(written for Military Spouse Appreciation Month)
It is often that I hear military spouses expressing various frustrations related to feeling a lack of purpose as they follow their soldier here and there, continually putting their ambitions and careers second. This frustration is common within the military spouse community, and a reality I’ve witnessed to be true among some of my closest friends.
As a school teacher--my ‘pre-mom job’--I did not initially relate to this struggle. Teaching is considered one of those “good jobs for a military spouse,” and while it is never convenient to move jobs as a teacher, it is doable. Teaching is not typically a job one pursues with an intent to ‘move up the career ladder’, or one which entails building up a clientele--so jumping around is rarely harmful in the long run. While becoming acclimated to a new state’s curriculum guidelines and professional requirements is exhausting and takes extensive time and money, this was a reality I prepared myself for when I decided to marry a man in the Army. The transition from Virginia to Texas education felt like learning a new language, and my first year in Texas felt like my first year of teaching all over again; but I made it work and learned a lot and am overall thankful for the experience I had working in different schools and different states.
But I am now a stay-at-home mom. This is in part, because I genuinely want to be; but also, because deep down I know I need to be. With a husband in the military, my roles as both mother and wife can be all-consuming at times. It became very clear to me in the five-week trial period of finishing out the school year following my maternity leave after I had my first child, that I could not do both jobs, mother and teacher, with my whole heart in both. I felt stretched, exhausted, and a very strong pull that ultimately brought me back home.
Functioning now primarily in the house, I may not always feel relevant to the world as I did teaching, but I feel relevant to my home and my family--and that gives me more purpose than anything else I could imagine.
“Then the Lord God said ‘It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’” (Genesis 2:18)
I’ve read this verse many times, but it recently spoke to me in new ways--as bible verses often do. It is what gave me inspiration to sit down and write this piece and share my heart in hopes of encouraging other military spouses who may be lacking purpose in their lives right now.
I can tell you with assurance that if you are a military spouse (or any spouse for that matter), you have purpose. It may not be the world-changing, people-shaping, honor or badge-earning calling we all somewhat aspire to--but it’s an important job to stand beside your soldier as his helper. As a homemaker, you may feel at times that your achievements rarely permeate the walls of your home, but this in no way makes your life arbitrary.
You are the one your soldier depends on...to create a safe and loving place to come home to each day; to tell him where his keys and wallet are...yet again; to match all his different green socks, restock the Frosted flakes, shove him out of bed when the snooze alarm goes off one too many times. You’re the one waiting on the homefront with teary eyes and the first hug he’s had in almost a year. You’re the one who fills his belly and keeps his children safe and cared for, their activities scheduled, the calendars filled and followed. You’re the one who takes care of the dog, the budget, the neverending address changes. You’re the one who’s ear is there to hear it all at the end of a long day, the one who’s proud smile and pretty dress accompany him alongside promotion ceremonies and other formal events. You’re his best accessory. You’re the one who pushes him to pursue challenges that intimidate him, the one he wants to make proud.
And you’re also the one that he--and your children--don’t quite know what they’d do without.
I’ll admit there are times I’ve felt useless during my days as a stay-at-home wife and mom. It’s discouraging when daily achievements around the home are reversed within minutes… the bucket of legos you picked up, the dog hair you vacuumed, the tiny hand prints you finally wiped off the windows and mirrors...things you don’t even bother putting on a checklist because you know you’ll never actually get to cross them off for good. These are the days you find yourself playing a round or two of Candy Crush before bed just to feel a tiny sense of lasting achievement.
As a military spouse and mom, there’s never a gold star, a pat on the back, a bonus or promotion or happy hour celebration at the end of a long day of laundry and wiping snot, tears, bloody knees, and way too many smears off various surfaces. But there is a strong sense of stability and security in your home because of you and what you do quietly day after day tending to your husband and children and home.
Your efforts may feel useless at times, but this in no way strips away the purpose you should feel when you open your eyes each morning. You are his helper, and his friend. You not only stand beside him, but you stand beside the colors and beside your country. You support one of the greatest causes there is -- the security and protection of the United States of America.
You don’t wear the uniform, and you don’t get anywhere near the front line, but you and the sea of other devoted military spouses are the behind-the-scenes workers who put the “home” in “homefront”, and without whom-- things would most certainly fall apart.
You give your soldier the ability to have a balanced life outside work; to have children and pets, a lovely home to walk into at the end of a long day, a plate of hot eggs and toast when he walks in from PT, and a kiss out the door. You give him a family to support and love him.
So to my fellow military spouses: appreciate yourselves, especially during this month of May, Military Spouse Appreciation month. Focus on the overwhelming pride behind your purpose...
even on the hardest days when you might not quite understand how you ended up here.