I didn't realize the importance of having military spouse friends until we went to our second duty station.
When we first got married, we didn't live on base. We didn't want to.
Then came the next base, which was far from civilization. Our three years there would include two combat deployments. During my husband's first training op, when I struggled to paint the house and assemble furniture with a young baby, I quickly realized… I needed friends. Being a stay-at-home mom to a little baby was totally different from being a working mom who went to an office each day. I couldn't imagine going through deployment in this new town with no one to talk to.
With his deployment date approaching, I got to work, seeking out new friends and connections. I went to unit events and met other wives through the Family Readiness Group. I joined a local moms group with lots of local playdates. I joined a running club called Stroller Warriors. And I became connected to families and ministries at the nearby church. Attending events at nearby playgrounds and people's houses helped me find my way around our new town until it finally started to feel like home.
What began as a mission to get out of the house and have some adult conversation grew into much more than I expected. Those relationships didn't just give me distraction and entertainment during his deployments. They sustained me and helped me survive.
By the time I had my 3rd baby (during a deployment, of course), I was home alone with three children ages three and under. I struggled with stress and post-partum depression. My husband was only able to call about once each month. Without the support of friends, I'm not sure how we would have survived. But with the help of friends, we pulled through:
- Having a playdate on the calendar was sometimes my motivation for getting up in the morning.
- One friend offered to watch my kids whenever I had a doctor's appointment.
momsgroup brought me meals for a week after I had baby #3.
- A kind friend helped me clean my house when I was overwhelmed.
- The ladies took me out to celebrate my birthday during deployment.
- The running club motivated me to get in shape.
- The church group helped me pray and gave me counseling when I needed to talk.
- A neighbor stepped in to mow the grass when I was
very pregnantduring the summer.
- Wives from the unit understood the stress of combat and sympathized with the lack of communication.
In short, having friends made me stronger: physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially.
I learned that I need friends. It wasn't because I was weak or helpless. I'm a strong, independent woman who has done plenty of home repairs, heavy lifting, and tough decisions on my own! I needed friends so that I could do better. It was because of those connections that I had the strength to take care of three young children on my own and earn a Master's degree.
Military life is challenging. Some duty stations are worse than others. Some deployments, moves, or 'seasons' are just hard. That's why I believe that no one should go through military life alone. There are always ways to make connections and form relationships. If your base and unit spouse groups aren't helpful, look for local meetups of people who share your interests. Sign up for classes or activities you enjoy. And reach out to other military spouses online. There are tons of sites offering resources, humor, advice, and support for military life.
I started my blog, The Seasoned Spouse, to be a place where military significant others and military spouses could find encouragement for all the challenges of military life. As the site has grown and people have shared the importance of that connection, I decided to take it one step farther. I started a new Facebook group specific to those going through a deployment. In March, there will be a special challenge week called "5 Days to Handle Deployment like a Boss!" I'll share videos from several military spouse companies, lots of free resources, and even some prizes! I hope that it will help military spouses feel more confident and prepared for deployment, whether it is their first or their 10th. If you are facing a deployment, I hope you'll join us. You can sign up for free by visiting my deployment page.
Don't try to be an island. There is no reason to do military life alone. Not when there are so many other great military spouses willing to help you along the way!
Lizann Lightfoot is the Seasoned Spouse, a military wife who has been with her husband since before Boot Camp—17 years ago! Together they have been through seven deployments and four different duty stations (including one overseas in Spain). Lizann spends her days at home wrangling their four young children, cooking somewhat healthy meals, writing about military life, and wondering where the family will end up next. She is the author of the book 'Welcome to Rota,' and of the Seasoned Spouse blog. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Find military encouragement on her Facebook page. Find inspiration for care packages, deployments, and more on her Pinterest page.