GUEST POST BY AMANDA ROBINSON
Military wife and mother of two with a passion for perfect grammar and hilarious puns.
I am a military wife. Of course, that is not all I am—I am also a mother, a teacher, a writer and an editor—but the military shapes almost every aspect of my life from my health insurance, to what I can post on social media, to where in the world I am living.
When my husband came home two years ago with the news that we were moving to Colorado, my first response was excitement. Although I am an avid traveller, I had never been to Colorado before, so this was new territory to explore! It wasn’t until we began wading through the mundane steps of the moving process that it hit home for me that I would be taking my one-year-old son and our as-yet-unborn daughter far away from my support networks and the comforting familiarity of Canadian culture, health care, and world-view.
Would people really be walking around Walmart with guns strapped to their hips? How would living over a mile above sea level affect us? What would it be like to have a baby in a US hospital? Could I survive raising my children without the support of my family and friends? As you may have guessed, it was that last question that turned out to be the most challenging.
FAR FROM MY VILLAGE
As a parent, the absolute worst time to be on your own is when you’re sick as a dog and you have no energy to be “mom.” Inevitably, one or more of your children are sick at the same time, which is a really special kind of hell. Alone in a new country, you have no choice but to pick yourself up off the couch and carry on. To date, I have survived stomach flu, colds, fevers, severe back strain, and the various uncomfortable side effects of pregnancy. I should really have some kind of award.
I’ve seen how strong I can be both independently and as part of a parenting team with my husband, but that doesn’t mean I particularly enjoy having to be the strong one all the time. I fantasize about my mother, sister or best friend showing up at my doorstep to give me a break. I would only need an hour or maybe a week, I promise myself.
The feeling of being on my own gets so much worse when my husband is deployed. Yes, even though we are posted abroad, he still is sent away for things like training or specific missions. In those times, I can go months without another adult in the house. I’m honestly surprised that my husband hasn’t returned from one of these deployments to find me having devolved to the kids’ level, surviving on chicken nuggets and spaghetti.
Making all of this worse is how much I miss everyone. Holidays and special milestones sharpen the constant feeling of missing out. Birthday parties, anniversaries, and achievements aren’t the same when all I get is a phone call. When my brother and his wife had their twins, it was almost a year before I got to meet them. My sister renovated her house and I only got to see a few pictures months later. Without a doubt, there is a void in my heart that is a constant reminder of my faraway loved ones.
But it doesn’t end here. As a military wife, my unwritten yet essential job is to overcome the hardships that come with our family’s situation. So, I have worked very hard to compensate for our missing village.
The most important goal I have achieved is intentionally building a network of support here in Colorado.
- I networked with other military moms over social media. Other military wives are in the same position as I am, so they are usually very open to new friendships, and they understand that intimacy must be built quickly as postings can be short. When I’m sick, these are the ladies who drop off chicken noodle soup, and they understand the pressures of deployment without having to ask.
- I got involved by volunteering. There is no better way to feel valued and connected.
- I invited strangers into my home. My husband and I threw a big Canada Day party and we invited all of the British, Australian and Canadian families posted to our base. We invited everyone to bring a dish from their own culture. The party was such a success that we have made our get-togethers semi-annual, and we are included in others’ events as well.
- I said hello to neighbours. Meeting others on our street has led to park play dates, babysitting, and cat sitting. When I had my daughter, I received many thoughtful gifts. Tomorrow, one of my neighbours is dropping off her daughter for a few hours because she is in a bind and needs a sitter. That’s what neighbours do.
Another piece of the puzzle is preserving our connection with our permanent village—our family and friends from home. I often speak about family members with the kids, and I am currently working on a photo collage for their playroom, which will feature all of the people who love them from far away. With their faces never far from view throughout my home, it’s almost like our families are with us.
THE HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST
Although we have committed to visiting Canada once per year, this really isn’t enough. Young kids change so fast and they don’t remember family members when a year passes between visits. So, we are always telling family and friends back home that they are welcome to come and stay with us. Luckily, we live in a beautiful area with lots to do and see, so we have had quite a few people take us up on the offer so far. Yes, hosting guests as frequently as we do is more effort and expense, but it is priceless to have people in our lives who love us enough to make the trip!
THE BLESSING OF TECHNOLOGY
How wonderful that I live in an age where technology allows for quick and easy communication with my village! My best friend and I have weekly phone dates, the grandparents use video chats to watch the kids grow, and I can virtually join in to family get-togethers. Of course, these long-distance connections take time—time to plan and time to execute—so I have to make them a priority in my daily agenda. I have had to learn to stop what I am doing and say “yes, I’m free to chat” whenever the calls come. A moment with my sister-in-law or my grandmother is far more important than the laundry. Of course, sometimes life does get in the way, and I have been blessed with a village full of people who forgive me for the times when I can’t talk.
We have two more years left in Colorado, and then we’re off to the next place. Where? I have no idea. But wherever we end up, I will work hard to build a new local village, while maintaining our ties to our always-growing village of friends and family. We have already found that, thanks to the military, we tend to know people in many places where we travel in North America. My hope is that, by the time my husband retires and I hang up my “military wife” hat, our family’s village will span the globe.