We’re often a minority in our community since we are a military family. Many people we know don’t understand our lifestyle, our benefits, the occasional drawbacks, the stress.
How to handle the stress of military life when no one seems to understand…and suggestions to help a military family.
This is all that matters. This makes it all worth it. We count it all a privilege.
As a military daughter, at least I knew what I was getting into when I married my husband. My grandfather was retired Navy and my dad is retired Army (hooah!), and I’ve never known a time I couldn’t pass the gates of a military installation or shop at a BX/PX or commissary. Service members in uniform are normal for me. Acronyms were regular vocabulary in my house when I was growing up. It was a normal lifestyle for me. Vacations centered around visiting battlefields and history museums. I don’t regret any of it.
My husband is a lab officer in the Air Force. It’s not much different for me than when I grew up with my dad being a Chief Warrant Officer in the Army. Being an officer’s wife has its ups and downs. I think too many wives wear their husband’s rank. They think they deserve the same privileges their husbands earned. So sad. I’ve had to separate myself a lot from base life and focus on my family. Perhaps at some point, I can feel it’s appropriate to participate in spouse groups or PWOC, but it’s not a priority right now.
Some don’t realize the strict (and often arbitrary) weight and physical fitness requirements in the military. My father was forced into early retirement over it. Both my dad and my husband are big guys. The military doesn’t take into account body type. A skinny ectomorph has the same standards to meet as a stocky endomorph. My husband stresses over the PT tests…diet and exercise haven’t always come naturally to him. Recently, he changed his lifestyle to embrace Whole30 and he lost 30 pounds in a couple months! He goes to the gym at least four mornings a week, so he’s in bed by 9 PM. We’re continuing as a family to embrace a whole and clean foods diet and we use essential oils for health and well-being. We’re on no medications at all anymore! Aaron still stresses over excelling in his run, sit-ups, and push-ups, but it’s easier now. And he looks so much better and more professional in his uniform now. I’m so proud of him!
Of course, there’s the whole issue of moving around. We PCS or move to a different base every 2-4 years. We’ve gotten the feeling that some folks don’t want to make an effort to be friends since they know we’ll leave in a while. Moving is a hard time on the kids and cats especially. The packers come and the movers take our stuff. We travel to our new location and wait for our stuff. We cite a claim for the broken or missing items. We’re anxious about our move next year, not knowing where we might go and knowing we will miss our friends here so terribly much. We’ve never felt so much a part of community as we have in our current location. We could come back here for sure! Each location is an adventure. We trust God for all the details.
We’ve been lucky in that my husband has only experienced one deployment in his career so far. He served in Afghanistan two years ago. As a medical officer, he saw some horrible things, but he was probably safer in the hospital than most out in the field. We are proud to help our world be a safer place in this way. We gladly sacrifice our comforts and time together to help others have a home where they can feel safe too.
The kids did surprisingly well during the seven long months of having Daddy away on the other side of the world. We at least got to email and Skype frequently. We sent occasional care packages with the items he requested – peanut butter, hot sauce, spices, and a few toiletries. Tori had the hardest time and didn’t want to go to bed. Often, it was easier to let her sleep with me than fight it. There was the constant worry hanging in the air and I did my best to comfort, pray with each child, encourage, distract. The kids were granted pillows with Dad’s picture from an organization on base. They slept with it at night. It was a cold comfort.
The hardest part of deployment for me was that, because we homeschool, I had no break from the house or kids – for seven months, seven days a week. The few people who offered to help didn’t really ask me what I needed, but offered to shovel my snowy driveway, or wanted to come to my house and watch my kids so I could go out (and I had nowhere to go). I would have preferred they offer to take my kids to the park for an hour or out for ice cream so they had a break from me.
Liz was a strong big sister who helped me so much when I was tired or overwhelmed.
Some people say they don’t know how I do it. They say they couldn’t. I say: it’s our life. We chose this. We live it. It’s everyday for us. We’re thankful. We’re grateful for the opportunities our family experiences. It makes us stronger. It shows us we need God, to rely on Him for our strength in times of stress.
We get to teach our kids a greater respect for our country and to pray for our leaders, our government, our military, others around the world…it is our honor and privilege.