I wasn’t the kind of girl to be impressed by a guy in uniform. When I married one, I reassured myself and my civilian friends that I had no intent of wrapping myself in the label of “military spouse.” I had two degrees and more than my share of defiance, and I refused to allow the military part of my marriage to define me.
I went to work. I quickly decided that spouse group meetings weren’t for me; not for young, childless professionals but for young stay-at-home moms. I wasn’t the first foolish 20-something to assume that a difference in preference of parenthood was a non-starter for deep friendship. I endured deployment after deployment with the support of a handful of very cool women who were married to my husband’s work buddies. I found my way into the Omaha community, through work, volunteering and participating in my faith. Then my biological clock chimed and the timer at the end of our interminable tour sounded. Then we had a son and moved to England.
This is where my grand plan unraveled.
So much that previously defined me vanished. (My job. My time. My family back home.)
All that was left was being a stay-at-home mom and military spouse. I felt lost. I scrambled to cling to something else but ultimately was consumed by both.
Four and a half years later I understand the privileges that come with these realities. I’ve emerged from the exhausted fog of new parenthood, a milestone which makes everything clearer and easier to balance. The rewards of being a stay-at-home mom to two preschoolers are leagues deeper than the brain-draining days and nights of babyhood. And in the past year, my net of new military spouse friends has changed my life.
Remember how easy it was to make friends in the dorms in college? How the simple fact of converging in the same space for a defined period of time served as a catalyst for life-long friendship? Now remember how that vanished when you tumbled out into the real world. This past year brought that feeling back. Hundreds of us filed into orientation in August, filled in forms with our interests and launched back out to our families with a few new names in our heads. We stalked the Facebook group and seized opportunities to connect before they vaporized. We had 10 months.
For me, those connections have proven that the label “military spouse” holds too much weight. Yes, we all share the experience of being married to someone in the military, but that’s the only universal. Some of us can come together to make an amazing book club. Others can meet up at the playground twice a week, year-round, for an intense workout while driving fully loaded jogging strollers and forging new friendships. Then there are those who graciously understand when you need extra support to do the things you must do for yourself.
Some of us go to work in an office, some of us telecommute to a job we left behind, some of us now do the work of Life as we wait for the right time to find work outside our homes.
We are artists, writers, lawyers, activists, educators, engineers. Nurses, accountants, managers, business owners. Professionals. Dreamers. Organizers.
We are, some of us, also moms.
We are also wives.
And under all that, there is one thread that ties us together. It’s one thread that the “military spouse” label overshadows, diminishes. It’s that we are great friends, to whichever friends we make. We know that good-bye doesn’t always (but may) mean forever. Together we cast a wide net, connecting someone else’s friends with ours, sharing information on the best neighborhoods and the food you can’t miss, offering places to stay when one of us is nowhere. We are willing to help someone we barely know because sometimes we are the new person in town, alone and in need.
We aren’t just military spouses. We are regular and eccentric and kind and well-traveled people who don’t get to stay in one place too long… who just so happen to be married to someone in the military.