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The Baggage & Motherhood Guest Writer’s Series gives a space for moms around the world to share their story of what life has thrown their way and how it has impacted them in their role as a Mom. This post by Noëlle Boyer explores how to succeed at military motherhood, without losing your mind.
All of the posts in this series touch on the real life struggles of bringing your “stuff” with you to your most important job: Motherhood.
Someone told my husband once, “If the military wanted you to have a family they would have issued you one.”
That couldn’t be truer.
The thing about being a military spouse is we didn’t enter our marriages stronger than our non-military friends. We aren’t built differently. We married for love, aware of the potential struggles, but still naïve.
I am a mother of two boys and my husband, Ryan, is a pilot in the Marine Corps. Ten days after our youngest was born, Ryan left for a six-month long deployment. I was alone with our newborn and almost three year old.
The first few months of my pregnancy I was angry. We knew a rough estimate of when Ryan would deploy and we knew my due date was cutting it close. I prayed for an early delivery. My first son was born 9 days later than expected.
We talked about the possibility of Ryan missing the birth. We talked about the out of pocket cost for my husband to stay behind for the birth if he missed flying out with his squadron. We talked about every scenario. They all sounded terrible because they all meant I’d raise our newborn son without his father for six months.
I wallowed. I cried. I was angry with the Marine Corps. I was angry at God’s timing. I was angry at Ryan’s first deployment 18 months earlier that originally delayed our family planning.
But doesn’t everyone, military family or not, relate to the fact that our plans rarely come true?
We are the exact same. We have the same family problems. The difference is as military spouses we know a temporary separation is always looming.
You see my husband has a mistress. Her name is the Marine Corps.
When she calls, Ryan always answers. He won’t leave her side until his contract with her is up.
I survive deployments with the community of friends I found through a local mom’s group and on social media. In the military world, you have two choices: step out and make friends or become a recluse. I actively choose the former.
I joined a local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group that met at my church. I also joined an Instagram mom bloggers network to learn from other mothers around the world. The friends I met through these groups help me plan my days around play dates and blog posts.
I’ve also learned to accept help. My military spouse friends and I joke that when our spouses leave for a detachment or deployment, that’s when our homes are plagued with sickness or the car breaks down.
While Ryan’s been away, the following happened to me:
A bird flew into our garage, got injured and trapped. A neighbor had to come save the bird.
I hit a pothole and dented the wheel well of my car, causing my tire to go flat. A friend had to drive me to the car dealership. Another friend loaned me her car for a week while the parts for my car were ordered and repaired.
While 34 weeks pregnant, I got food poisoned for 24 hours. A friend had to drive me to the hospital and entertain my toddler.
After returning home from a month visiting family, the A/C in my house was broken. We had to wait 2 days before they were able to fix it, in 90 degree August heat with a toddler and 4 month old. Friends loaned me fans to place around the house.
If you haven’t caught on, the theme for how I survive the difficult times without the presence of my husband is, “I get by with a little help from my friends” (to quote The Beatles).
Friends help me get through the difficult times when an extra set of hands is vital.
They also remind me that I am not meant to handle all things on my own. I am a human, not a superhero.
It’s also important to me that I am showing my children that their father is still involved in their lives, even though he is away. That means we are actively communicating through internationally supported apps like WhatsApp and Facetime. We spoke to Ryan as often as his schedule and Internet connection allowed. If he was unable to speak on a biweekly basis, he sent us videos and pictures. We sent him updates on our days that way too.
My sons have their own Daddy Dolls gifted to them by the program Hug A Hero. We had Ryan record himself reading a book so they always had a chance to hear his voice before bed.
Establishing routines is especially important for raising children in the military.
Since this life requires us to be flexible, there are certain things I make sure my children can expect. From the time they wake up, meal times, outdoor and indoor play and when to be in bed. When routines are shifted, that’s typically when behavioral issues arise with my toddler.
The last tangible way I stay sane as a military wife is by setting aside time for myself.
I take care of myself by working out daily and savoring a glass of red wine at night while re-watching my favorite shows. My boys are in bed by 7:30pm, which leaves me 3 hours to do what I need to recharge for the next day.
I want to be clear: I am not the perfect military spouse. I resent Ryan when he’s away and I am left running our house. I feel jealous when I see pictures of friends on social media never apart from their family. I wish to one day live within driving distance from my parents again. I allow myself to feel sad, I just know I can’t stay there. Despite all that the military takes from me, it has also given me so much.
The military is teaching me that I am not alone. People who want to see my family safe and happy surround me. I only need to let them.
Noëlle Boyer is a military spouse, boy mom, and blogger. She is Amazon-obsessed, thinks the Trader Joe’s frozen food section counts as a food group, and will drive an obscene distance for truly amazing tacos. You can find her at www.noelleboyer.com.
I want to say a big “Thank you!” to Noëlle for this guest post on military motherhood. Noëlle has been through a lot as a military wife and mom to two young boys, and she handles it all with grace and in stride. Thank you for your words of advice!
See the rest of the posts in the Baggage & Motherhood series here!
Christina is the writer behind the blog Real Life Mama. She is a mom two littles, a 4-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. Christina and her family live in San Diego, where she is a full-time mama, part-time mental health therapist (LPCC), and round-the-clock blogger, writer, and author. If she ever gets a moment to herself, she can be found singing at the top of her lungs, cooking, and crafting. Thanks for reading!