If you had asked me in my early adult years whether I ever imagined – or wanted, for that matter – to live a military lifestyle, I likely would have said no. Army life isn’t for everyone. It’s nomadic, giving way to a constant state of flux, uncertainty, and change. That said, it also affords us unique opportunities to see the country, and sometimes the world, on the government’s dime. I always said that my biggest fear was living an ordinary life. This lifestyle is, by no means, ordinary, but it doesn’t come without its fair share of challenges, many of which I didn’t realize until I became a mother. At the end of the day though, when I weigh the pros and cons, I truly believe Army life has made me a better mother, and here’s why.
I’m more adaptable
Never in a million years did I think that I would have to move at 36 weeks pregnant. Nor, for that matter, did I ever think I’d be raising three children solo while my husband served halfway across the world. I didn’t think that I’d make four houses our home in five years, and I didn’t think that I’d be able to find friends – or foster my children’s friendships – in new places. But here’s the thing. Military life doesn’t give you a choice. You either do these things and adapt with the changes, or you grow weary and miserable, often times stepping out because it just doesn’t fit. I’ve learned I can roll with the punches.
I have a better sense of humor
Want to know when my husband is coming home? So do I. Want to know a date for certain? So do I. Want Tricare to approve something the first go-around? Yeah, we all do. Army life has a way of taking your plans and turning them on their head. While all these things are annoyances, they’re also laughable if you approach them the right way. I’m still learning this one, but finding the insane humor in the little things has definitely taught me that if you don’t find the sunny side of things, you’ll end up disappointed.
It’s taught me to adventure more
With each move comes new challenges, and I’d be lying if I said deployments are easy. Deployments suck, plain and simple. They’re also an opportunity to get out of our comfort zones though. I learned during Ryan’s last deployment that adventures are good for the soul, both for me and for the kids. Finding new things to see, explore, and experience isn’t always convenient, but I don’t regret a single one of the memories we’ve made. And, instead of sitting on the couch moping with my kids, I’m seeing new things and exploring with them. Seeing it all through their eyes makes it all the more magical.
I’ve become resilient
Honestly, I’ve learned a lot about resilience from my children. While Ryan and I can process the reality and hardships of Army life, the kids are pretty much along for the ride. They’ve been to different schools, had more teachers than you can count, lived in different states (3 for Spencer, 2 for Porter), watched their daddy fly away for months at a time and weathered it all with strength and dignity. From them, I’ve learned that resilience doesn’t have to mean putting on a brave face all the time. Sometimes it’s about asking for help and accepting it when you’re at your lowest. Learning that has taught me more about resilience and how to support them.
It’s made me – and us – strong
If there can only be one way that Army life has made me a better mother, it’s this; I’ve realized my own strength, and I can impart it in my children. We’ve found our strength together, becoming our own little team through it all. And yes, Ryan, you’re a part of that team, too, even when you’re thousands of miles away. Strength is found in the little things. It’s found in making meals day after day. It’s tending to late night tears and cuddles during tantrums. It’s being both mom and dad when the need arises, and it’s about finding yourself somewhere through the thick of it, too. Motherhood is hard work, but Army life has made me stronger.
Now that I’ve been a part of this lifestyle for over five years, I can honestly say I don’t remember life outside of it. It’s chaotic, and it’s challenging, and at times, it’s the most obnoxious thing on the planet. But if one thing’s for certain, Army life has made me a better mother – for better or worse – simply by challenging me every step of the way.