In Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project, she says “the days are long, but the years are short.” I have been doing this motherhood gig for over 5 years, and I see what she is saying, but I would like to acknowledge right here and now, the days are damn long. I spent 6 years in graduate school, passed a bar exam, and worked 12 hour days. Nothing prepared me for the bone tired ache motherhood would bring.
by Rachel Tringali, Guest Contributor
My dad was an active duty Airman at Shaw AFB in South Carolina when I was born and we were also in the process of a PCS (my first and my parents’ third). At the ripe age of 2 months, I hopped on a C-130 to the Philippines, while my dad continued on to Osan Air Base in South Korea to fulfill an unaccompanied tour. My mom and I stayed in the Philippines to wait for my dad because Clark Air Base was his follow-on assignment and we also have family nearby. It really helped having family around!
After the Philippines, I’ve lived in a handful more places with my parents – PCS’ed here and there. In the mid-90s, we were stationed at Bergstrom Air Force Base where my parents decided to buy a home. Unfortunately, the base closed and my dad got reassigned. That’s when my family made the difficult decision to do long distance.
My dad worked in Washington, D.C., and my mom and I stayed in Austin, Texas. We dealt with the long distance for a couple of years. Then, my dad went the Air Guard route to finish his service back in Texas. I was 16 years-old when my dad officially retired from the Air Force. It didn’t really end there though. My family would still drive to the nearest base (there are a lot in San Antonio or even Fort Hood) to do any necessary shopping, etc.
I truly valued my experience growing up in the military. It also helped me understand my life now as a military spouse. In honor of the Month of the Military Child, I’ve listed the top 5 lessons I’ve learned as a military child that shaped me into the military spouse I am today.
The Top 5 Lessons I Learned as a Military Child
- The world is really a beautiful place. Despite all the conflict that our world experiences every day, it’s really is a beautiful place. I only have fond memories of traveling the world. It might have been a little frustrating when we had to move again, but once we arrived at our new destination, there is always something exciting and beautiful about it. Also, what 10 year-old can say that they have lived in 3 different countries?
- It is important to have a sense of pride. In this country, we’re fortunate to be able to create our own successes. As a military child, it was important for me to make my parents proud. I always had a sense of discipline and understanding with my parents. I never wanted to disappoint them, so I studied hard and worked my way through college. For me, success isn’t measured by the amount of money you make, but the amount of happiness you bring into your life. Right now, I’m pretty happy.
- Your family is amazing. Military children are lucky. They have a whole base (or post) behind them! There is a real sense of community with military families and an incredible amount of support! Your family grows with every move too! That helps children become adaptable because you interact with so many different people. It also helps broaden your understanding.
- When the going gets tough, the tough get going! I experienced a lot of change as a military child. I’d be lying if I said I welcomed it. In addition, there are a lot (I mean, A LOT) of things that you and your parents can’t control. For example, deployments. I’m not the first person to say that deployments suck. It sucks not only for spouses, but the kiddos too. I suffered a lot of separation anxiety when my dad went away, but I learned to overcome it. I understood the bigger picture. My dad was doing a service to protect and serve not only my family, but the families of all the citizens of our country. Be sure to keep your head held high!
- Don’t forget to enjoy military life! I’ve learned that I can’t dwell on the negatives. Another move, another PCS, another deployment…Even with all the challenges and overcoming changes, there is always a light at the end of tunnel and life goes on. It’s important to make the most it because if you don’t, you will probably regret it!
Rachel Tringali is a newly minted Army wife to an amazing soldier and daughter to a USAF retiree. Rachel’s family settled in Texas and that’s where she calls home. After growing up in Texas, Rachel continued her education in New York City where she earned her BA in Communication Studies. She currently resides in the Big Apple, where she works as a PR coordinator. Rachel started her writing career at a local newspaper and interned at several national and local magazines, and now writes for herself on The Professional Army Wife where she shares her experiences with others as she integrates to Army life. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter!
Color me shocked when I opened April’s issue of Military Spouse Magazine and found an article titled “You Could Be Next” about the “dangers” of deployment, R&R, and homecoming babies.
Unplanned pregnancies whenever they happen are jarring. Especially when you’ve closed the door on the idea of expanding or starting a family altogether.
But where was the value added in this piece? Where was the helpful hint? The guide for friends of the unexpected parent-to-be? Nowhere to be found.
Before becoming a mother, I worked with adults and children with autism, so I even had a point of reference. However when my own son, Science Kid, began to not meet developmental milestones, I was convinced he could not possibly have autism.
After reading Military Spouse Success- Just Survive, by Kaye Putnam of Successful Military Wife, I immediately knew I had something to add to the conversation. Even though Kaye “almost didn’t write this post,” I am ever so glad that she did.
