If you follow me on instagram, you likely saw that our sweet Mieke had her eye surgery (finally!) on Tuesday. This one was a long time coming and, for 36 blessed hours, the Army let Ryan come home to help through her pre-op, surgery, and post-op whilst juggling the boys. It made me reflect a lot on the many lessons I’ve learned as a military spouse, especially in that we’re in our final week of this final TDY here at JBLM. I’ve learned and grown a lot, and I feel like these are the lessons I had to learn to be able to hack this lifestyle. So, today I want to share those lessons, hoping that someone else may need to hear them, too.
Lessons I’ve Learned as a Military Spouse
First and foremost, I’ve learned that flexibility is paramount, and it has to be on both ends of a marriage, as a mother, as a parent, and as a friend. Military life is unforgiving, and so many of us are facing different challenges, obstacles, separations…honestly, all the things. Approaching this life with an air of flexibility is probably the most important thing of all.
Your Tribe is Important
When Ryan and I first got married, I was convinced I could do it all alone, and my mental health suffered because of it. I was lonely, I was isolated, and I was navigating motherhood and my career, more often than not, solo. It can seem entirely ass-backwards to find a tribe in a place you’re likely going to move away from in a finite amount of time, but I can say with 100% certainty that it is worth finding your people. You may find them in the strangest places, too! One of my absolute best friends here at JBLM (looking at you, Maribel!) and I met whilst yelling at our kiddos to stop slacking at gymnastics. Find your people. Stick with them. Nurture those friendships. They’ll transcend a duty station.
Find Your Balance and Set Boundaries
In any marriage, there have to be two equally important parts. With marriage and the military – especially for military spouses – it’s so important to set boundaries. You don’t have to go to that function. If it serves you and contributes to that balance, do it! If it adds stress, or it’s something that’s going to affect you negatively, hold firm to that boundary. By setting boundaries and prioritizing your needs in this lifestyle, you’ll find a better balance and, in turn, offer a stable ground for your service member, too. This was a really big lesson for me to learn, as well. I’m a people pleaser, but I’ve learned I can’t be so to the detriment of myself, my kids, or my family.
Celebrate the Moments, Rather than the Days
I cannot tell you how many holidays, birthdays, and occasions Ryan’s been gone for. He’s missed two of Porter’s four birthdays. He’s missed quite a few of mine, too, and we’ve celebrated maybe two of his together, as well. If we focused on the fact that he’s not there for those days though, we lose the joy of those moments and milestones. It’s okay to shift them. Celebrate later and perhaps in a different way. By doing so, you may make memories that are even more special.
Honestly, this is still one I struggle with. Especially with PCS prep in full swing, I have a really hard time forcing myself to do what’s best for me and both my physical and mental health. Whatever self-care looks like to you, prioritize it each week. For me, it’s working out, but I’ll be honest and say that I’ve made a lot of excuses lately. It’s important to put yourself first in the equation – in fact, it’s healthy!
Give Yourself (and Your Service Member) a Little Grace
I’ve spoken a lot about the reality of reintegration for military families, but this lifestyle is more than just deployments and homecomings. It’s messy, and it’s chaotic, and it’s unpredictable at best. We have very little control over the big things in our lives, and that’s extremely stressful for all of us. So, while I struggle on the home front of things, Ryan struggles on the work side of things, and finding a way to meet in the middle, honor those individual struggles and recognize that we’re doing our best is absolutely paramount.
Of all the lessons I’ve learned as a military spouse, I’d say that most overarching one is just to be kind. Be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and be kind in general. While our journeys may outwardly look the same, none of us are facing the exact same challenges, and it’s so important to honor that.