A Letter to All of You
I have been married to a Navy man for five years and it has been an incredible experience in so many ways, but this ride isn’t always a smooth one. Whether you have been a military spouse for five months, five years, or five decades, you feel the ebb and flow of life a bit more intensely than I think most people can even begin to comprehend.
I am writing this today because a fun weekend with my husband and some family came to an abrupt end and it brought my wave of happiness crashing down. Let me explain; my husband recently began a tour of shore duty after a five year sea duty contract. We were so excited because shore duty is “supposed” to mean that he would have more time to focus on family and personal life. After five years of deployments, field exercises and countless hours apart along with balancing going to school to continue our educations and raising our daughter, my husband and I were looking forward to being able to really put some focus on ourselves as a couple, as parents and to bringing our new little bundle of joy into the world later this summer. Alas, as is so common in military life, you don’t always get what you want or even what you are told to expect. The shore duty we hoped for, turned into 10-12 hour days 5-6 days a week, sometimes for weeks on end. As a military spouse I am used to having my husbands’ time and presence taken but everything changed when we had kids, as is always the case.
Let me preface this by saying my husband is my best friend and the most incredible father in the world. He is more than I ever could have dreamed, but that is what makes his absence so excruciating. With him working what sometimes seems like an endless number of hours, I am often left feeling lonely, disconnected and overwhelmed. Our second child is due at the end of May and today I found myself feeling terrified of the future and completely lonely, even as my daughter lay snuggled in my arms and my husband by my side. The realization that in a few months I will be home, alone with two children under the age of two hit me like a ton of bricks.
Like so many women, I want to be the mother my children deserve and more. I want to give them the world. However, unlike most civilian families, military spouses are often working to do just that without the help of their partner. Our husbands and wives are called off on deployments, exercises, underways and trainings and we are left to bare the weight of being everything to our kids; mom, dad, chauffer, coach, teacher, disciplinarian, friend, tutor, chef, confidant, and the list goes on and on. Many times we do it with no family or friends to lean on while living in places that are not “home”. All the while feeling guilty about being overwhelmed because we know what our loved ones are going through in there selfless duty to their country.
This is where I found myself when I started thinking, how, how am I possibly going to do this? How am I going to be able to give my girls everything they need without him here? How am I going to manage them both when I am alone, without help for 10-15 hours every day while working two jobs and running my own Doula business? How do other military families cope? How do people with more than two kids do this? Then…I remembered something, I am a military spouse! I have a network of thousands of people just like me, who feel tired or overwhelmed, sad or scared, who worry about getting through today just as much as they do about what tomorrow will bring, who are far from their usual sources of love and support and feel alone when their significant other is away serving our country.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are strong! Stronger than we realize and stronger than most people will give us credit for. But more than that, we are never really far from someone who cares because we have each other. One of the greatest benefits (if you so choose to take advantage) is that even when we are in a foreign country, or find ourselves thousands of mile away from our comfort zone, we are surrounded by people who can understand our lives in a way no one else does. That my friends, is part of what binds us together as a global military family. No matter what you are going through, there is someone in your community who understands.
So, I encourage you to take that leap of faith, if you haven’t already, and reach out to your fellow military spouses. There are countless organizations just like Military Birth Resource Network full of people who want nothing more than to support and uplift you. There are online and in-person groups, support organizations and a lot of people out there that are willing to be right there beside you as we all ride this crazy wave together. They are there waiting and wanting to support families just like yours; young and old, just starting out or growing older. When I start to feel the doubt and fear creep in, I just remind myself: I already have everything I need to live the life of love I deserve, and so do all of you. We are unbreakable. We are military families