I have such a love hate relationship with field training. I hate how much time the army takes away from my husband. It’s time that could be spent with me, it’s time that could be spent with our children. Hell, it’s time that he could be fixing things around the house and giving me a break so that I can take a shower. When my husband is in the field, I not only countdown to my kid’s bedtimes… I count down to my own. Or at least I did, many moons ago, before I learned how to crush this crazy milspouse life.
I had to make a conscious decision to create my own life. It felt so odd at first, counterintuitive to the vows I had just said. While newlyweds all over the world are dealing with how to merge their individual lives military spouses are treading a much more difficult path. Military spouses must learn how to create a beautiful married life as well as developing a new independent lifestyle.
To some that may sound super easy. Duh! Just keep doing what you loved to do before you were married… But it really isn’t that simple. The military isn’t a 9-5 job. My husband wakes up every morning between 4 and 5am. And that is because we live on post, when we have lived off post it’s even earlier. At best he works 14 hours but often he works much longer. Every once in a while he is home much earlier. So basically his schedule is completely unreliable which means I have to have dinner ready on either a moments notice and also have it be easily reheated. Since my husband is gone so often it is really important to me that he gets to spend time with the kids before bedtime. A lot of times, its only an hour, but that hour may be all the time they get all week.
When you’re living your life revolving around another person it is difficult to carve out your own identity. Mix that with parenthood and Poof! no more you! When my husband’s first field exercise cropped up on the training calendar, I was completely lost! I had to fill 4 straight days. In a new city, with no job, no friends, no hobbies. I felt like I was in solitary confinement. I was miserable. I would spend hours on the phone with my best friend from back home. I truly began to feel like an appendage of my husband, not my own person.
One of the best decisions I ever made was reaching out to spouses of soldiers in my husband’s unit. I literally went onto the group FRG Facebook page and posted:
“Hi! I’m (relatively) new to the area and I have no friends! Is anyone interested in grabbing a bite to eat next week? I’m normal, I swear!”
And guess what? There were 2 other spouses in basically the same boat. We went out to dinner and it was great. Were they both the lifelong soul sisters I dreamed of? No. But I ended up becoming very good friends with one of them and keep in touch with both of them to this day. More importantly, I now had friends who were in the same boat as I was and were on the same schedule. When my husband was gone, so were theirs. I know how people in the area to come over and watch a movie with, to go shopping with. They also understood when I went into friendship hibernation. When the guys are home its pretty common for us to fall off the radar.
Those friendships came with so much more than convenience. They allowed me to explore my new home through “girl” eyes. We ate at restaurants I could never drag my husband to. We saw shows he would have hated. We took cooking classes, went to Zumba, and countless other things. I learned a lot about myself.
And I took all those things I learned with me to my next duty station. And the next. And the next. And at every duty station I did the same thing. I posted on that dang Facebook page. I had those awkward friend dates at Panera. Sometimes I had several before I found my crew. I never felt like it was a waste of time when I had those lunch dates with people I knew I wouldn’t be besties with. I knew that there would always be a friendly face at the next FRG meeting or Battalion potluck.
I no longer looked at the field training exercises as terrifying black holes. I had friends to call who were also dealing with empty houses. And when they weren’t available, I knew of cafes I could have dinner at and fitness classes I could go to. I wasn’t selfconscious about being seen alone, because I knew I wasn’t TRULY alone.
I am by no means saying that the only good friends you will ever have are milspouses, but they have a special place in my heart. You could substitute the FRG with any group and I can almost guarantee your results will be the same. Some of you may be more comfortable with a MOMS group, church or your gym. The point is, you are never alone! There is always at least one person who could use a meal, a friend, or both. So get out and connect. It will change your day and it may even change your perspective on this crazy mil-life!
Tell me about your tricks to making yourself comfortable in a new place or how you fill those long training nights!