When J and I first started dating, I loved the idea of marrying into the military life. It seemed wonderful to have a life with a support network built-in. A whole world of women whose experiences were similar to yours; who would help you out when needed, show you the ropes of every new place and be there when your husband had to be away for training or deployed. I remember sitting in a Mexican Restaurant with my classmates (I was attending graduate school at the time) and talking about it. They all thought I was crazy to want the military life, but to me, an introvert who takes months or even years to get to know people before I call them a friend, it seemed perfect.
I have found, however, that the reality of the experience is a bit different. It's not that that support network doesn't exist, or that the women I've met are not wonderful. It does, and they are. I've met many great ladies, some of whom I've grown very close to, others who have been there in unexpected ways. But the community and support network seem to revolve around three factors, a) living on Post, b) having children, and c) not working full-time outside of the home. Since none of those apply to me, I've had to find my support network outside of Post.
I see these wonderful women once a month or so, usually at a Coffee night or an FRG meeting. I host one when it's my turn, but few people come since we're off Post and it's a bit of a drive to my house. I always have a great time with the ones that do come, though. But rarely do we become best friends. Partially, I think it's because
- I don't live on post, so I'm not there to meet up for lunch unexpectedly, or to see in the middle of the day, or to call on in an emergency. Well, I'd be there for the last one, but people tend to call those they've gotten to know already who are close.
- We don't have children. I know, I know, the name of the blog is Military MAMA musings, but at this moment, and unless you count my cat and dog which I sometimes do, the mama thing is a wish and a hope and not a reality. Many of the ladies I meet have kids, many of them are young, and they become a great, common topic of conversation. After all, kids are a huge part of your life, whether you're a SAHM or a Working Mom, so it's natural for them to big a huge topic. I love kids, but at the end of the day, I don't have a lot of stories to contribute. And many moms don't like it when you respond to one of kid stories with "yeah! my dog used to do that too, but then we neutered him." The similarities may be there, but we don't like them pointed out.
- I work outside the home. Really, the reasons for this one is similar to the other two: you have to be available when the other house is at work to hang out, and become friends. I work during that time. It also means that what's on my mind at the end of the day, like my coworkers, a conversation with my boss, or a recent assignment, may not always be relatable to someone who spend her day or week in very different pursuits. We end up having to work a lot harder to find the things we have in common. Sometimes it's worth it, sometimes it's not.
Now, just because military life is not exactly like the ideal I had when J and I first started dating, doesn't mean it doesn't come with some amazing experiences. After all, we're in Alaska! This is a place people pay a fortune to visit, and we get to try out' living here for a few years before we permanently settle down. The military does have a community, though it's much different from what I pictured. I often strike up conversations with strangers about being a military wife (a term I'm not terribly fond of, but more on that next time), and getting to talk with people about their previous duty stations is a great conversation starter, and usually quite interesting. You really do get to meet a lot of wonderful people, and with modern technology, you can keep up with their adventures even after the army move one, or both, of you.
You also make your own community. It may not mean you know every spouse in your husbands (or wife's) unit, but you know the ones you'd call if something is wrong. Sure, you may see each other more than civilian spouses usually see their spouses' coworkers' spouses, but at least you always have a ready topic of conversation. That's definitely worth something.