She posed two questions to her Facebook community:
1. “Who are the most successful military spouses you know?”
2. “Curious! What is your dream job?”
Interestingly enough, the answers the first question didn’t quite get answered the way I, nor Kaye, expected. Where I expected to hear about military spouses who are paving the way in blending their military spouse identity along with their professional identity, respondents listed accolades about spouses like the happiness of her/his family or how graceful one is under pressure.
And even when Kaye pushed to ask about military spouses who balance career and family, she was rebuffed by a commenter that said “that is not a universal definition of success”.
Okay, I get that. Success means something different to everybody.
But I wonder, is it truly that we, as military spouses, don’t seek professional success or is it that we’ve resigned ourselves to accept a reality that we just can’t have it and have had to seek solace in other definitions of success?
Dare I say, it’s the latter. I think we gave up on ourselves. Because, according to her second question, “What is your dream job,” our dreams are still alive and kicking.
Which brings me to a bigger question that we really don’t like discussing.
What’s the cost we face, as individuals and as military spouses, when we choose to close the door on our careers, even if it’s just for a few years?
The Choice and the Risk: Staying at Home
I have so many friends, military spouses, who are facing their spouse’s retirement. I want to call it their retirement too, because they’ve sacrificed their own careers in support of their servicemember’s career. They’re finding themselves facing a new normal. And many are desperately trying to reenter the workforce after years of opting out.
These women are starting from scratch. It’s humbling and upsetting for them to find themselves at the bottom of the bunch …at entry level (even if they left their industry at the top of their game). Or learning that your only choice is returning to school to retrain.
When we choose to stay-home and sacrifice our career progression, there’s a very real monetary cost that goes along with that. Please know, I know how important and priceless it is to share those precious moments at home with your children nurturing your family. It is a choice I made for myself and for my family.
Despite my commitment to staying home, I know that every day I stay home…every year I’m out of work…has the potential to have a detrimental affect on my overall financial stability and marketability in the workplace. I choose to stay extremely aware that I am willingly and knowingly putting myself at risk.
Because I rely on my spouses income, if he were to perish, it would be on me to rebuild a life for ourselves. Or if we divorced (even though it’s never been something either of us would entertain), I would be at a disadvantage. If he were to get injured and no longer could work to support us, I’d be at disadvantage. My family would be at risk.
Even though we’ve taken the proper steps to insure ourselves in the event of the unimaginable, there are still steps I’ve taken to hedge my bets against the risks I face from choosing to stay at home:
- Maintaining a blog where I can contribute to the ongoing dialogue in my career field
- Stay aware of trends and new practices in my field
- Committing myself to continuing education in any way I can
- Cultivating and nurturing my professional network
- Reevaluating and modifying my professional goals
We give so much of ourselves to others. We must learn how to take time to grow ourselves and our dreams as well. As beautiful as the choice to stay home is, it comes at a price that we cannot afford to choose to ignore.
“I want a pink princess dress” said the little voice from the back of the minivan. Immediately, my pulse quickened as I thought quickly what I would say. I did a mental scan of princess dresses I had seen and tried to remember if all of them were so frilly.
I love to travel and always imagined that having kids would not much slow me down. Then my husband and I took a trip with Science Kid while I was pregnant with Word Boy. We did not yet know was that less than a year later Science Kid would be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, but the trip made it clear that travel would not be something easy with our oldest son.
I’m a planner but having a child with special needs takes it to a whole new level. I find that traveling with a child with special needs requires as much logistical planning as deploying a brigade!
Doing my hair is simple. I’ve been cutting my own hair since my Air Force Academy days. I don’t waste time worrying about my hair style anymore, I just shave it all off. I cut as low as my shears will allow me to and then I use my Norelco face shaver to shave the sides and back of my head. My haircuts are free and done in 15 minutes, but I could not imagine being able to perfect doing my daughter’s hair in the same amount of time.
The big question for me used to be, “How do I do this?” How do I quickly do my daughter’s hair in a way that looks nice and still allows me to get her to school on time?
Before children, I was the classic type A, OCD, control freak; marrying a military member introduced me to flexibility, but I still liked to plan things out. When we went on our honeymoon, I had an itinerary. I knew children would change my life, but I planned to have children who were good travelers, would eat and behave in restaurants, and who would be calm and quiet. The universe laughed at me and provided me with two children who brought more alphabet soup diagnosis and therapies….which is saying a lot when you consider the military’s love of alphabet soup. [Read more…]
It’s the number one question that everyone always asks when they meet each other for the first time. It doesn’t matter where you are….at a going away, at a barbecue on base/post, at a spouse event, or even at those fun little parties (think Pampered Chef), this question is always the first one to pop up among fellow spouses.
Six years ago I would have answered, “I’m a case manager here in town for the elderly and mentally disabled.” My answer today is completely different.