Before leaving the military in 2021, my spouse served in the Army, a role that took him overseas and to various bases across the country. Our family lived in three different states over a five year period.
In 2019 I became a mom to two boys under the age of 2 thanks to the birth of our squishy and sweet newborn. I now had to change two diaper sizes, manage two sleep schedules, and redouble the challenge of finding time to sleep and bathe while still working and everyone alive and ready to feed. That was my Everest for a while.
Since my spouse is an active member of the military, this meant two things. First, we were officially a military family of four. Second, I was no longer wet behind my ears as a mother or as a military wife.
I knew how we needed to enroll our youngest in military health care, I knew my husband’s schedule would revert to his old, grueling self once his 3 week paternity leave was up (as of this year, military members are now getting 12 weeks paid leave) . I knew all the clichés that people thought about us when we went out in public. And I knew who our friends were. More importantly, I knew who we considered ours family.
After birth we had people who brought us food. We lived 20 miles from base — an uncomfortable drive — yet it was only military personnel who brought us food, home-cooked, hand-delivered fare. They showed up to help with chores without being asked. They did it because they knew we needed help and because our blood relatives were hundreds of miles away.
In the meantime, our city friends, neighbors and church friends gave us our space. They said to ask if we needed anything. If we needed anything, they were just a text or phone call away. They were generous and offered but we didn’t know what we needed, didn’t know what to ask. There is nothing about them; They haven’t experienced the same types of strangers. Military families have, and they intervene without question.
However, this is one of the greatest advantages of a military family: you quickly form close friendships. You have no old friends to rely on. You’re moving to a brand new location and you search Google for the nearest grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk. You are starting from scratch and need people to push you forward. And with a lot in common, it doesn’t take long to find these people.
Random drive-bys became meeting places. Lending a tool to a comrade meant spending the evening together as a family. This hour-long visit was normal for us. If you are new in town and have a family, don’t meet events in the community. They crave new friends and activities, and others in the military community are in exactly the same boat.
Only people who have lived with the same unknowns can thrive in it. Not knowing when you’re going to move or where. Not knowing if the kids will be ripped out of school in the middle of the semester. Not knowing if you know a soul when you get to the next place.
While I have worked in digital marketing, there are many military spouses who are out of jobs because of these unknowns. But that doesn’t mean they don’t do it work. Being home with kids, planning a family move, setting up utilities, filing taxes in multiple states, enrolling in schools… the list is endless. Military personnel do not have set hours, which means that the spouse often has to shoulder both sides of the household chores or fill the gap when their soldier has to work unexpectedly late or overnight.
Being in the military or associated with it is not a part of your life; It’s a lifestyle. My family grew beautifully while my spouse was in the army. We had our two beautiful boys, we learned how to live alone – away from those we knew – and how to grow together. We matured and became emotionally stronger as we learned to deal with it and move on while leaning on each other. We found the kind of family we want, the kind of family we want to be.
The military helped us get to where we are today.
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