When I left active duty to be a military spouse and mom, I expected my life to go from hard and challenging, to easy and carefree. But, it was hard to leave the military behind. It also wasn’t easy in my new roles. I went from serving side by side with my husband to being back at home knowing how the military operated, but unlike before now, I had no part to play in how the military’s choices would affect my life. It was a hard transition to leave my uniform behind and watch my identity become solely a dependent.
And one of the hardest challenges I still face today is still being connected to the military but in a different capacity.
When plans change
When I joined the Air Force, I planned to serve for 20 years. Then I met my husband, we became a dual military couple and my plans remained unchanged. It was my dream to make it to retirement. But as life continued on, things changed. The dream didn’t die, but the reality of the sacrifices required to make that dream a reality pushed me to make the choice to leave the military and become a stay at home mom when my first son was born.
Now looking back, I know it is the best choice for our family. Most days I am happy that I made the switch from Air Force to motherhood, even if it meant giving up my goal of serving my country until retirement. I’m thankful for the six years I spent in the military, but there are the days when I am reminded of my military service, my dream, and how hard it was to walk away from it. Those days are hard.
Challenges of a dual military couple
Sometimes it is hard to remember the challenges we faced and why we came to the decision that I should transition out. It is easier to think of what life would have been like through rose colored glasses that remove the realities of military life: deployment, separation, geo-batching and all the other challenges of dual-military life.
For some reason on the harder days at home, it is easier to focus on the high points of military life: being part of something bigger than yourself, serving your country, promotions, awards, recognition.
Today, my husband is on his way to serving in the military for 20 years with me filling the supporting role in this movie called life. We used to stand together making choices for both our careers, but now there is only his career. Mine has ended.
A solo focus: his career
When I left the military to be a stay at home mom and military spouse, suddenly my hopes and dreams didn’t matter. Leaving the military meant the advantage of only having to focus on one person’s career, especially when deciding on PCS orders. What I didn’t account for was the emotional aspect of this choice where I gave up the part I played.
It had always felt like we were driving together. Each of us giving input and discussing the next step. Then, even though I was part of the new discussion on what we would do next, I now became a passenger along for the ride instead of a navigator holding the map. I went from playing on the field to sitting on the bench. Waiting to see what would happen and jumping into play when and if I was needed. Part of the reason I left was to make life easier, but I still found myself struggling with the next step.
What if another decision was made?
Sometimes I wonder if we both had left the military if my struggles would be the same. As a military spouse, I’m still connected to the military, but in a new way. A way that isn’t as easy as I expected.
Or, maybe the sacrifice feels different. I always know he will be the one heading on the next adventure, not me, while I hold down the fort. It is hard to admit the reality of feeling left out, but I can’t lie and say it isn’t there.
I served in the Air Force for six years as a dual military couple. For the last five years I have been a mom and military spouse. As my time out of the military grows, I am reminded how much I have changed. I thought serving in the military would be a defining part of my life, and though it did have an impact on who I am, I have found a new me.
I am proud of my military service, and I am proud to stand beside my husband as a military spouse for the rest of this journey.