one weekend, mid-sobs.

I stared at her. The idea of doing anything more than merely surviving the next six months seemed as foreign to me as the country where my husband had been posted.

‘A florist?’ I said.

‘Yes, I’ve always wanted to give it a go… and now seems like a good time to do something different… give me something to focus on while ‘the boys’ are away.’

I nodded, thoughtful. *** I couldn’t wait for Monday morning.

I dropped my biggest boy at school, and the other two at nursery. I had exactly 2¾ hours before pre-school pick up. Scrabbling about in the study, I found the magazine, picked up the phone and enrolled in a course with The Writer’s Bureau.


When I was eight, I read ‘The Young Visitors’ by Daisy Ashford. I decided, then and there, that I, like Daisy, would be a writer. So write I did. Tales of hedgehogs and horses, poems about roses and love, stories of travel and emotional turmoil. I was a great writer; my mum said so. ‘You always write such beautiful thank you letters,’ she said. My maternal Granny agreed, ‘They’re lovely letters darling, just lovely.’ My school ma’am paternal Grandmama sent them back. Errors underlined indelibly in red.

I continued to read… and write.

But I hadn’t taken it seriously – ’til now. Hadn’t, in my full-time-supporting-Forces’- spouse role, frankly had either the energy or the time. Sure, I’d wondered what I might do when the children were finally all at school, had pondered what career I might be able to combine with an ever-absent husband and the ‘flexibility’ of Forces life. And writing had always been an option in the back of my mind, but I’d never got any further than some sporadic meanderings. ’Til now. Envoy Spring 2013 19

‘It’s great!’ said friends (presumably about the article, not my jeans). ‘You should write a book!’ And thus my first book, ‘MOB Rule: Lessons Learned by a Mother of Boys’ was born. Well, conceived anyway.

I’d snatch hours at the keyboard between sundry drop offs and last minute pick ups, minutes between putting on the washing and hanging it out. I’d scribble anecdotes on the back of shopping lists in the middle of Sainsburys, jot down brainwaves mid-soup stir or at the kitchen sink. Some nights I dreamt in artistic alliteration.

‘I’ve written another chapter,’ I’d tell my once- again-away now-weekly-commuting husband excitedly on the phone. ‘Can I read it to you?’

I could hear him grinning down the line. He was pleased that, despite being ‘homeport stability’ for us as a family, I was nevertheless carving out some time to do something for myself.

And then, in November 2009, the FOB home mercifully safe and sound, the Guardian newspaper published one of my pieces. ‘Wilder, rougher, smuttier… life with boys.’ The headline capped a none-too-flattering photo of me in my jeans.

In the absence of our dearly beloved Father Of Boys (FOB), I threw myself into the Writers’ Bureau assignments, relishing my new-found license to write. I attended writers’ events (yes, actually went out), talked to established writers (not just children under six), got plenty of ‘constructive’ criticism (harsh but fair), practised and practised, and endeavoured to improve. I wrote – as people always tell you to – about what I knew. I wrote about Forces life, my family, about the trials and tribulations of being a mother… of boys. If, as a result of my new- found focus, the deployment didn’t exactly whizz past, it certainly didn’t go any slower.

‘Go on then,’ he’d say from his anonymous cabin. ‘It’ll make a refreshing change from daily orders!’

Eventually, a little longer than the average pregnancy later, the book was born. Gingerly, I passed it into the nurturing arms of a literary agent. And, once again, I waited.


Now, in 2013, my Forces’ wife friend lives in Wales surrounded by an avalanche of roses and her stunning creations.

And ‘MOB Rule’ was published by Bloomsbury on January 17th.

Sure, my husband continues to lead a weekday-unaccompanied life, and me and the boys are still mostly ‘home alone’, but you can’t have everything. And anyway, given that Bloomsbury is conveniently based in central London, I now have an excuse for visiting MoD Main Building mid-week.

So for anyone whose spouse or partner is about to be deployed, my heart and hopes go out to you and your kin. But their departure needn’t all be bad. Because while they’re deployed you, as spouse-in-waiting, could be otherwise ‘employed’. This might just be your moment to give it a go.

For more from the MOB, visit

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‘MOB Rule: Lessons learned by a Mother Of Boys’ is available at any good bookshop or on Amazon. 

Photos: Hilary-Jane Wells

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