My husband and I are an active duty, dual-military family. I’m a military mother. And while I sit online and read through article after article of how to make mommy friends, and the stay-at-home versus back-to-work mommy wars, and the should-I-or-shouldn’t-I for everything else, there are a few things I’d like to share.
1. I’m desperate to make mom friends outside of the military, and I have no idea how.
My life, for the past six years, has been at the whim of the United States government. I’ve lived on a ship, deployed for nine months, spent countless nights at sea and countless more in a room away from home to monitor the equipment that ensures my fellow sisters can talk to their loved ones while they are out on their missions. I see you at the park, at the playground, on the blogs and websites, setting up playdates and swim classes and everything else. And I have no idea how to join you—no idea how to strike up a conversation.
“Hey, want to hang out? But it can’t be Saturday, or the following Sunday, or in any of those six-day intervals. See, I’ve got duty those days, which means I spend 24-hours away from my family in a locked facility doing a top-secret job I can’t actually tell you about.”
2. I don’t know how to respond when you ask me how I do what I do.
Unlike you, I don’t have the choice to either go back to work or stay at home. I signed a contract and swore an oath on the constitution to uphold my duties. And while the military does give mothers paid maternity leave (which is fantastic), every branch of service is different. This means that some of us go back to a deployable status in six months, some of us in a year. Some of us start doing field exercises and spending weeks away from home when our child is only 4 months old, or spend a year overseas once our child is 12 months. We don’t have a choice. We can’t call in sick, or find a new job, or transfer to another department. And it can be devastating, it can be exhilarating, it can make us more proud than we knew possible because we’re sailors, marines or soldiers, and we’re protecting not just our children but yours.
3. Finding childcare sucks.
Remember how I mentioned that 24-hour duty? Even better, my husband is also active-duty, which means he also has those days. That means, sometimes, we have to find someone we can trust to take our son for an entire 24 hours. And we’re lucky—we’re both on a shore duty rotation, which means it will rarely happen to us. I have countless friends with kids who have to send them to random family members for a week here or a month there.
4. I’m a normal mom.
Beyond everything—the uniform, the duty days, the deployments, the field exercises—beyond all of that, I’m just a mom. It’s 6:14 p.m. (or 18:14 if I want to be true to myself) on a Sunday night, my kid is in bed, I’m halfway through a giant chocolate bar and about to binge watch old seasons of America’s Next Top Model.
So, to the working mom and the stay-at-home mom, I ask that you don’t forget me. I won’t make 90 percent of the playdates, and I might show up in combat boots, but I love my child just as much as you love yours, and I need you in my life because I, just like you, am a mom.