homegrown mama

Posts Tagged ‘Army’

::On motherhood: we can’t do it all::

In family, military life on 20112011-11-14T16:02:21+00:0030 9/11 at 16:02

Being a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) has been a popular topic lately. Some of my friends with babies are just beginning to go back to work, either part- or full-time. One thing I hear a lot from women who are going back to work is that they just aren’t “cut out” to be a SAHM. Some of these gals satiate their urge for adult interaction and a second income through home-based businesses, which allow them to earn money as a representative for direct sales companies (Tupperware, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, etc.). But many worked long and hard to get to a certain place in their career, and can’t bear the thought of giving that up. This is true especially if their absence from the workforce would cause them to fall back in their field while their co-workers excel.

Having been raised in a “me” society, where we all concentrate on bettering ourselves and our futures for the first 20 years of life, the sacrificial nature of motherhood seems alien, and downright self-destructive. After spending years in college, then doing the bottom-of-the-totem-pole jobs at work so we could move our way up to more influential positions, quitting to raise children doesn’t exactly make sense. After all, we were brought up to believe in ourselves, dream big, and aim for the stars! So while feminism has opened up a world of possibilities to women, the requirements of motherhood have not changed at all. And with the drive and determination we have been raised to employ, we think we can do it ALL!

Funny, before I had Heidi, I ignorantly assumed that staying home with my babies would be fun and full of laughter, and come naturally. And once she arrived, I had little energy to make myself a hot meal, let alone be concerned about how my team at work was doing without me. Besides, I was still getting paid on maternity leave, so instead of feeling stifled by my home life, I felt I was on somewhat of a sabbatical from work to spend time with my precious bundle.

But now that my position as “Domestic 9r” (as Wayne refers to me) has been secured with the arrival of bundle number two, I admit I’m getting some belated cold feet. How did I get myself into this? Didn’t we join the Forces so that our kids could have me home every day? Some women I know would kill for that opportunity! What gives?

What I’m learningvery, very slowlyis that my penchant for looking forward, making plans, and staying abreast of the industry (which, for me, is marketing and corporate communications) is drifting gradually into second place. I am beginning to understand that I am not capable of being a SAHM and keeping my brain at work. Wanting to do my best in everything means I can’t physically or emotionally give 100% to my family and 100% to the furthering of my career. So I have been forced to reevaluate my priorities, and to align my heart with my mind, so I can move forward with conviction and commitment to my chosen profession, which, right now, is motherhood. And just like the growth of my career, the successful development of my children will require almost all of me for an indefinite amount of time.

Honestly, I wonder if I would be as hesitant about mentally committing to full-time and long-term home life if we hadn’t been moved to a new province just after entering parenthood? If I had a familiar home, environment, and support system in place, would I feel such a need to go back to what I know professionally?

Not all military spouses stay at home, so not all of them feel as torn as I do. But I know my limits and I need to own them, or my family will suffer. I know this situation is exacerbated by Army life and its control over how and where we live and make a home. But either way, the sacrifices of parenthood are big. Really, really big. So if your spouse has given up more than a little to run your family, teach and lead your children, and make your house a home, give them an extra hug today and ask them how they’re feeling about it. You may not even know military life has impacted them in this way; they may not recognize it either. But approaching it together will do wonders for clarifying their role, their sense of appreciation, and your relationship.

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::Are we living in Nomad’s Land?::

In military life on 20112011-11-02T09:30:41+00:0030 9/11 at 09:30

What would it take for them to be content and even grateful…? 

I recently watched a Canadian documentary called Nomad’s Land. Written and directed by Air Force wife Claire Corriveau, the 2007 film (produced by the National Film Board of Canada, and available at nfb.ca) “powerfully depicts the hard existence of military wives.”

When I first read this description, I was taken aback; I wondered what experiences Corriveau had endured to lead her so far as to create a film to bring awareness to her plight. Personally, I became a little inwardly defensive about my life as a military spouse, and hoped that this film would do it justice, especially to civilian viewers.

The film’s synopsis on the webpage reads: “Meet an Air Force wife who discovers that she married into a lifestyle she hadn’t chosen…. Isolated, often lonely, forced to move repeatedly, these women have little control over their lives…. Their unsung contributions come at a high personal price.”

Part of me reads this and acknowledges the hardships that come along with military life: semi-frequent postings; difficulty holding jobs; being a “single spouse” while struggling to maintain our relationships during separation; and dealing with the emergencies that seem to pop up during deployments. But mostly I wonder just exactly what lifestyle would be ideal for these women. What would it take for them to be content and even grateful for the benefits and opportunities the military life provides?

Nomad’s Land includes interviews with Lucie Laliberté, co-author of No Life Like It: Military Wives in Canada. She explains a great deal of how far the rights of military spouses have come, and how hard the wives of some soldiers worked to make it so. Indeed, I am grateful to those who have advocated on my behalf. But is this a life with which we will always take issue? Or can we simply acknowledge how far the CF has come in recognizing the significance of the family unit to its members?

