I suspected there was a problem when every morning on the way to preschool my four-year old son kept asking, “Mummy, where are all your friends?”
“I don’t have any yet,” I would reply. “But I will soon.” I had been married ten years, but this was my first time living in the United States. I carried on with my daily routine of taking the kids to school, grocery shopping etc. and I became progressively lonelier. It was almost as though I expected friends to come and find me, but how would they? I rarely even went on base. I wasn’t a member of any groups. I didn’t work here and I hadn’t met any wives of my husband’s co-workers.
My son decided it was time to take matters into his own hands. He stopped a complete stranger in the street outside his preschool one morning and said, “Excuse me. Will you have coffee with my Mum? She doesn’t have any friends.”
Ashley was also a military spouse, her baby was due within days of mine, and our preschoolers were in the same class. Ashley assures me now that it wasn’t out of pity that she agreed to have coffee with me; she was just as lonely as I was.
“Do you ever wonder where all the other spouses are?” Ashley asked me one day. “How are we supposed to meet people?” The strange thing was, until that point I had never really thought this through. I mean I had wanted to meet other military wives, but in reality, where would I find them? We met three other military spouses who shared the same thoughts. Together we set up a spouses’ club on Goodfellow AFB in Texas.
When I say this changed my life, I truly am not overdramatizing. We all started the spouses’ club because we wanted to find others to socialize and have fun with. Somewhere along the line--amid the brainstorming and the meetings over coffee and the official paperwork--there was a transformation in all of us. Gradually we would meet women (and sometimes men) who were vulnerable, needed advice, needed support, were lonely and we all related to them because we had all been there.
Meeting those spouses always made me think of when we were based in Italy and I was pregnant and sick with severe hyperemesis and was placed on bed rest. My husband was about to deploy so we moved house and I prayed. Within days women I had never met before offered to take me to doctor appointments, helped me take care of my one-year old and seven-year old, and figured out how I would get to the hospital when the time came to have a baby. In the forming of the spouses’ club I wondered, what if those women had not decided to take care of me? Would I have asked them for help? Would I have known where to go? And the answer was a resounding no.
When my son forced Ashley to become my friend, something in me changed forever, because I once again was shown how the kindness and support a military spouse can show to another. The friendship this lady offered me gave me the strength and the confidence to reach out to others and to offer friendship and support.
Now if you ask me what does success mean to me? It means knowing that those around me feel able to ask me for help. It means knowing that I do not turn my back on people who are vulnerable. And, yes, it means having friends to socialize and have fun with! So don’t wait for friends to come and find you. Don’t wait for your four year old to step in with a save. Take a deep breath and take a chance, because it might just be well worth it.
Chantelle Girley and her Air Force husband currently live in Texas with their four children and a chihuahuah. Chantelle juggles parenting, military spousehood and volunteering with taking online classes. She hopes to go to law school at their next base.