Thirty years ago when I was blessed with my first beautiful daughter, I was overwhelmed by the love I had for her and the joy I experienced knowing I got to be her mom. I felt the same with the birth of our other two daughters and then with our son. I loved being a mother. Yes, I was exhausted. Yes, there were days when I desired peace and quiet. Yes, at times I felt I was making huge mistakes and possibly even failing as a mom. Yet I still wouldn’t trade being a mom for anything in this world.
I learned quickly as a mom that although ‘mom’ is a relatively short, unassuming word there are a lot of implied meanings and roles between the first and last ‘m’. Moms are caretakers, nurturers, laundry expert, chefs, cleaning ladies, taxi drivers, enthusiastic supporters and fans, tutors, artists, and confidants. Moms are the best at finding lost items, amazing at making an injured or ill child feel better, and great at last minute trips to the store for whatever. These are all roles that I expected, accepted and enjoyed as a mother.
However, I was given a role as a mom that I neither expected nor thought I would or could enjoy. That of being a military mom. When my son made the decision to enlist in the Delayed Entry Program of the U.S. Marine Corps, I was scared. Not only for him because of the conflicts our country was currently involved in, but for me because I always aspired to be the best mom possible and I didn’t know if that would be true in this case.
I wished there was a boot camp for mothers. What did a military mom do? How do military moms act? I doubted that being a military mom and supporting my son was anything like being a room mother for 2nd grade, or the team mom for baseball. How could I do something that I wasn’t really sure I wanted to do, let alone had no idea how to do? I remember thinking “I didn’t sign up for this.”
I wasn’t upset or angry with my son for his decision. In fact I had an inner feeling a pride for his choice that I had never experienced with any of our children before. It wasn’t that I was more proud of him than his sisters; it was just a different pride. A pride that was mixed with the knowledge of the important role the military has had in the history of our great country, a pride from knowing he would be willing to push himself to the extreme physically and emotionally to protect the freedoms of people he didn’t know, a pride that even with all the uncertainties the years of enlistment would bring, he was willingly putting his life on hold in order to be a part of something that was so much bigger than himself.
The only solution I had to my dilemma as to how to be a military mom was to jump in and figure it out. So I decided that during the weeks he would endure grueling boot camp, I would put myself through training.
At first I wasn’t even sure what questions I had, then as I learned what he was doing at boot camp, what changes I would see in him, what I could send and when I could send it, etc., I wanted to know more. I read books by military wives because I couldn’t find any by military moms. I connected with other moms in online chat rooms, which became vital links, his entire enlistment. Who better to understand how a military mom feels, than other military moms? Three years after his active duty enlistment, I’ve stayed in touch with many of these moms because they still get it.
Throughout my personal military mom training period and the following four years, I learned that: Yes, it’s an emotional roller coaster to have a child in the military. Yes, there are times the hours seem like days. And yes, there are days when the urge to hug your child is overwhelming. But, the love is stronger than all emotions and the pride at what they are doing is enough to get a mom through.
What’s it take to fill the role of a military mom? A mom that is willing to support, encourage, and unconditionally love their child for the job they have chosen and for who they will become regardless of their experience while serving.
I never would’ve thought ‘military mom’ would be a role I would be required to assume. Yet, I can now honestly say, it’s a role that as a mom, I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to fill and experience. I now believe, once a military mom always a military mom, a role that can’t be undone!