Being a military wife is hard—in its own distinct way. And then there’s being a military wife when you’re raising children, which is another level of hardship that I was unprepared for.
The transition that my husband and I endured when we had our first child was unchartered waters for us. Optimistically, I told myself that this new journey would be smooth sailing. But in actuality, it has presented far more rough currents than I feel l can manage at times.
My husband is in the Air National Guard and works long hours away from home. Most days, he gets a mere one to two hours to spend with us—and finding a balance with his extensive work schedule has been undeniably testing. Not to mention that he’s also in school, so the quality time that we were once used to spending together as a family has decreased substantially over the past year.
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I never for once imagined that this is what my life as a military wife would look like. While working and financially providing for our family is a huge priority (for both my husband and I), raising our son in a healthy, caring and affectionate environment is even more important.
Even though he’s young right now and probably won’t remember most of these days, we still want to make sure that he is raised on loving childhood memories and experiences.
Most military families face unique challenges when it comes to parenting and nurturing well-balanced relationships. Positive parenting for military families is just as important to understand how to approach and maintain strong connections in spite of the difficulties that come with the lifestyle.
The following tips are ones that I have adopted and now practice daily as a military wife in order to create a balance that works for my family.
How I manage raising children as a military wife
1. Keep an open line of communication
With as much time as my husband spends outside of the home, it is easy for our communication to fall off. We’ve realized that we have to work a little harder at maintaining not only constant communication, but healthy communication so that neither of us harbor feelings of resentment.
That means having tough conversations and being completely honest with how we’re feeling in this current stage of our life. Creating a space for that open dialogue is equally as important, and that means a space where we know that we can be completely vulnerable with each other. It’s not always easy and takes a lot of work at times, but in the end, maintaining our communication as partners creates a stable household—which benefits our child as well.
I know that I have my own struggles being a military wife, but my husband also has his own struggles being the one in the military and away from home a lot. So we both have to be mindful of the challenges that we’re each facing and remember that it’s us against the problems, not us against each other.
2. Take advantage of the time that my family does get together
Though time seems scarce these days, when my husband is home, we take advantage of that time full-fledged. Just the other day, I had a few clients scheduled for photoshoots before my husband had to go in for work, so he was going to stay home with our son. In a split-second decision, my husband decided it would be nice to run to the store as a family before my photoshoots, then we’d all go to the park where I was supposed to take pictures and he’d walk the trail with our son until I was done.
Well, upon our arrival to the park, all my photoshoots ended up falling through. I immediately told my husband that we should just go home so that he could rest and then prepare to go to work, but he insisted that we make use of the time that had just been granted to us. So we walked the trail as a family—and it was the best quality time that we enjoyed together in a long while.
Aside from opportunities like these, even taking advantage of the small moments that we get together goes a long way. Like when my husband comes home from work late at night, I’ll sometimes sit with him while he eats dinner or does his homework. Enjoying each other’s presence alone helps us to stay connected.
3. Keep my husband involved
When my husband is away for training or deployments, I try to make sure that he doesn’t miss out on any moments. If you ask him, I’m sure he’d tell you that I send him hundreds of videos and photos of our son every day.
Our son is now also at the age where he’ll hold a conversation with my husband over the phone, so we also enjoy phone calls during his work breaks. I don’t want my husband feeling like he’s missing out on those monumental moments of our son’s childhood. Even though it may not be the same as physically being there, being able to witness those moments in some kind of way still holds a special kind of value for my husband—and doesn’t leave him out the know.
4. Have outside support
With my husband’s long work hours, and as a working stay-at-home mom, I often feel like I never get a real break from our child. I also subsequently feel like I have no idea how to fill the hours alone with our son.
Having outside support is important, especially for those moments when I feel burned out and just need a few moments for myself.
My husband and I were also thankfully able to hire a live-in nanny (my little sister, which is even more of a plus because she’s family) to help tend to our son. She watches him while I work and also helps with him throughout the night and when my husband is away for training or deployments.
My parents and my mother-in-law also help out occasionally, and I put effort into scheduling play dates with my mom friends so both my son and I can have some kind of company from time to time. Even though most of the people around me may not understand what it’s like being a military wife, they are still shoulders to lean on through times of need. Without the extended support that we are so blessed to have, managing this lifestyle would be even harder than I could imagine.
5. Never lose sight of the bigger picture
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated when I’m looking through the narrow-minded lens of how challenging being a military wife is. But when I remember the why, I’m realigned with the strength to get through.
I understand that this season of my mothering as a military wife comes with more sacrifices. My husband works diligently to provide for our family—and that’s not just for the present moment. We’re building a legacy to pass down to our children, our grandchildren and even our great grandchildren. We understand that comes with far more commitment and sacrifice. But we married each other knowing what we wanted for ourselves and for our family, so the hardships won’t stop us from building the foundation and the future for generations to come.
So even though being a military wife is hard most times, my family is worth it—and we’ve proved ourselves to be resilient in the face of adversity time and time again. So to the mama who is a military wife and finds herself struggling—I see you. And yes, being a military wife is hard. The lifestyle of a military wife comes with its own unique challenges. But you are stronger than you know—and you’ve got this, mama.
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