I’m what some people would call a “millenial mom”. Not because of my age (god, no. I’m much too old to be a true Millenial), but because of the age of my children. Many of my daughters’ friends have parents that are ten or more years younger than me, which means many of my own friends are that much younger than me. It’s sometimes a very strange place to be. I’m nearing forty years old and most of my friends have barely scratched the surface of their thirties. I often forget how much older I am than them. I guess that’s probably a good thing. My kids keep me young, but my friends make me actually feel young sometimes. It’s nice.
Something that “millenial motherhood” has taught me is the idea of The Village or The Tribe. In many ways, this is the first modern generation of mothers that have truly embraced the idea that we cannot do this mothering thing alone and, more importantly, we WILL not do it alone. We seek out our people and when we find them, it’s a huge weight off our ever-sagging shoulders (and breasts). It’s incredibly hard to find your people when you’re a mother. It’s not just finding people you click with. It’s finding people who support you and listen to you, people who understand and respect your parenting style, people who challenge your notions and appreciate all your differences, people who get along with you and with your children. It’s a process, one that takes a long time and requires a lot of effort. But man, when you find those people, the payoff is incredible!
But there’s a brand of mother that doesn’t often have the luxury of time: The Military Mother.
Of which I am one.
I got pregnant with my first baby a mere eight months after I married my military husband. By that time, I’d already moved twice and was still very new to the military life and all it required of me.
I got very lucky in the friendship department, I think. My first real friend was also a military wife and we were due with our first babies at the same time. She overheard me make a comment during a church event, messaged me on Facebook, and the next thing we knew, we were having conversations in the car about any number of topics reserved for only the closest of friends.
See, military spouses, we don’t waste time. We can’t. We dig in deep and we dig in fast. We ask questions and make statements and have (or attempt to have) conversations that most people don’t have without significant time under their friendship belts. And more often than not, the people we’re attempting to connect with are not military spouses.
They are locals. They grew up in or have significant roots in the towns we move to. It’s something a lot of us are envious of. Whatever roots we may have had in our own hometowns, we ripped those out when we married our service member. It’s not that we ache for our own roots. It’s that, when we become mothers, we ache for the roots our children won’t have…not for a long time, in most cases.
And that’s why we make our first priorty that of building our Village. We need to find our people, and fast! We need play dates for our children and coffee outings with grown ups. It can be incredibly challenging, for us – the military spouse – and you – the local.
The life we married into requires both of us to be very vulnerable. We may have chosen to marry into this, but we don’t come and go from city to city or country to country on purpose. We don’t leave without leaving pieces of our hearts in every place we live. We get married in your churches. We have our first baby in your hospitals. We buy our first houses in your neighborhoods. We sometimes have to bury our pets in unmarked graves in your open spaces. Where you have roots, we leave pieces of our souls.
The Military Mom you know…she fell in love with your towns and your parks and your churches. I did and do all those things. One of my dearest friends is a local from my husband’s last duty station. Knowing her the way I do now, she took a huge risk on me when she opened herself to our friendship. But then she opened herself to my Village. That, for her, is a whole different level of trust and depth. I know what it took for her to do that. Children have a way of making us very selective about our friends. She’s now over 7,000 miles away from me. That’s put an epic strain on our friendship. We’re in exact opposite time zones so the things we could share before (specifically, award shows season [I apologize for nothing]) are a near impossiblity. She’s dealing with bedtime shenanigans while I’m trying to clean up lunch hurricanes. But we make it work. Because SHE IS MY PEOPLE. When I think about my mothering journey, there isn’t a chance in hell I can imagine doing it without her.
In fact, my entire Village from that duty station is that way. Those women were my first foray into motherhood. A few are locals, a few are transplants, and a few – like me – are transients. It’s a beautiful mess of women with whom I have loved, laughed, and cried.
And it’s a beautiful mess of women that I’ve had to leave behind.
I fell in love…with some of my dearest friends, with their towns, their parks, their churches, their food, their lives. And then I left.
It was as hard for me to leave as it was for them to let me go. It was inevitable. It was never a secret that I was going to leave. When you befriend a military spouse, you have to be okay with knowing we’re going to leave. But we won’t forget you…and we desperately hope you won’t forget us. You are the link we have – the only real link – back to the places we left pieces of our hearts. We need you.