God's Girl

Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary

Magnificent Moms: Interview with a Mom of a Military Family

on May 28, 2014

 

Today, I decided I wanted to interview myself. I am pretty passionate about military families, so I thought I would share a little about being a mom of a military family.

My name is April Morgan. I have been married for 15 years to Warren, my favorite guy in the world. Fourteen of those fifteen years of marriage, I was an army wife. My husband recently retired after 20 years of military service. We have two children, an eleven year old girl and a 8 year old boy. I will probably call them my “babies” until the day I die.  I am a homeschool mom, a woman who deeply loves God, and a writer. I also hold a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work.

I must begin this interview by saying that I never thought I would be an Army wife. I fully expected my husband to get out after we were married. I was pegged our first year of marriage as “one of those wives who wouldn’t make it”. I hope knowing these things encourages you.

 

What is the biggest challenge (or challenges) you have faced as a mom of  a military family?

There are lots of challenges! Most are the regular challenges that are faced by those outside the military. There are times when those challenges are magnified by the adventures and stresses of military life. Deployments and moves are challenges that most moms of military face. Reuniting after deployments and predeployment (a few months before a soldier deploys) are also challenging.

 

What has been the most rewarding thing about being a mom of military children?

I get to see the strength of my kids. They amaze me. Kids are really a lot more resilient than we give them credit for. Deployments are tough. Being a military kid isn’t easy, but they have the ability to do more than survive. These kids can thrive with a strong support system and a whole lot of prayer. I get to love my hero and show my kids how to sacrifice for something you love.

 

What is one thing you feel you did really well?

I made sure that the kids felt connected as possible to their father during times apart. Sometimes it took a lot of connecting of the dots. I would remind the kids to make things and get them excited to make care packages. We would set up Skype times as much as possible.

Sometimes I would be angry due to the stresses of military life, but I made sure not to talk my husband or the army down to the kids. I stayed as positive as possible and reminded the kids that “mom and dad are a team”.

I also asked my husband to enroll us in his own personal gift of the month club. I asked him to send us something at least once a month to remind us that he was thinking of us.

 

What do you wish you had known about being a mom of military kids?

I really wish I had not thought the world depended on me so much. That’s a lot of pressure. I didn’t take the breaks I needed away from the kids because I felt they needed me. I didn’t factor my own needs as much as the needs of others. As women, most of us feel that we need to care for others, but sometimes we neglect ourselves in the process. I didn’t always take care of myself well, which caused me to get run down at certain points. I regret losing my patience with the kids and letting the house go more than I should have.

I also believed the lie that “if I just stayed busy”, I would be better off. This in my case, just wasn’t true. I would go through periods where I ran myself too much and too hard, then my body forced me to “put on the brakes.” This wasn’t good for my family life.

 

If you were sitting face to face with a new mom of military what would you say to her?

I would listen about her excitement, doubts and fears. Every experience is different and it’s tough to know how to navigate it until you are actually in it.

Here are a few things I would say:

1) Do your best, but give yourself grace. No one is perfect. You won’t do this perfectly and that’s okay.

2)There is a definite cycle that comes with so many deployments.

It usually goes something like this:

Predeployment is the few months before the soldier deploys. He may need to distance himself a bit so he can say goodbye and mentally prepare himself for his upcoming mission. You may fight before he leaves. Be prepared for this and know that it really doesn’t say anything about your relationship. Prepare your kids by letting them know how much love your family shares and that things may be changing but love remains the same.

During predeployment we would go to Build-A-Bear and get a bear for each child with Dad’s voice in it. It contained a simple message with something like, “I love you so much. I will miss you. I can’t wait to see you again. Don’t forget how much I love you.” I like the idea of any predeployment ritual the kids can look forward to.

Deployment is the time that the soldier is away doing the mission given to him by the military. The time after your soldier leaves will be awkward at first. It’s kind of like a child trying to take it’s first steps. It will feel wobbly and unsure, but pretty soon you will find a flow that works for you and your family. You will be amazed at how strong you are becoming.  Your kids will amaze you, too. At the beginning of the deployment they will test you. They need to know the rules are still the rules. Don’t take this personally. Remind yourself that when they test and you don’t change the boundaries, you are providing security, something they need desperately during this time.

If you have certain family traditions, try to keep them the same during deployment, as much as possible. We had one Christmas when Dad watched the kids on Skype as they walked into the room on Christmas morning after Santa came.

Reunion Get ready! He’s coming home.  By this time you can’t wait to collapse on the couch and truly relax together. It’s kind of like waiting for a baby to arrive. You start nesting. You get the house into shape. The mood is usually upbeat in your home. As you are preparing, make sure to explain to your kids that Daddy will be excited, but he will also be tired and may just want to take it easy for a while. Talk with the kids about how to make Dad’s return special. You have been handling everything during the deployment, when your husband comes home this may change. Conflict will happen at some point. You can compare this to the first year of marriage. It takes time to get adjusted again.

After a deployment or two, I started to understand that most conflict and tension that occurred was due to this cycle as well as the ups and downs of usual family life. When you understand that sometimes it is just the cycle at work and there aren’t any other major issues in your relationship, it helps so much. I would repeatedly say, “This is the cycle. This isn’t us.”  I truly believe that the military doesn’t break a family. It is just a magnifying glass. It magnifies the strengths and weaknesses in your relationships. This can be a blessing if you let it. When gold is purified, it is exposed to a tremendous amount of heat. That heat causes the yucky stuff (dross) to rise to the top. When that happens the impurities are easily seen that were not apparent before. When those impurities are skimmed off, the gold becomes more precious. The “heat” you will be exposed to as a military family will be unpleasant at times, but you can use it as a tool to grow your family into to something incredibly precious.

3) Create a good circle of friends.

I loved having friends who were supportive during this time. Both military friends and non-military, family, and church family made up this support system. I worked hard to find positive people. You do not need negative people around you during military life…period! I made a pact with my best friend that we would not talk our husbands down when we were around people who were talking about their husbands in a negative light. This has made a huge difference. Avoid people who create and live in constant drama. You will get sucked in and your kids will suffer. Some of the best friends I’ve ever had were made during military life!

4) If you want to love your kids well, love God, love your husband and love yourself well. The rest will come.

5) Don’t try to be happy all the time around your kids. When they see you going through a range of emotions, it reminds them that it’s okay to experience those emotions, too.

6) If you need help ask. You are only weak when you need help and don’t get it. You don’t have to prove how strong you are to others. When other military families see you asking for help, they will be more willing to ask for it, too.

7) Pray all the time. Pray about everything. Keep a list of what you are thankful for, so you can look at it on the hard days.

There are so many other things to military life. Moving is another major change. Most of the things I talked about for deployments can be applied to moves as well.

In the military you will find a family like no other. People who truly understand what you are going through. Cherish that. My husband and I love that he is retired, but we also miss the close community we had with other brothers and sisters in the military.

Military Moms out there, what would you say are the challenges and rewards of being a military family?

What would you say to a new military mom?

Agree or disagree with the things in this interview? Comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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