With two young children, one with special needs, I often hear, “I don’t know how you do it!” Many people wonder how military spouses endure the separations, frequent moves and the constantly changing landscape of our military.
We endure this life because military spouses are strong, adaptable and resilient! Yes, the separations are difficult and the challenges of employment, under employment and general instability are hard to overcome. However, many spouses would argue that their emotions, lack of family support and the feeling of isolation pose the biggest challenge.
We have called numerous states and countries “home,” said goodbye to our spouses more times than we would like to recall and shared hugs, tears and “see you laters” with countless spouses that we have met along the way in this amazing life.
We all experience unique challenges, and at the end of the day these challenges are all relative to one another. No one challenge or struggle is more important than another.
It’s the art in which we tackle those challenges that leaves a lasting impression in our lives and the lives of others. Each challenge we overcome is a triumph for our fellow spouse and provides encouragement, motivation and inspiration to others.
In 2015, a neonatologist diagnosed our son with Down Syndrome, along with several secondary conditions. The world seemed to stop in that moment and the fear of military life slowly crept its way into my heart and mind. How would we raise this child, especially living the life we live in the military.
The fear of having appropriate doctors, support groups, access to care, education and resources and the relocating. How would this work? Military life is challenging enough and this situation was a mountain that seemed impossible to climb.
I grieved, cried, felt defeated and was angry at the circumstances and challenges surrounding our new “normal.” I allowed these fears to consume my every thought for several weeks until the day I met a military spouse who had a daughter with Down Syndrome and she said to me, “You’ve got this!” She reminded me I have everything I need and if there is something I don’t have, I will find a way. This military spouse encouraged me and reignited the fire inside of me.
I realized in that moment that I have a voice and that my voice could be heard.
I became empowered and determined to be the voice for my son and the voice for people with disabilities and their caregivers in the military.
It’s easy to forget we have the power to choose how we respond to our challenges and we have the ability to overcome any challenge standing before us. Here are four tips to overcoming challenges as a military spouse.
1. It takes a village.
No one does it alone, so don’t try to be the first person in the world to do so!
2. Be Positive.
We’re conditioned to focus on the negative; however, we can choose to focus on the positive and appreciate everything around us.
3. Write your story.
Don’t allow your circumstances to write your story. Write a story that is empowering and live it.
4. Seek and celebrate successes.
Seek out successes as this gives you something to focus on and celebrate those successes you have achieved.
Military spouses need encouragement and I challenge each of you to encourage your fellow spouses to embrace the military life, the military community within and outside of the gates and the opportunities afforded to us by the military.