When you’re a de facto member of the military (married in, rather than volunteering per se), there are a lot of things that can take some getting used to. And I think I covered that, but please know that I claim whining as my right and there will probably be more of this down the road.
However, while it isn’t all roses and rainbows, there are a lot of benefits to being a military mom, too.
1) Auto-Friends: Okay, no one is ever automatically your friend, but how many times — in the ‘real’ world — do you move to a new home and find yourself invited to two or three social functions in the first week? How many times have you moved to a town you’ve never been to before (in my case, one you’ve never even heard of) and had not one, but two different families show up on your doorstep with baskets of food and tips about everything from where to get your hair done to where to put your kids in daycare? If you’re an extrovert, the military spouse network is heaven. There are spouses from all walks of life (and though I’m trying to be politically correct here by using “spouse,” let’s face it, they’re mostly wives), and from all parts of the globe. I am not exactly an extrovert, and I still found myself with a full social calendar almost immediately — and that meant a full social calendar for Turbo and Lunchbox, too.
I’ll make one more point about the women I have met in the military spouse sphere — they are not to be underestimated! They are tough, tenacious and experienced. Every time I have assumed that I knew something about someone based on the outer shell (how many kids they have, whether they work, how long they’ve been married — all the stuff we women like to judge each other on), I have been proven wrong in spades. The wealth of experience that this crowd brings to the table is overwhelming, and most of these ladies are humble enough to make you have to work a bit to find out what they’ve seen and done. And it’s impressive.
2) Having a baby? Welcome to your catered dinner menu for a month! When anything about the size of a breadbox comes out of your body, you’re bound to be tired and maybe even a bit crabby. Oh, and sore. And even though you’re probably also hungry, cooking ranks at about 997 on the list of things that you’d like to do in the days immediately following the event. And thanks to the network of wonderful women in the military spouse network, cooking was one thing I did NOT have to worry about. For WEEKS. Both times I had babies, those women showed up at my house in a veritable parade of culinary goodness. My family got used to gourmet cooking, and it was so fun to wonder what would arrive for dinner each night!
If you’re ever in a position to cook for someone who needs it (and these ladies arrange meal service for any reason you can imagine to help each other out), here are a couple tips: Should you bring dessert? Oh, yes please. Wine? Absopositively! And if you happen to have made too much, tossing in another freezable portion so that the new mom will have something on hand later is a great idea!
3) The Commissary and Exchange: (that’s the grocery store and general goods store). While the on base grocery offerings are usually more limited than those out in town, it’s worth stocking up there and hitting the local grocery just for the few items you didn’t find at the commissary. Shopping on base saves money. Not just a little bit of money — bunches. And if you’re lucky enough to be at a base that has a good exchange of a decent size, you can find everything from cosmetics to Coach bags to jewelry tax-free and discounted. That, my friends, is a benefit this shopper can appreciate!
4) Healthcare: While visiting the clinic isn’t always a joy, the fact that it is there when we need it speaks volumes. Vaccinations? Walk in. Sick kid? Call that morning, you can often get in within hours. No appointments? They’ll help you arrange to go to the urgent care, ER or to a doctor in town. It might not be as personal as having your own family doctor, but the doctors I’ve seen on base are largely caring and sweet, and are genuinely concerned about my family and my health. And if for some reason I want to go to a specialist? Referrals are pretty easy to get. Oh, and prescriptions? They’re free.
5) Childcare: This is a system that works well in theory. And for many, I think it works well in practice. I’ve been on lots of wait lists for childcare on base — it is very affordable compared to private local options. I’ve never actually been moved off the wait list, but I think that’s because I have not been persistent enough with follow up calls. (When you need childcare NOW, you end up making other arrangements, and I’ve been pretty happy with what we found off base for our guys.)
I could say so much more — other military moms, please feel free to add other thoughts in the comments! I will add one more benefit of being a military spouse/mommy:
6) Pride: I know most wives are proud of their husbands, and most kids adore their daddies. But when your hubby/daddy wears a uniform to work every day (even though I call the Major’s flight suit a “jumpsuit” which he does not appreciate…), I think it feels a little bit different kissing him goodbye and sending him on his way. That uniform is a reminder that he’s going out to work for your family, but also for a much bigger family — and one that doesn’t always appreciate him or remember to say “thank you.” My boys are still very little, but when Turbo tells people what his daddy does for work, his eyes glitter with pride as he describes the plane his daddy flies. And I admit to feeling a little pump of pride when I tell people that my husband is a Marine. That fact makes us all part of something bigger. And though we sacrifice a bit to be part of the military community, we are all part of something that makes this country special. And it is worth it.
But I’ll still be happy when the Major’s twenty years are up and we can settle down. And I don’t think that looking forward to that time takes away even one little bit from how lucky I feel to be married to a Marine right now.