PCS by myself with an 18-month-old. Check.
Go 11 months without seeing my husband. Check.
Give birth without my husband by my side. Check.
As military spouses, we have to do so many things, all by ourselves, that we never thought we would.
When I was giving birth to my first little boy, before Army life, I knew I wanted more children. I never would have thought that my husband wouldn’t be there for their births too.
When we got married, and I looked back at previous long-distance relationships, I never thought I would go through that with him. A long-distance marriage? Who wants that???
If someone would have told me at 23 that when I was 26 I would be moving an 18-month old to Germany by myself, I would have told them they were crazy. There was no way I was going to do that, nope.
You probably have similar stories. During military life, you may have had to do things you didn’t think you would have had to do. Things that didn’t even seem possible. Things your former self wouldn’t be able to wrap your mind around.
But the truth is, although they may call us “dependents” we are anything but. We have to be independent, in so many different ways.
If your spouse is deployed, you will probably be the one making a lot of the decisions around the house that you normally would make together. Parenting? That all falls to you pretty much. Sure, your deployed spouse can give you some input but they are not the ones there on a day-to-day basis.
This can be SO taxing sometimes. And can lead to some serious burnout. You might feel like you are never going to get a break. No matter how many times people remind you that you are strong, it doesn’t always feel like it.
On the other hand, becoming more independent, being the person who holds everything all together, that can feel empowering. You can take that strength with you through the rest of your military journey.
I know for me, when I am feeling not quite so strong, I remind myself of my 15-month deployment, or that I took a Space-A trip from Germany and back again with a two and four-year-old. I remind myself that I can do hard things, scary things I never thought I would be able to do.
Yes, we are “dependents” as far as what the military will officially call us, but we are anything but.
We work hard to keep things together, we have to be both mom and dad, and we do it each and every day because we know we have to.
If you are new to this life, you could be feeling so very intimidated by all of this. Maybe you consider yourself fiercely independent, but at the same time are not sure what to expect. Maybe you don’t feel that way at all, and wonder how you will get through so much alone.
The truth is, you will surprise yourself, time and time again. What seems impossible right now, will be possible when you have to go through it.
I can remember when my husband first talked about joining the military. Our son was not even a year old and all I could think was that if he did join, I would have to parent without him and I couldn’t do that. I needed him with me, at home, each and every day.
But then something changed. He left for Germany, and I was suddenly a solo parent to a 13-month-old. And it was so, so very hard at the time. But somehow I made it through that, and many more months and years of solo parenting to come.
I learned a big lesson when my husband joined the Army. That I could do hard things that I didn’t think I could do.
That I could be more independent than I thought I could be. That I could figure out how to make things work, and how to get through this crazy military life.
I don’t have it all figured out. Sometimes when he is gone, I really wish he was home. Being the main person to take care of the home, and the boys, in addition to everything on my plate is overwhelming at times. But, at the end of the day, I know I can handle what comes my way.
Handling military life doesn’t always mean I have to handle every little thing personally. I can ask for help. I can hire a service. I can take certain things off my plate.
Asking for help never comes easy for me. I want to be able to do everything all myself. I don’t want to have to rely on anyone else.
But sometimes, I simply can’t. I have to ask. I have to find someone to help me.
Being independent might not always come easy, even though we are required to be so.
If you are married, you are in a partnership. You want to help each other out. But sometimes, especially during a deployment, your partner and you might feel pretty distant, or that you have to do everything the two of you might do together.
This is one of those things that can be so difficult about military life. The feeling that everything falls to you. The feeling that you no longer have a partner.
But here is the thing, you do have a partner. They might be overseas, but they are still with you in spirit. They might be so busy you barely get to speak, but they still have your back. And you as the spouse will have to become more independent through this, but that will help you through other difficult times in the future.
As you look ahead on your military spouse journey, there will be seasons when everything will fall to you and there will be times when things feel more normal. There will be moments when you feel like you have all of this figured out and moments when you feel a bit lost and are unsure of what the future holds.
Remember, you are not alone in any of this. No matter where you are stationed or where you live, other spouses are dealing with all of this too. You will look back on your years as a military spouse and be amazed at everything you have gone through, and everything you have accomplished.