I’ve learned many things in my short stint as a mil-spouse. Among them is how to give up planning, or, if not completely give it up, at least plan in pencil. What I’m also realizing, though, is that in military life where much is planned for us and much is out of our control, there are a lot of things I can control. Here’s my list:
I can control my household - In the day to day, and in the long run, if I can keep things organized and running smoothly, I’m more content and my family is happier. This means straightening up my kitchen at night so that I wake up to a clean slate. It also means sitting down with my husband and chronicling all the bills we pay and the important home repair contacts we’ve used. That way, when he leaves next month for pre-deployment training, I can figure out how to pay the mortgage and who to call when our on-again-off again air conditioning unit happens to go “off-again.”
I can control how I talk to my husband - Even though I’m sad that he won’t be able to attend my brother’s wedding because of said pre-deployment training, complaining to him about it doesn’t solve any of our problems. I know when it’s appropriate to let him know I’m upset, but I also know that my tone and my approach are vastly important in the productivity of our conversations.
I can control how I talk about my husband - And how I talk about the military in general. If I stay positive and honest when I’m talking to others about our situation, hopefully it’ll rub off. I’m so proud of the life we live. I also would like my daughter to be the most proud, patriotic, thankful, freedom-loving four month old ever to walk, crawl, lay on the planet. I can do a lot to make that happen (see point 8).
I can control my involvement in military or non-military related activities - Sometimes, I need to attend a good old spouses gathering to be reminded that other people understand. Other times, I’m content to hang out with my non-military affiliated neighbors. There isn’t a requirement for time spent with either, and it doesn’t make me a mis-fit mil-spouse if I choose to pursue relationships with civilian friends or a bad person if I really just want to talk to another Marine’s wife and not my high school friend.
I can control what kind of music I listen to - Hearing American Soldier has the potential to turn me into a weeping mess. So, if it’s not an appropriate time for a weeping mess, I change the channel. Or, if I need a good cry, I sing along.
I can control how many “surprise homecoming” YouTube videos I watch - Again, these usually make me cry. And/or, they get me thinking too far ahead. They are addicting, and if I watch one, I’m usually stuck at my computer for an hour watching more. There’s a time and a place, and I can control when that is.
I can control my mood - Points 5 and 6 have a direct effect on my mood. Likewise, I know that there are things I need to do to keep myself sane. I need to run or I don’t feel good. I need to write. It helps me process and organize my thoughts. I also need ice cream. Maybe I don’t need it, but it goes a long way in bettering my outlook on life. I know that, so it’s best to always have some on hand.
I can control how we raise our daughter - There are valuable lessons to be learned from the military, and I can mold the perspective our daughter has on the life we live through my example. How I handle challenges and changes will influence her young, impressionable mind.
I can control how we spend our time when my husband is away - I know when we’ll need the support of our family back home. I also know there will be times when I need and want to do things my way and on my own. I get to choose that, and I can control how our time is delegated.
I can control my attitude - This is what it all comes down to for me, always. Happiness, contentedness, peace with one’s place in life...it’s all a choice. Sometimes it seems nearly impossible to be at peace, or content, or happy. And I’ve learned that that’s okay. It’s a product of the ebb and flow of the life we live, and riding it out is sometimes all we can do. But even in little ways, I can control my attitude, and I’ve got to strive to do so.
Agree? Disagree? Have more to add? What are the things you can control?
Leah Dobrinska is the wife of an active duty Marine. She and her husband live with their daughter near MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina. By day, Leah cherishes every minute of being a stay-at-home mom. By night, she enjoys working as an independent consultant for a marketing agency located in her home state of Wisconsin (Go Badgers!).