Making plans as a military spouse feels like gambling. Will we be able to go on that trip? Will we really move to that state next year? What will the next few years look like?
I learned pretty quickly that the military is going to disappoint you. Paperwork takes longer than it should, dates get changed, and you can be left feeling like your thoughts and desires don’t even matter.
Getting used to this isn’t easy and even 16 years in, I still feel that disappointment. I feel it when drill dates get changed last minute. I feel it when we have to cancel trips due to being called up. I feel it when I start to wonder if my husband will be deployed and if so for how long?
There are just so many unknown changes in military life.
I think we try to cling to things that seem so certain, even if they could actually change, even if we know they might do so. We want so badly to have a normal life, plan all the things, and have them actually happen. We want to feel like we have some type of control.
When we hear our spouse might be getting orders to a new duty station in California, we want to plan all the things. We want to figure out where to live and what schools our kids will go to. We want to start a bucket list and plan what we will do for fun. We want to start to apply for jobs and get that moving.
But then, the military changes its mind and we end up in another state or another country and have to start the process all over again. We get frustrated because even if we can come to terms with the moves, coming to terms with the changes associated with them can be more difficult.
The truth is, the military is going to disappoint you and often. And the best thing to do is figure out how to roll with these changes. Because they are going to keep coming.
The military is going to disappoint you because living a military life is a bit of a sacrifice. Your service member signed up to give these years to the government. And doing so means that the mission comes first. Even if it is frustrating or inconvenient for the family.
We joke about always writing our plans in pencil but maybe that is what we have to do to stay sane. We joke about Murphy but maybe we have to plan for that to happen, and a plan for what we should do if it does. We joke about “hurry up and wait” but maybe that is what we always have to have in our heads when it comes to anything military.
As military spouses, we have to work hard to establish ourselves even within the military world. Depending on where you are stationed and what your own dreams might be, this isn’t always easy. We might need to pivot and plan for a last-minute deployment, or other change we didn’t see coming.
As military spouses, we have to figure out ways to handle the disappointment that comes with all of this. Some of us might need to cry it out, that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with feeling sad over a disappointment. But then, we have to figure out how to move through the change, and what we can do to get back on track.
Having some good military spouse friends, either in person, online, or both can be a good way to handle some of what military life brings. Your military spouse friends have been there. And can be there to encourage you. To see the light in the tunnel, and to help you come up with a plan.
Having good systems in place so you are not left all alone and so that you do have a backup plan is important. Who will you call if something breaks in your house? Who will you go to if your childcare falls through? What will you do when you are having a bad day and just need to find a listening ear?
Having a good plan for those what-ifs of military life can go a long way in helping you through periods of time when the military disappoints you. You can plan for everything, and when you do, those plans can change but you can be prepared for what you might need in the future.
You can also try to use caution when it comes to certain things. Don’t plan out a PCS before the orders come. Don’t assume your spouse will be around for something in the future, they might not be. And yes, always use that pencil in your planner. That way you can pivot, change, and get through the disappointments that come with military life.