When you're a military spouse and mom, people make assumptions. Some are favorable, and others, well, not so much. Like most groups, though, our strength is in our diversity. We don't all have direct marketing businesses (although some of us do) or yellow ribbon magnets on our SUVs (although some of us do). But we do, however, have more than a few things in common. As the wife of an active duty service member and mother to a "military brat," I have to say these military mom stereotypes are actually true.
When I married my husband, I was convinced that I was anything but a "typical" military spouse, whatever I thought that meant at the time. Once our daughter was born and we had our first permanent change of station, however, I realized how very much a part of the military family community I was. It took a year-long deployment to truly grasp how much I really needed it. Maybe it was those negative perceptions that made me resist it, but I've since embraced what this role means, at least to me. I may not shop at the commissary very often, but I'm a card-carrying (for real, I have a card) military mom, and I own it.
So if you say any of the following to describe military wives and mothers, I'm going to go ahead and give it an #accurate:
Do I own red, white, and blue dingle boppers? Yes, yes I do. Do I have a Pinterest board entitled 'Merica? You bet. Do I vote? Oh, hell yeah. I love this country, and I will stand for the American flag every time it goes by during a parade even if I'm the only one (because freedom includes the right not to stand).
When you see your partner make sacrifices (from family time to sleep to their physical safety), it's hard not to feel a sense of pride. I had the opportunity to "pin" my husband at his promotion ceremony just weeks before our first child was born. Pregnant with our second baby, I looked on as he took command of a company of over 300 soldiers. Proud doesn't even begin to cover it.
We Spouses Stick Together
It's not that we're some kind of elite club and OMG you can't sit with us. It's just that we know what it's like. Only another military mom can help you navigate a DITY move, accessing benefits, or on post childcare. Every single one of my daughter's emergency contacts is a milspouse, and that's no coincidence.
We Do Awesome Care Packages
When my husband was deployed, he got a package every month themed according to the corresponding holiday (so in March, everything in the box was green — Andes mints, pistachios, sour cream and onion chips — for St. Patrick's Day).
I just about always have a flat-rate box going for whichever of my friend's spouses is deployed, and I fill it with the best: Girl Scout cookies, cotton socks, and Starbucks Via packets.
We're Suckers For Tearful Reunions
If you want to make a military mom cry, tag her in one of those homecoming video compilations. I can't tell you how many times I've been ruined watching a soldier surprise their kid at a school assembly or be greeted by their golden retriever after a long absence.
Most of us don't fall into the "right out of high school" category, but as a whole, we're a fairly young group. According to NextGen MilSpouse, 24 percent of military spouses are in their 20s. The majority are in their early thirties. I was 32 when I married the Army (I mean, my husband) and had a baby shortly before I turned 33.
We're Alone... A Lot
The frequency and duration of deployments varies by branch of service. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average Army deployment is 9.4 months. It's a long time, and it doesn't give the entire picture, because our spouses are often gone for long periods of time in the field or at various training centers.
As a company commander, my husband currently works 14 hour days and goes in to the office to catch up on Sundays. That's a lot of solo time for me and baby girl.
I don't expect to be thanked for my service or put on some kind of pedestal. But to say that being married to the military requires a degree of selflessness is, in my opinion, an appropriate characterization. Many military spouses and moms have to put their education or career on hold, and every one of us has to come to grips with frequent moves and absent co-parents.
The reality of life as a military family is that all kinds of crap gets thrown your way. Murphy's Law of Deployment means your garage door will stop opening. The changing needs of the military means you will get the posting that was last on your slate. Your spouse's training schedule means they will miss your kid's birthday party.
Complaining doesn't mean I'm not grateful for what I have. Venting is good for the soul, so... guilty as charged.
We're Resilient AF
As a military mom, sometimes I get asked how I'm going to handle something (deployment, company command, leading the family resource group) given my circumstances (being far away from family, a soon-to-be mom of two, a working mother). My response is always, "I'll figure it out."
With a spouse and co-parent in the service, you learn to adapt, to push through, and to "make it work." That's the definition of tough.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.