Why didn’t you tell me that going from a military service member to full time spouse was going to be this rough?
It"s not like I was new to the military life -- my father spent 21 years in the Navy. I was enlisted for eight years in the Army and married a career Army Soldier. So transitioning was going to be a snap.
Was I ever wrong!
It was fine the first 30 days. It was like being on leave, and we had discussed my taking a little time to myself and had financially planned for my leaving the Army.
As the first 30 days came to an end, I could feel myself getting antsy about not having a job or anything to do. So I started looking for work seriously. Even before I got out and during my 30 days of “vacation," I had been looking for work. I applied for job after job that was open in the area where we were stationed.
Our duty station was in the south at an installation that is geared for deployment training. The town surrounding the post is a small town that wants the military there for the money only, but does not offer a lot for military families. The area has a limited amount of jobs and well if you are not from around that area, go to the right church, or have family already working for company you are applying to, you can forget about finding a job.
Job hunting was a nightmare and, well, ACAP was a joke at preparing you for the civilian sector.
As much as I tried to keep my old unit military friends, it was hard because I was not there anymore. They were training for an upcoming deployment and I was now a stay-at-home mom trying to find a job.
My husband’s job kept him in the field three weeks a month, so I was alone with a toddler, who was not used to mommy being around all the time, and I was not used to having free time. I was used to being Superwoman. I could juggle it all, a career, being military wife, and parent.
Neither of us had made a lot of friends in the area outside of work, so I was feeling quite alone. I was unemployed with nothing to do for the first time in over eight years. I was no longer Superwoman. I was now just military spouse and mother.
I had no career, and that meant I had no identity. I couldn’t just be a military spouse and mother. All military spouses do is sit at home and eat bon-bon’s, watch TV and cause drama in the unit. "I am not going to be a part of that society," is how I was thinking. I had to find a career, otherwise the straightjacket and padded room were waiting for me if I didn’t do something.
I had never heard anyone talk about the overwhelming feeling of no longer knowing who you were. In the military I knew who I was, I was a Soldier, a NCO and a combat veteran. I had an identity in the military, now I didn’t. I now had to find out who I was again. I was still a member of an elite organization, but not an active member. I was a part of the “former” category.
There are no classes taught during ACAP on how to deal with the loss of your identity.
While in the military, I would hear stories about an old crusty senior NCO who had retired and not to long after retiring had passed away. They would say that the NCO died due to a lack of purpose. He no longer knew who he was and had no reason to continue on. I never understood it until I go out.
As a military member, our identity is wrapped up too many times in our rank or position. We lose our sense of self, that person outside of the uniform. When you leave the military, you have to learn who that person is again. It was a long road for me to figure out who I was.
Who am I? I am a proud military spouse and mother. I have learned that not all-military spouses sit at home watching TV eating bon-bons and causing drama in the unit. They are strong individuals, who help hold their spouses up after multiple deployments, who keep the home as normal as possible through deployments and PCS’s. They are Superheroes who don’t get a quarter of the credit or kudos they deserve -- and I am proud to be a part of that society!!!!
So here we are again at a reserve training base in the North that is in another small town. I am trying to find a job with a Bachelors degree while working on a Masters, with a husband that is TDY for 30 days or more at a time, a toddler who is still not sure about mommy being around all the time and I am trying to find my place in the world. Yet, this time, I know WHOM I am and what I have to offer.
Rebecca West, a full time mother, spouse, and full time online student at Grand Canyon University working on Masters in Health Care Infomatics. U.S. Army Veteran and spouse and Navy brat. Stationed with my Active Duty husband and family in Wisconsin at AC/RC assignment.