A Maryland-based military spouse believes community is key to leading her family through a deployment after a nearly three-year break from goodbyes.
Megs Anderson is married to a sailor based out of Naval Air Station Patuxent River in southern Maryland. Her proactive nature led her to really dig in at her duty station, including building a career and becoming a well-known figure in the local community. The relationships she built as a result of those tactics are a comfort as she resumes one of the harder aspects of military life: deployment.
Anderson’s husband was home for every holiday and birthday since 2017. He’d been the dad chaperoning scout camp and cheering at every field hockey game. Today, he’s deployed on a ship out of Norfolk, Virginia while his family remains in Pax River.
“It has been a huge adjustment not having him home,” Anderson said, “especially with kids who have become very used to him being around.”
But after 15 years of military life, Anderson has learned that one key to thriving during a separation is building one’s own village, which requires those new to a location to be openminded about putting themselves out there. Between teaching Barre and Piloxing classes at SPICE, a locally-owned women’s fitness studio, serving as secretary for the Leonardtown Business Association, volunteering as PTA president, and being supermom to four young children, Anderson never stops moving.
“It’s always helped me to stay busy,” she shared.
The fitness community has always been a source of strength and support for Anderson. In a past life, she worked as a nurse practitioner, a job she thought she’d be able to pursue forever due to its portability. But when her son was diagnosed with cancer at age 2, everything changed as she transitioned to staying at home with her children. Fortunately, her son beat cancer and grew into a healthy, happy boy. But even once she no longer needed to stay home, Anderson knew jumping back into nursing wasn’t going to work.
“I had to reinvent myself,” she said. So, she leveraged her lifelong passion for fitness into a career she could build anywhere — even from home.
“We moved to Whidbey and I taught virtual classes out of a studio in Boston. I had four little kids at home and Ben was flying a lot so I taught in my house on my computer. My goal is for women to build confidence. I’ve had women 18 to 70 take my classes and they leave feeling stronger. I want that to carry them through their day,” Anderson explained.
“Even though [her husband] is away on deployment, Megs navigates the challenges of the pandemic and high studio demands with grace. When things get hard, she doesn’t shy away from the ups and downs; she digs in and works through the tough times,” Nicole Magee, owner of SPICE Studio, said.
And in those hard times, the relationships you establish can ease the heartache.
“It’s easy to feel sad or discouraged because you’re thousands of miles away from home and your spouse is not there with you,” Anderson said. “So it’s important to feel connected with people in the community, even if you’re not from the area.”
Early on in her journey as a military spouse, Anderson thought making friends with other military spouses would be most important, but she’s found a lot of support from non-military friends in the Pax River area.
“The girls at SPICE Studio have made me meals, dropped off wine and flowers, and sent me notes. I think a lot of people want to help the military but don’t know how. So by opening yourself up and getting to know them, they figure out how to show you their gratitude,” she shared.R
Whether it’s working through a career change or navigating a separation from their partner, Anderson said military spouses need to ask themselves, “‘What are you going to do to reinvent yourself so you’re still you and happy?’ I think it’s about being open to new possibilities and thinking of [change] as an adventure and not another obstacle.” She paused. “It’s been a long journey for me to say that.”
Even in the bumpy unknown of her husband’s pre-deployment hotel quarantine, Anderson turned a moment apart into an opportunity for another first.
“He actually took some of my virtual classes while he was in quarantine,” Anderson said. “It was really fun to share that with him.”