As a descriptor, the term "military mom" can mean a lot of things. If you have a son or daughter in the service, you might refer to yourself as one. Active duty mothers are a very special kind of military mom, too. The role I'm referring to, however, is the one you're most likely thinking of: a military spouse raising children with a partner who is currently serving. It's a position the public thinks they understand, but I'm a military mom, and I know that there's quite a lot you get wrong about me.
When I met my husband he was stationed at the local Army base. We were married one year and four months later, but beyond getting my ID card, so-called "military life" didn't affect me much. I kept my same job, had my own benefits, and lived in the house I'd bought. Soon after our daughter was born, though, we faced our first permanent change of station in another state. I left my teaching position, family, and friends to be a stay-at-home mom. We moved across country yet again eight months later, and shortly after, my husband deployed to Afghanistan for a year. Now, being a military spouse and mother is a significant part of who I am.
It wasn't until I became a military wife, however, that I was exposed to some of the unfavorable stereotypes. Perhaps the ugliest is that of the "Dependapotamus." It's as bad as it sounds — she's fat, lazy, entitled, neglectful of her children, and spends her hard-working husband's money on Coach handbags. It's a gross and insulting depiction, and unfortunately, it's one that's promoted by "good" military spouses. The fact is, stereotypes, whether positive or negative, are rarely helpful and often harmful.
I'm not a gold-digging cheater, nor am I a Stepford wife. If you think you know what it is to be a military mom, you might want to think again. I make a habit of defying generalizations, and these in particular:
That I Work The System
Taking advantage of the benefits to which I'm entitled as a military spouse and mother don't make me a moocher. I'll use the $4 hourly care on post when I go to the dentist and take my Disneyland discount because, given the challenges we face as a military family, it does help balance the scale.
My daughter and I are fully covered by my husband's medical insurance. Does that mean I'm a "Tricareatops"? Not unless I married my husband to pay medical bills, which I assure you is not the case. I'm not only grateful for the affordable healthcare my family receives, but I believe it's something that should be available to all Americans, and I support and vote for candidates who are working toward that goal.
That I'm Uneducated
Tell that to my master's degree. Honestly, I don't know why this particular myth continues to be perpetuated. According to Military.com, 84 percent of military spouses have completed some college and 31 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher (that's better than the national average, in case you were wondering).
Of my close military wife friends, every single one of them is more highly educated than her husband. So there.
That I Gave Up My Dreams
When I met my husband, I'd been teaching for over a decade, was pole dancing competitively, and had lived abroad. I had a rich life. Becoming a mom, and a military one at that, did change things, but I don't feel like I'm missing out. I was ready to move out of my career, and military life seemed like an adventure for which I was ready.
What is true is that military spouses are chronically underemployed based on their education and experience. But you don't see us crying Uncle Sam. Plenty of us find a way to "work it." I have two part-time jobs that allow me to work remotely, and through them, I'm fulfilling new dreams for myself.
That I'm A Baby Machine
My daughter will have just turned 3 by the time her little brother, our last child, is born (and two is the average for military families). Kind of puts a wrinkle in the military baby conveyer belt theory, huh?
The truth is, some military moms have lots of children and some don't. Just like women across all walks of life. And, in case you were under the wrong impression, we don't get more money the more kids we pop out.
That I Must Hate Moving
OK, so no one really likes moving, but it's not as bad as you think (at least, in my book). I might feel differently if I was doing a personally procured (DITY) move, but I'm pretty happy to have a moving company pack our stuff for us and be reimbursed for our travel costs.
Does damage and loss occur? Yes. Do I have to leave places I love? You bet. It's frustrating, but if you look at relocation with a spirit of exploration and adventure, you can really appreciate the opportunity to live in different places in the country and world.
That I Live On Post
We've had three duty stations, and we've never lived on base. I don't fault anyone who does, and I'm not opposed to it in the future — it just hasn't been the right fit for my family. I'd like to be close enough to shop at the commissary, but military housing is too much of a gamble for me. I'd rather take the Base Allowance for Housing (BAH) and pick a close-by community.
That I'm A Sad Sack During Deployment
It's not that I don't have my moments of gloom and doom, because I do, but I also pick myself up and get back at it. After all, the homefront? Yeah, that's my lane. If you want to meet a strong AF woman, let me introduce you to the mom who's solo parenting through a deployment. She may get bummed out, but she's resourceful, determined, and keeps it together for her kids.
That A Return Home Is Magical For Me
You've seen the "soldier surprise" videos and probably shed a tear. I know I have. Reunions are a beautiful thing. If you're on the outside, it ends there and, as far as you're concerned, it's happily every after. For me, and moms like me, reintegration is a process, and one that's often fraught with fights as couples get to know each other again while also attempting to raise small humans.
That I'm Conservative
According to TIME, the U.S. military leans Republican, but military spouses and moms (and service members, as well) run the full spectrum of political affiliations. Personally, I'm a dyed in the wool Democrat and an atheist to boot. It doesn't mean I don't support our soldiers or make me a "bad" military spouse, thank you very much.
That I Wear My Partner's Rank
Get real. My identity is not wrapped up in my husband's rank, nor do I ever use it to prove I'm better than another spouse or mom. Plus, we all know that no matter what patch he wears, I'm always going to outrank the dude.
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.