The idea of being a military wife seems glamorous at times (traveling the world, living in places you never thought you would, making friends coast to coast). However, there are so many topics that are not even mentioned that you have to experience - the constant uprooting of your life to move, the ever revolving door of friends (or loved ones) you have to say “see you later” to, the peer pressure that is placed on you (by you) thanks to social media that fosters a distorted view of how your life should be. These are just a few things that go along with the “glamorous” military wife life.
Moving outside the US has hit me hard in good ways by making me get out of my comfort zone but also has made me battle with the negative side of the military wife life. Let’s talk bad first.
It is so easy to fall into a black hole of pity as a military spouse. You see friends all the time with their civilian “normal” lives which can make me feel so envious. They are purchasing their homes and making renovations without having to worry about moving in three years – no white cement walled, weird layout, “why would someone choose this hard-to-keep clean laminate flooring” (with you not being able to do a thing about it) houses. They complain about their spouse being gone for a *gasp* three-day business trip and how hard it is to function without them.
Their children do not have to worry about mom or dad being gone for long stretches of time. Heck – they don’t have to worry about their spouse even missing the birth! They can even go to the same school (in the same town) their entire childhood without having to worry about making new friends in a new city (or country for that matter).
Even within the military you see others who always seem to have a handle on things a bit more than you do. They are always going on adventures traveling, throwing the perfect parties or have figured out how to make their house more “homey” than you. Their kids seem to behave like perfect angels all while you feel like you are just trying to keep it together without crying or screaming.
Now I know that I am generalizing here and not everyone falls into the “typical” family image, but just go with it. I promise I have a point.
Social media has a way of making your self-esteem plummet when you are going through a tough time. People post the “highlight reel” of their lives. Even though you know this when looking at the photos or videos, you still get jealous.
I am 100% guilty of posting a highlight reel of my life. I do not dig into the nitty gritty emotions that make me vulnerable on social media. For example, when I was posting about waiting for our stuff to arrive in Japan and all the minimalist “hacks” I had to do in order to survive – I was generally positive in my posts. “Yeah life is tough but hey at least we are in a cool country!” I would write that in hopes that the positivity would rub off on me. I cannot begin to tell you how many breakdowns I had (and still have) with the culture shock of moving here.
What helped contribute to my breakdowns would be social media. I would start comparing myself to others and how they were living their lives. I would see my friends or family and miss them. “Picture perfect” family moments in the perfect setting whether on vacation or at home would flood my feeds. I would read about career advancements or even fun season-appropriate activities (You know, Christmas Tree Farms or Farmer’s Markets) that others were going to which would begin the spiral. All of this would enhance my feelings of sadness or being homesick. This would eventually lead to a pity party and binge-watching of Netflix shows with large piles of cookies in hopes that would make me feel better (newsflash – I would just feel fluffy and not better).
Then something would happen - sometimes not immediately but it never failed to occur. Something would snap me back into reality and make me realize all the things in life I should be thankful for. That sometimes would be a conversation with a friend asking about the country I am living in and hearing the excitement in their voice when I would tell them things. It could be just a quick text message from my husband or even a simple snuggle from a pup. Other times it would be good news with something pertaining to my book or mastering a new recipe in the kitchen. The smallest thing could set off my snap back to reality. I would realize that someone ALWAYS has it worse than you do. More than likely, there is almost ALWAYS someone who would rather be in your shoes than their own. This self-actualization moment would immediately occur right before my feeling of guilt would set in.
There are so many things that we, as military spouses, get to experience that others do not. I have made friends with people I never in my life would have met if it were not for the military. I guarantee I would have never visited Japan (much less lived here) if it were not for the military. My husband and I would NOT be debt free if it were not for the military (but that is also thanks to my mad budgeting skills while he was on deployment that led us to pay off a car and student loans). I DEFINITELY would not be having my first children’s book coming out if it were not for the military.
Here are some of my favorite memories so far of Japan
I have so many things to be grateful for in my life. I have to remind myself that each and every day because it is a constant struggle to be a military wife. Even though I am not living where I would necessarily choose to live, I have to make the best of it and remind myself that at least we are together as a family - that is a luxury that not all military families get. I have to take full advantage of our surroundings and get out and explore.
I almost welcome my mind wandering into “what-if” thoughts about where we are in life currently. Those thoughts help get me back into the right mindset of all the things I need to be thankful for. To help with the highlight reel on social media, I have been working on encouraging others who might bring out jealous tendencies in my thoughts to empower the concept of “community over competition”.
For the next week I am going to challenge myself to list a couple of things I am grateful for each day. I hope that this fosters a more humble, understanding, and positive outlook on life for me. I challenge you to do the same. What are you grateful for today?
Always chase your tales,