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Appreciating The Hectic Life of a Working Military Mom

April Conway enjoys some child-free time in Mississippi while on a 10 week work trip.
April Conway enjoys some child-free time in Mississippi while on a 10 week work trip.

“I bet you miss your kids.”

I’ve heard it a lot over the past several weeks. I’m in the military and am in the middle of a 10-week training course in Mississippi. Most others in my class are young adults fresh out of college and they recognize that I’m different. (Sparkly headbands and yo-yos strewn in the back seat of my car may have given it away.) The other students’ lives revolve around the exciting introduction into today’s high-tech Air Force, student loan payback schedules, dating life, and, as the base is only two blocks from the Gulf Coast, beaches and beer. As it should be for them.

My classmates have been very good listening to me extol the virtues of my offspring. I’ve missed the entirety of Little Man’s baseball and Sweetface’s softball season this spring and the 20-somethings have patiently listened to me prattle on about outfield catches, homework projects and Legos.

Many of these students are contemplating marriage, future kids and the stress that comes with a military life. Several have asked “how I do it”, how does one create a work/life balance that gives proper credence to all facets of life. I honestly don’t know. I always wanted to work when I had kids, so I never stopped to think about how. I just did. And yes, I tell them, I miss my kids like crazy.

But what’s more difficult to explain is how I’m really (really) enjoying this break. I’m responsible solely for myself every night after class. There’s no one to repeatedly badger about brushing their teeth or putting away their backpack. I don’t have to spend Saturday planning for meals five days later because between sports, Girl Scouts and school activities, it’s the only time to do so. I don’t absolutely have to go to the gym Tuesday and Friday mornings at 5:30 am because those are my only free hours. I can go almost any time now.

Last Saturday I slept in late, walked to Starbucks and was set to peruse some little beachside shops when, on a whim, I took myself to a movie instead.  An R rated movie. When the hell does that kind of leisure and spontaneity happen at home? It’s OK, you can be a little envious of me.

The young women in my class nod their heads and smile when I tell them how freeing this trip has been. The young men politely listen. They don’t really understand. Nor should they, I suppose. It’s a life that must be lived to be appreciated.

I don’t think it’s wrong to relish this time away, even while I miss my husband and kids. Our lives seem to move full speed ahead every waking moment of the day. Family events, friends’ birthday parties, backyard cookouts and social things make up the fabric of our rich, roller coaster lives. I wouldn’t want it any other way, really.

But what ensures I appreciate that life all the more is this brief respite, this break from it all. That’s not so wrong, is it?

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