I met Jen McDonald through a blogger group and it has been a great friendship ever since. I reviewed her book “You Are Not Alone” and I believe it’s a book that every military spouse should have handy. Jen has become a wonderful friend and mentor to me. She’s been around the military spouse world long enough to have some wonderful advice and encouragement for those of us less seasoned. Please make sure you check out her site and you pick up her book.
Thank you Jen for sharing with us what it means to be a resilient military spouse. You inspire us to push through this sometimes difficult, yet extremely rewarding at times, life and watch our spouses commit to serve our wonderful country. You are a true inspiration and a wonderful friend. Thank you for all that you do for military spouses and for your decades of commitment to serving as well, because we know that it’s not just the military member that serves!
I’ve been a military spouse for a long time. Nearly 29 years, to be exact. At times I can feel like I’ve seen and heard all the inspiring slogans and catch phrases (*Cue military recruiter or AFN commercial music*): One Team, One Fight…Above It All…Aim High…Army of One…The Few, the Proud…and so on. I’ve had the privilege of attending multitudes of briefings referencing the strength, service, and resilience of military families—spouses, parents, and kids. I admire military families greatly.
But what exactly IS resilience? Many military spouses, including myself, didn’t know what they were getting into when they married their service member. Who really can, unless you have a military background yourself? Who can be prepared for the separations, the constant changes, the moves, the very little control you may end up having over your location/career/educational opportunities/how much you see your spouse/you name it?
So we find ourselves thrust into a role we may not have chosen had we understood what it actually meant or in a position of leadership that we weren’t necessarily looking for, but gained by virtue of the fact that we stuck it out and now others look to us for some answers in the unknowns of life as a military spouse. We only knew we were in love and wanted to be with the one we love.
So, then, what is this unwitting resilience we speak of—what does that look like? How do we pass on this elusive quality? Here are a few examples I’ve seen over the years.
Resilience is the military spouse who moves overseas and manages to create a home for her family in the middle of the unfamiliar.
Resilience is the mom who tackles the Autobahn to drive her kid to soccer practice, even though she’s terrified of the speed, can’t read any signs yet, and would much prefer to stay within the safe confines of base housing.
Resilience is the dad I met at a homeschooling park day in Guam. Our children played while we chatted, exchanged recipes, and talked about regular kid and family issues. He’d left the corporate world to become a stay-at-home dad so his wife could be free to pursue her military career knowing he had her back.
Resilience is the entrepreneur mom with the brand-new start up or work-at-home job, hoping to create a second, portable income that maybe will stay stable through military moves.
Resilience is the spouse of a Wounded Warrior, waiting at the bedside with no idea of the outcome will be and later, helping navigate appointments, paperwork, and the physical and emotional fallout.
Resilience is a child going through the third or fourth or more deployment of a parent, missing birthdays, holidays, and regular old boring days with one they love most.
I could go on…and you likely have your own examples of resilience. From walking across the street to introduce yourself to a new neighbor to celebrating homecomings to being honest about military life struggles with newer spouses…this all shows resilience. It takes great strength to start over again every few years, to make a new friend when you know one of you will be likely moving on sooner rather than later, to support a mission you may not always understand or even agree with.
So, fellow military spouse, as I look back on nearly three decades of this life, I have to tell you something. As you live out of suitcases for weeks or months on end during yet another move, tote your kids to ballet and baseball practice alone and go through the drive-thru for dinner while you manage another separation from your spouse, or simply put one foot in front of another each morning as you run on nothing but a meh attitude and a bottomless cup of coffee…I find you amazing.
AND…I find you remarkably resilient.