By Amanda Huffman
In military life, there can sometimes be pressure to pretend everything is fine. We may make things look easy, when in fact they are really hard.
When I left Active Duty and became a military spouse, I had a hard time transitioning into this new role. I felt an overwhelming pressure to seem okay on the outside while my life was falling apart on the inside. When I reached out for help, instead of getting support from those around me, I was told to suck it up, pull myself up by my bootstraps, and think of how hard other people have it.
These words of “encouragement” did push me through those hard situations but didn’t make me feel good about myself. Instead, I thought I was a failure and not cut out for military life. Me, someone who had served in the military, and I felt like I wasn’t cut out for military life — not while serving, but when I became a military spouse. These negative feelings came about because I had voiced the challenges I was facing. I hope to give you now what I didn’t have when I first became a military spouse: a little encouragement and someone else telling me I wasn’t alone.
Moving is especially challenging — for both military spouses and kids.
As we approach another PCS season,it’s a good time to remember that moving is hard. Military families may have systems and logistics in place to make it simple to get your stuff from point A to point B, but that doesn’t mean the process is easy or that there aren’t 100 other aspects of moving that make life challenging.
Things can go pear-shaped even with a well-honed organizational system: Pack-out dates get moved unexpectedly, moving trucks break down, kids get sick, and you don’t get everything done off your list before moving day arrives. The list of things that can go wrong is pretty long. But even if everything goes as planned, getting everything prepped and ready takes a lot of hard work, not to mention stress.
In April, the military community shines a light on military kids and their resilience. Our kids experience so much in such a short period of time. But just because kids are resilient doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be open and honest about how we feel. When we are open and honest, we give them the space to be open and honest about how they feel. In a past article, Spouselink provided a resource on how to talk to military kids through media.
Moving is definitely a time in military life that is most challenging and opening a door to having a conversation about how moving makes kids and grown-ups feel is important. It is okay to be sad about leaving a location and/or people you love. It is okay to not be excited about the next assignment. It is okay to worry about how this move will affect your career. It is okay to wonder what will happen at the next assignment.
There are a lot of what-ifs and unknowns. Instead of masking all these emotions, we should allow people to express these feelings and discuss them openly.
Expressing disappointment doesn’t stop us from pulling up our bootstraps and following our spouses to the next assignment, although sometimes it can. Some military families choose not to follow their service member’s careers because it isn’t the best option for their families. The first step to ensuring moving is the right choice for your family is to have an honest conversation and to look at your options instead of tamping down your feelings and hoping the pain and resentment won’t come out later.
Moving is just one of the many challenges military spouses face. Unemployment, raising a family while your service member is away, and being far away from family/support are just a few more of the common challenges military spouses deal with.
It isn’t easy. And it should be okay to express that and not be told to compare yourself to someone else who has it harder. Maybe someone else has it harder than you, but that doesn’t mean what you are experiencing isn’t hard and that it isn’t affecting you
Amanda is a military veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer who served on a combat deployment with the Army in Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career in the Space Force. Amanda is the host of the Women of the Military podcast. There she shares the stories of women who have served or are serving in the military. The podcast has over 200 episodes and over 100K downloads. Amanda is also an author and has published two books. Her first book, Women of the Military tells the stories of 28 military women who served in the military. Her second book, A Girl’s Guide to Military Service, is the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Winner for Teen Non Fiction. It is a guide for high school girls considering military service to help them build a strong foundation for their future career. She also works as a freelance writer and has been featured in a number of military publications including The War Horse, Military.com, Military Families Magazine, Clearance Jobs, Military Spouse Magazine, and more.