I see it too often — military spouses expressing frustrations, resentment and bitterness about how they continually put their careers on hold to follow their service member here and there, only to put their ambitions on hold yet again. This issue is common within the military spouse community, and a reality I’ve witnessed several times among friends.
While I can understand why those frustrations arise, I’ve never been able to personally relate. Before my husband and I had children, I was an elementary school teacher. This was an ideal job as a military spouse, as it is not one that entails climbing up the career ladder. While not always convenient, it was relatively simple to job-hop when necessary, and I found it to be beneficial to my resume as I gained experiences at different schools and in different states. I am now a stay-at-home mom, with two littles and another on the way. This is in part because I genuinely want to be at home with them, but most importantly, because I know I need to be. With a husband in the Army, my roles as both mother and wife can be all-consuming at times. I know how I am, and I know that if I would have returned to work after having my son, I would not have been able to do both jobs. I knew I’d feel stretched, exhausted and discontent with the pace and balance in my life.
As I now function primarily in the home, I may not always feel relevant to the world as I did when teaching, but I feel relevant to my home and my family — and that gives me more purpose than anything else I could imagine. Some reading this may need to be told with assurance that if you are a military spouse, you have purpose. As a stay-at-home mom, it may not feel like the world-changing, people-shaping or badge-earning calling you imagined you’d have someday, but it’s an important job.
You are the one your service member depends on to create a safe and loving place to come home to each day; tell them where their keys and wallet are … yet again; match all their different green socks; shove them out of bed when the snooze alarm goes off one too many times; restock their favorite snacks; and have dinner waiting on the table in the evenings. You’re the one waiting at home with teary eyes and the first hug they’ve had in almost a year. You’re the one who fills their belly and keeps their children safe and cared for, their activities scheduled and the calendars filled and followed. You’re the one who takes care of the dog, the budget and the never-ending address changes. You’re the one whose ear is there to hear it all at the end of a long day. You’re the one who pushes them to pursue challenges that intimidate them and the one they want to make proud. Most importantly, you are available … for them and for your children when they most need you — and that is the greatest gift of all.
I’ll admit there are times I’ve felt useless during my days as a stay-at-home wife and mom. It’s discouraging when daily achievements around the home are reversed within minutes — the bucket of toys you picked up, the dog hair you vacuumed, the tiny handprints you finally wiped off the windows and mirrors, and other things you don’t even bother putting on a checklist because you know you’ll never actually cross them off for good.
As a military spouse and mom, there’s never a gold star, a pat on the back, a bonus or promotion or happy hour celebration at the end of a long day of laundry and wiping snot, tears, bloody knees and way too many smears off various surfaces. But there is a strong sense of stability and security in your home because of you and what you do quietly day after day.
You don’t wear the uniform, and you don’t get anywhere near the front line, but you and the sea of other devoted military spouses are the behind-the-scenes workers who put the “home” in “homefront.” Without you, things would most certainly fall apart.