As military spouses, most of us pride ourselves on our ability to adapt and cope with change. An overseas move doesn’t faze us. We take deployment orders in stride. Expect the unexpected, we tell ourselves. Life as a military spouse is an adventure! We experience the unknown on behalf of our spouses and families pretty regularly, but how often to we really make the choice to try something new on a personal level? How often do we branch out and do something a bit scary, just for ourselves?
I’ve always considered myself open to new experiences. I love traveling, I find starting new jobs exciting and I anticipated the first day of every school year with a Christmas Eve level of intensity. But when I had my first baby last year — my scariest new experience to date — I had to confront just how adaptable I really was. It felt like I was facing change in every aspect of my life: from the mundane, what do I do with this baby while I take a shower? When do I have to go back to wearing non-elasticized pants? To the more dramatic, how do I maintain my most important relationships? If I watch Orange is the New Black while nursing, will the baby be traumatized? Gradually, I’m learning to cope with the varied changes having a kid brings and I’m figuring out what my life looks like now.
One of my most important realizations as a new parent, especially one who is currently staying at home, is that I have to try activities and meet people in order to build a support network. This is especially important for military parents, who are often far from their friends and families. Hello Mamas, a networking site for moms, is a great way to connect with other moms who share your interests. Making “mom friends” (or dad friends!) is really essential to having fun, getting out of the house, staying healthy, and generally feeling like a human being.
Making new friends as an adult is fairly intimidating, in my opinion. Especially when you have a new baby and you already feel unsure of yourself. I’ve never really been a shy person, but I’ve found myself feeling very self-conscious when I meet other parents for the first time. Do they like me? Are they judging my stroller choice? Should I be wearing this much makeup at the park? Is that ominous smell coming from my kid? But joining discussion groups and playgroups, trekking to story times, and feeling incredibly awkward at baby yoga class can really pay off. For me, stepping out of my comfort zone to meet new people and try new activities gave me confidence that I desperately needed. Every time I talked to someone new, or tried something different with my little one, I felt more assured of my ability to cope with my changing life.
I’m a year in to this new parent experience, and I’m slowly gaining confidence, not just in my parenting and my friend-making skills, but also in my ability to face change. I think I’m much more willing to try new things just for myself now. Maybe I’ll train for a marathon, or try CrossFit. Maybe I’ll go back to work, or explore new career options. Or maybe I’ll just get bangs. Whatever terrifying choice I make next, I’ll do it with it with a lot more faith in myself.