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Murphy’s Law: A Primer

If you’ve been around the military for even a short amount of time, you’ve probably at least heard a mention of “Murphy’s Law,” the theory that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

It actually has a pretty science-y history with some philosophy and math thrown in. But you don’t need to know all of that.

All you need to know is that once your service member leaves, I can almost guarantee you will get to know Murphy.

My husband returned at the end of October from six weeks on TDY to England. While it was a great experience for him (and us, to a point), it had been a while since we’d been separated. That means it had also been a while since I received a visit from Mr. Murphy.

Murphy provides an obscene level of chaos to the life of a military spouse, who is already coping with everything falling on her (or his!) shoulders. It’s doing the daily grind of what you usually do, like work, household chores, and caring for children, combined with what the service member may usually handle, but then throwing in a large helping of the unexpected.

He comes to visit whether you’re undergoing a deployment, TDY, or field separation.

For many military spouses, this is a car breaking down at the worst possible moment, getting the stomach flu a few days after the service member departs, issues with children, and so on. It’s usually something that just wouldn’t happen when the service member is home.

When my husband left, I had two days of bliss with my kids. Everything was going right, I was keeping my cool, my kids were little angels. Too good to be true, right?


Here is a list of my interactions with Murphy (I will say that I can fortunately laugh about most of them now):

  • My two daughters learned not only how to open the baby gate, but to come upstairs while I’m putting their baby brother down for a nap or for bed. And getting in as much trouble as possible. One night, my 2-year-old decided to play Jenga with her books in the baby’s room. Her pile toppled just as I put the baby in the crib. The average person will never have reflexes like a tired, overstretched parent who just got their fussy baby to sleep—I caught everyone one of those books before they hit the floor.
  • I couldn’t find my military ID one morning and stood in the parking lot outside of my house fretting for about 10 minutes, after rifling through every item on every surface of my home, very close to tears, worried my kids would miss a day of school, and it would somehow affect the rest of their lives. Then I found my ID. It was in my purse the whole time. Sigh.
  • All three children and I got sick with a cold on the fourth day after my husband left. My oldest morphs into Sheldon from Big Bang Theory when she’s sick.
  • I left a watermelon on the floor near my children’s toys. Apparently they decided to stand on the watermelon to reach one of the higher bins. They crushed the entire thing, shot watermelon pieces all over the floor and wall, and I had to pull off the baseboard to clean behind it.
  • One day, the kids fed most of the pancakes to the dog.
  • Twice my children walked outside without pants on. One of those times, one child was naked.
  • My 2 year old removed her pants and diaper just about any chance she got.
  • My oldest, who has a tree nut allergy, finally discovered how to climb onto the counter to steal candy. The bowl did not contain all “safe” candy, sending me into a panic until she showed me the wrapper. She had chosen the right pieces, and all was well. Whew.

My oldest accurately measured how I felt by the end of the separation with this family portrait (that’s me in the orange—notice the wild eyes):

Murphy's law struck hard during my service member's TDY, as you can probably tell from this picture. Note the wild eyes.

Granted, I get that a lot of these things wouldn’t have happened if I was able to keep my eyes on my children every minute they were awake, but that isn’t a reality for military spouses. I didn’t have much of a choice but to keep my older two contained (at least I thought) as I took care of their baby brother. I had to roll with it. But if my husband had been here, some of those events likely wouldn’t have happened or may have been less severe.

Murphy’s Law is nothing you can really prepare for, other than to prep yourself to roll with the punches. Take what is dealt to you and adapt as needed. Things will fall back into place once the service member returns.

And sneaky Murphy will stay away.

Until the next time.


  • Sarah Peachey

    Sarah Peachey is a journalist from southern Pennsylvania currently living in the Southeast. Previous adventures sent her to Fort Polk, Louisiana; Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Fort Meade, Maryland; Hohenfels, Germany; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and Fort Stewart, Georgia. She lives with her husband of more than 10 years, three children, one very spoiled Dachshund, and a cat who leaves a dusting of white fur on just about everything. She began a career in journalism with The Fort Polk Guardian, an Army installation newspaper, winning three state awards for her work. Her work has appeared on MilSpouseFest, The Homefront United Network,, SpouseBUZZ, and Army News Service. She consulted for MilitaryOneClick (now known as MilSpouseFest), and helped launch the site #MilitaryVotesMatter, providing up-to-date information important to service members, veterans, and their families in the 2016 election. When not writing for military spouse support sites, she is currently working on her first novel while also volunteering as AWN's Blog Editor. When she can carve the time into her schedule, she writes about parenting, travel, books, and politics on her website, Keep It Peachey. You can find her on Instagram @keepitpeachey. She has a passion for reading, writing, politics, and political discussions. She considers herself a bookworm, pianist, wine enthusiast, and crossword addict.


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