Prior to leaving the military in 2021, my spouse served in the Army, a role that took him overseas and to various bases around the country. Our family lived in three different states during one five-year period.
In 2019, I became a mother to two boys under 2, thanks to the birth of our squishy and cute newborn. I now had two sizes of diapers to change, two sleep schedules to master and double the challenge in finding time to sleep and bathe myself while still working and keeping everyone alive and readily fed. For a time, that was my Everest.
With my spouse being an active member of the military this meant two things. One, we were officially a military family of four. Second, I was no longer wet behind the ears, as a mother or as a military spouse.
I knew how to enroll our youngest in military healthcare, I knew my husband’s schedule would go back to its old grueling self once his three-week paternity leave was complete (as of this year, members of the military now get 12 weeks of paid leave). I knew all the stereotypes people thought about us when we went out in public. And I knew who our friends were. More importantly, I knew who we considered our family.
After giving birth, we had people who brought us food. We lived 20 miles from base — an inconvenient drive — and yet it was only military members who brought us food, homemade, hand-delivered dishes. They showed up to help with chores without being asked. They did it because they knew we needed the help, and because our blood relatives were hundreds of miles away.
Meanwhile, our townie friends, neighbors and church friends gave us our space. They said to ask if we needed anything. If we needed anything, they were only a text or call away. They were generous and they offered, but we didn’t know what we needed, didn’t know what to ask. It’s nothing on them; they haven’t experienced the same types of unknowns. Military families have, and they step in without question.
That is, however, one of the biggest perks about being a military family: You make close friends quickly. You don’t have old friends to rely on. You move somewhere brand-new and search Google for the nearest grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk. You’re starting completely fresh, and you need people to help push you forward. And with plenty of common ground, it doesn’t take long to find those people.
Random drop-bys turned into hang-outs. Lending a tool to a fellow soldier meant spending the evening together as families. That drop-by that lasted for hours was our norm. When you’re new to town and have a family, you aren’t hitting up events in the community. You crave for new friends and things to do, and others in the military community are in the exact same boat.
Only people who have lived with those same unknowns can thrive in it. Not knowing when you will move, or where. Not knowing if the kids will be yanked from school mid-semester. Not knowing if you’ll know a soul when you get to the next place.
While I worked in digital marketing, there are many military spouses who don’t hold jobs because of these unknowns. But that doesn’t mean they don’t work. Being home with kids, planning entire family moves, setting up utilities, filing taxes in multiple states, registering for schools … the list is endless. Military members don’t have set schedules, meaning the spouse is often left to do both sides of household responsibilities or to pick up the slack when their soldier unexpectedly has to work late or overnight.
Being in or attached to the military isn’t a part of your life; it’s a lifestyle. My family grew wonderfully while my spouse was in the Army. We had our two beautiful boys, we learned to live on our own — away from those we knew — and how to grow together. We matured and became emotionally stronger by learning to deal and move on while leaning on each other. We found the type of family we want to have, the type of family we want to be.
The military helped us get to where we are today.
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