by Tara Glenn, Guest Contributor
When I got married to my active duty Navy husband, I was already in the Navy Reserves myself and expected marriage to be a breeze. I had conquered so much during my time in the military so far, and I expected marriage and military spouse life to be no different.
I thought because I knew all about the inner workings of the military that I had it altogether and that I could be God’s gift to military spouses everywhere, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My attitude toward my military marriage was like this:
PCS? Bring it.
Deployment? I’ve been through worse.
Military spouse life? I hoped it would be as great as my time on active duty.
When we moved into our first house in Pensacola, hardly anyone knew for a long time that I was also in the military because I was a Reservist and only drilled one weekend a month.
The first time my neighbor saw me in my uniform, she asked why I was in my husband’s uniform.
Others were surprised to find out that I was in the Navy because I didn’t “look” like I was in the military.
I am not only petite, but I also avoided wearing any kind of clothing outside of work that identified me as a service member or spouse because I didn’t want to attract any negative attention when I was alone, or worse, with my children.
When people did find out, they assumed that my role within the Navy was administrative. What was true was that I was trained as an Aviation Ordinanceman, which means that I built and loaded bombs onto aircraft.
We served as a dual-military couple for 4 years and then I was separated for medical reasons. During my time in, I eventually learned to use their assumptions about my own job to serve as a reminder that I should never assume anything about anyone, especially other military spouses.
Despite my confidence going into military spouse life, I quickly learned I was in over my head.
I had a hard time relating to other spouses, mainly because I didn’t understand the majority of the challenges they faced. Back then I thought, “well how hard could it be to stay home with the kids all day?”
I had been separated from my children for military reasons, and when my husband deployed while I was pregnant during a complicated pregnancy, I learned real fast how hard a deployment could be for a spouse – that it wasn’t just “sitting at home” with the kids.
When we were still a dual-military couple, I didn’t get, and wouldn’t understand until after I got out and then moved away from a job I loved, was that the majority of military spouse wanted to be seen as more than “just a spouse.”
It wasn’t until then I learned that military spouses were all just looking to be accepted for who they are:
men and women that loved someone else so much that they put their lives and careers on hold to follow someone else around the world.
They are educated and skilled professionals that are oftentimes underemployed and underappreciated at work. If they can find work, have learned to do more with less as the military scales back military benefits and programs, and in many cases, are even raising children away from extended family, or rather the village that we’re always talking about and how we need it to help raise our children.
And when we move every 2 years or so, it’s even hard to make friends and maintain a career, even more so when the ink is barely dry on your boxes from your last move when you’re learning you’re going to move…again.
What I didn’t expect was the sheer loneliness that I would feel as a military spouse at times. Since I have been married, I have lived too far from my hometown to just pack up and drive home, and I haven’t seen some of my extended family in about 5 years.
I also didn’t realize how tired I could become – after I got out of the military, all the late-night duty hours fell to me because I didn’t have to go to work the next morning.
During the school year, I become a caffeine-seeking zombie because after I get our older boys to school, there’s no way I can get our younger girls back to sleep until the early afternoon. Dealing with all of this wouldn’t be so bad if I had a group of people that just “got me” around to talk to, like I had when I lived in the barracks.
I know that it’s easy to become discouraged when the only people out in your neighborhood during the day are the maintenance and landscapers, and I’m pretty sure they don’t want to talk mom-shop with me or learn about the latest hair and makeup trends.
But after living the military spouse life for 5 years, my confidence is growing while my attitude is changing.
Deployment? It’ll be better than the last one!
PCS? Let’s get back to the beach.
Military spouse community? I’m still learning, but it gets better every day.
Because I have been able to grow emotionally and become more mature, I have been able to develop deeper and more meaningful relationships with other women, and become a better wife and mother.
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned through all of this is that my children and husband need a support system too, that I am not the only one in need of a network.
And professionally, I have also gained more confidence as I build my resume because with each new duty station there are new people to meet, new skills to acquire and new opportunities to find, and I’ll never find them sitting in my living room in a cocoon of self-pity because my expectations didn’t quite live up to real life.
Tara Glenn is a soccer-mom of four kids and a lover of fitness and Pokemon GO. She enjoys spending time with her family when she’s not working as a writer or an Online Business Manager and Virtual Assistant. You can learn more about her and her ongoing projects at www.taraglenn.com.