I always get a little offended when I find that I am no different than a statistic.
I have always prided myself on being different than everybody else…I have always marched to the beat of my own drum. Consequently, when I find that I have the same thoughts, feelings, and frustrations as other women my age, I feel as though I have succumbed to the expectations of society rather than meeting the expectations I set for myself.
Admittedly, that’s just a little snobby, so it’s good for me to have a reality check. Everyone needs an ego pop every now and again. We all have far more in common than we have that is different. As military spouses, we have many feelings, experiences, and ordeals similar to each other. As I become more seasoned as a spouse, I start to realize that I am very similar to those senior spouses that I observed when I was new to the military community. Our experiences build who we are, and regardless of the differences we had when we started, we have a surprising amount in common later down the road.
Time passes and we grow from our experiences. Despite what I thought when I was younger, I have come to realize that the aging thing is a real phenomenon and one that shouldn’t be blown off. After 17 years of steady work, having two kids, a fifteen-year marriage, and finally getting the PCS thing down pat, I seem to have it all. But, I’m tired. Pooped. Exhausted. And I’m not the only military spouse that feels this way. I remember a senior wife discussing how moving finally got to her after 20 years. I remember at the time being shocked by her candidness, but now I understand.
Hello! Aging sucks. The repetition and drudgery stink after awhile. The effect is has on my body and mind is undeniable. But this is life and this is what happens as time goes by. I am now comforted by the knowledge that I am not alone in this journey and there are many other military spouses who feel the same way that I do.
I keep wondering when it’s fair to think of retirement — to think of what I want to do, rather than what my kids, my husband, and his career need me to do. I dread the realization that retirement is so far off. I worry that it will come too quickly and I won’t be ready. I fear that choosing to work has been bad for my kids. I fear that I stay in my job for the wrong reasons. Then I turn around and feel guilty because I have the perfect job considering the transient life I live. I am anxious at how quickly time is beginning to pass. My breath hitches in my throat as I realize the kids are growing older. I am growing older. What if I never meet the goals I set in college?
Some goals seem to be getting further and further out of reach. The desires to be a world-renowned professor, researcher, public speaker, missionary, and superwoman are tempered by the ideals of taking care of my family, raising good kids, constantly moving, and answering the quiet (but no less important) call to be a leader in my local community. Suddenly, at this age, I’m wondering if my sacrifices of career and dreams are appreciated by those I love most. Will my kids ever realize that mommy had a brain–a very good brain– and while she’s not a Fortune 500 CEO, she sacrificed what she could have been for what she has done? Will the sacrifice ever be recognized?
Probably not. Just gotta say there, are no Nobel prizes in mommy-hood. We are the silent corps. Kelly Corrigan, in her book Glitter and Glue: A Memoir, uses glitter and glue to compare relationship roles. Military spouses may not be the glitter, but we are the glue that holds the military life and family life together.
As I look at the world around us — the problems we face and the cutting comments on social media about raising a better generation — I’ve come to realize that it’s the mothers and fathers around the world making similar sacrifices that will raise a generation of kids that will continue to make the world a better place. The things we teach our kids, and the faith and hope we instill in them, is no less important than finding the formula for penicillin or leading a huge company. Not everyone can be an astrophysicist, but we can create communities of love and raise kids to be mindful contributors to their generation. That is no less important. Maybe that’s not the degree I got in college, but I am working on “expert status” every single day.
“Be the change you want to see in the world” happens at your doorstep, not just at the podium of some major institution. If mammas and daddies went away, the world would fall apart. If military spouses went away, woe to the military.
So, although I have come to realize that I feel very much like other women in my age bracket, I am beginning to embrace that statistic. We DO feel this way. We do constantly question the life balance decisions we make every day. We question whether or not we are making a difference in the world as we intended in our irrepressible youth.
I think the more we come together as communities of military spouses, the more we realize that we are all having these thoughts, feelings, and concerns. It helps to lift each other up through those moments when we are feeling sorry for ourselves after yet ANOTHER move. I hope as we mark the passage of this period in our lives, we realize with utmost conviction we are executing the calling intended especially for us. On every step in our daily journeys, we are making the world a better place to be.