All Mothers question whether they are doing right by their children. Am I too hard on them, am I too lenient, do I give them enough attention, etc. It’s a never-ending cycle and it honestly doesn’t stop once they turn 18. It begins as soon as we realize we are pregnant. We worry about eating healthy, being physically cautious with our bodies, limiting stress (when possible) and some go even further as far as reading to the unborn child and/or exposing them to specific music in hopes of stimulating their brains in hopes of them being born smarter. After they are born, we spend 18 years of protecting them, teaching them, and loving them. And always asking ourselves if we could be doing something better for their overall well-being. For mothers who are also serving in the military, the burden of “how is this or that going to affect them” is taken to a whole other level. We have to leave our children – sometimes for a year or longer – and more than once. We find ourselves in the dilemma of choosing between having a career or being a good mother. How can I be a good mom if I’m choosing to leave my child for an extended period of time? And by “choosing” I’m referring to the fact that I “chose” this career option, therefore I technically “chose” to leave them. But the conversation we have in our heads is more along the lines of “I am a good mom because I’m choosing to secure my kids’ futures by serving in the military and banking on the fringe benefits of the job.” For me, the end-result of having job security – stable income, health benefits, etc – is what justified the sacrifices I’ve had to make. But it doesn’t make me feel any better about how my choice of military service might have affected my kids. But was it the best choice for THEM? There are different versions of the military mom situation. You have single moms, married to a civilian moms, and dual military. When you are single, you have go on a deployment and hope that the family you’ve chosen to keep your kids is raising them according to your own values. If it’s a married family, you pray the parents don’t have marital problems which could affect your kids. When you are dual military, many times both parents are deployed at the same time – leaving the kids without either parent. For the married to a civilian moms, your spouse assumes all the duties that normally would be yours and you have pretty much been replaced. On deployment, you can’t take a personal day to attend your child’s award ceremony or sports event. We literally miss everything! We have to focus on our jobs while trying not to think about how our children are having all their “firsts” with another mom.
I think back to my own son. He is 19 now but during most of my career he was in school. I was a single parent most of that time. Not only did I miss out on stuff with him, but HE missed out on so much. I worked shift work so he could do sports or other extra curricular activities because of my work schedule. Both of my kids missed out on the whole “family” experience. We lived overseas a lot or we lived in another state. My kids didn’t grow up with aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents. I mean, yes, they know they have them, but they never got to really be around them as kids. It was always just me and them. My son is kind of an introvert now. I wonder if it is because of how I had to raise him. He had to watch his sister at a very early age because I didn’t have childcare available during my working hours. I also wonder if how I had to be with them has affected them in other ways. What I mean is this – when I had to leave for deployment I didn’t want to have a long drawn out dramatic departure with crying kids and all that. It was simple – Mommy had to go to work. I was kind of standoffish with him. Not because I didn’t love him but because I didn’t want him to have that sadness moment plus I had a job to do and couldn’t afford the luxury of sad thoughts of missing my son while out to sea. I guess they call that “compartmentalizing” but whatever they call it – that’s how it had to be in order for me to function. So did I raise my kids to be strong and resilient – or non-emotional? These are the thoughts I battle with in my head everyday. I’m home now and I treasure every moment I have with both of them. I want them to be independent and know how to take care of themselves – but I also want them to be my babies forever lol! My son was too young to really understand the idea that when Mom left “for work” there was a slight chance she wouldn’t return. But for many moms (and dads) that is something their kids are very well aware of. How do you leave you child knowing you may never return because of the dangers of war? How do you explain to your child WHY you are leaving them and risking death. How do you explain to your child why you miss all their important events when all the other parents seem to be able to go? How do YOU go to work and focus on work, wondering if your child is mentally ok without you there. How do YOU focus on work instead of wondering if you child is doing ok in school. YOU don’t think of those things. You go to work and “forget” about your kids. I don’t mean “forget” like for reals, but while you are deployed you HAVE to have your head in the game or people could die. So you tuck away any sad thoughts about yours kids and try not to even think about them until you pull into port (Navy) or something along those lines for the other branches. And when you do return home – sometimes over a year later – they aren’t the same kids that you left! They’ve grown, their lives have changed, and many times they see you as a stranger. And if you left them at a time of turmoil for them (such as them having school or behavioral issues) they see you as having just left them instead of being there like all the other Moms.
Ladies – I’m here to tell you – YOU DID THE BEST YOU COULD AT THE TIME UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES!! You can’t look back with shoulda/woulda/coulda or “what if”. You made the decision to serve and protect our Nation and preserve a future for generations to come. With that comes sacrifice. You have to accept how things have turned out and work from there. You can’t continue to beat yourself up for things that you’ve done in the past. All you can do is make up for it now by being the mom you wished you could have been. But take that advice lightly. Don’t become a helicopter mom!! Don’t expect your kids to jump on your new bandwagon right away. Give it time. But don’t every apologize for decisions you’ve made because you were basing them on a future that you hoped to provide for them. First, and foremost, DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO THE PINTEREST MOMS!! Most of them are on meds (or need to be) just like many of us lol! They are no better and no worse than we are. They made decisions on how to raise their kids just as we did. Kids are resilient. For the most part, they will give you hell now but once they become adults or parents themselves, they will realize what sacrifice you actually made for them. And if they don’t, well that is why we have doctors with a couch! Stop beating yourself up about how your kids are acting and blaming it on your decisions to join the military. It is what it is – accept it and move on. You can’t live your life according to the decisions of your past. I’ve had women comment to me in the past about how I could join the military and leave my kids like that. My response was along the lines of it not being for everyone and they only take the best so for them not to feel so bad lol! You can’t let others’ opinions of you and your decisions affect you. You did what less than 1% of the population had the balls to do! That, in itself should give you satisfaction.