Certainly, the ups and downs of military life affect not only the CF member, but his/her family, as well. In fact, family members may even take the brunt of the changes, at times. But that’s life, isn’t it? No matter what profession your spouse chooses, there will be repercussions when his or her company reorganizes, downsizes, or moves locations. Granted, it may not be quite as life altering or dangerous as overseas combat, but we only know what we know, right? And for us, the reality is that orders, postings and dates can change at any moment, because there is an objective beyond our personal wellbeing at stake: our soldiers protect this country, first and foremost.

So while Nomad’s Land provided some noteworthy insights into the history of Canadian families in the Army, I confess that I have never felt slighted by this life or the concerns that come with it. It has been par for the course, in my mind, and I feel blessed to enjoy the lifestyle I currently have because of what the Army provides.

::life lessons::

In family, military life on 20112011-10-28T09:30:25+00:0031 9/11 at 09:30

…the biggest (and hardest) lesson I’ve learned since being here…is contentedness

Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like if Wayne hadn’t joined the Army. I’d probably be working full-time to help pay our mortgage, and we’d have only one child (because daycare for two kids on the West Coast costs more than I would make if I was working!). Plus, knowing me and my perfectionist tendencies, I’d be a stressed ball of nerves trying to balance work and family, torn by the need to work and guilt from not spending enough time at home. I’d have the luxury of family living close-by, but also a fast-paced life that affords little down time; I’m sure I’d feel obligated to “do/be/get more” all the time.

And so, the biggest (and hardest) lesson I’ve learned since being here actually has nothing to do with the military: it’s contentedness. That’s not to say I don’t become a green-eyed monster from time to time, or that I’m not tempted to whip out a credit card for something I want but don’t really need/can afford. However, it is an entirely humbling experience to be told where to live, when to arrive, and not knowing when we’ll be leaving. On top of that, I am responsible to set up my children for success by enrolling them in activities and building relationships with people who can contribute to our family, and their lives.

Thankfully, we have been so blessed in this area. I admit that when we arrived in Manitoba, I felt lost. I didn’t know how to get “my old life” back, to feel like I was home. But then I realized, this is my life, and this is our new home. Gone were the days of endless home décor options, the latest fashion trends, and the coolest car in the neighbourhood. No one here, except me, expected our active social life, meticulously decorated home, and deep-rooted friendships to suddenly ring the doorbell and join us in our new house. I found that this new life, and connecting with new people, had three simple requirements: commitment, authenticity, and a little hospitality.

I’m certain that one of the best parts of living the military life is meeting new people. In the year-and-a-half I’ve lived in Manitoba, I’ve met some amazing folks from all over this country who have ended up here in Westman, people I now consider life-long friends. Some are CF members, some are CF spouses, and some are people from church, mom’s groups, and general community life. It’s been so refreshing to hear the celebrations, and the struggles, of other families, too. And even when it feels like everyone else has life all figured out, they always seem grateful to chat about their most recent challenges and experiences when I invite them in for a cup of tea.

And what do you know? It seems like I now have more time to do just that.

::Doing Army life – the “right” way::

In family, military life on 20112011-10-26T09:30:48+00:0031 9/11 at 09:30

“I just wanted someone to tell me exactly what to do and where to go.”

One thing we all have in common as military members or spouses is learning how to “do” this life. No matter our place or family of origin, we were introduced to this institution at some point along the way, and considered how it would affect our jobs, our dreams, our family, our 10-year-plans, etc. And while the Canadian Forces requires a certain amount of conformity from us, this experience really is different for everyone.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m a type-A person, who likes to do things by the book. Subsequently, I expect everyone else to be this way, too (rules and policies exist for a reason, right?). Too bad not everyone has such a black-and-white perspective. To some people, there are grey areas; to others, rules are merely guidelines.

When hubby joined the Army, and then spent the next 16 months in training, he told me daily of the regimented routines he endured, the strict guidelines by which he had to abide, and the high standards he had to keep. The recruits who kept up with the demands excelled; those who didn’t were re-coursed or their careers were prematurely terminated. As gruelling and relentless as this sounded, I secretly longed for my life to fit into a box that way, with expectations laid out and consistent timelines. Why? I was home with a newborn – my first, of course – and while she was only a month old, she had me at her beck and call, at all hours of the day…and night. And she was completely unpredictable.

When we finally arrived in Shilo, I started to meet other military spouses. I’d often hear about their plans, their careers, their educational choices for their children, their weekly activities, their hobbies and pastimes. But I felt lost in this new Army world; I just wanted someone to tell me exactly what to do and where to go. “Isn’t there a ‘right’ way to do this?” I thought, frantically. I couldn’t help but feel…behind. The focus of my entire pregnancy and first four months as a mother was to get us successfully to our new destination; I just didn’t think about what I’d do when we got there.

I’ve never come across such a diverse group of people who have one common thread, and while this kinship should create camaraderie, it actually made me feel disconnected. I was discovering so much about others, and so much about our new hometown, that I just felt like I couldn’t keep up. It was one, big grey area!

Almost two years into living here and meeting new families, I have learned that being a military member may dictate where you live and work, but being a military spouse means finding your own way down one of many paths. Each new posting requires us to relearn a routine, adjust our goals, fill out the forms, and make the appropriate arrangements. There’s no need to do it any certain way, and how we fit the Canadian Forces into our lives is unique to each family.

But the best part about it is there is always someone else close by who is going through this also – giving us yet another thing in common.

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