I’ve always prided myself on being the best Military spouse I can be. My husband and I have literally been together since he started his career in the Navy, so I’ve done everything from writing letters daily in boot-camp, to volunteering on his FRG, to losing 50lbs while he was deployed so we could have one of those “HELL YES THAT’S MY WIFE” moments when he got home. I love being a wife and I love being my husband’s wife.
Being a military spouse and family is one of the hardest jobs out there. It’s stressful and trying on all parities. For us it started when I chose to move to Virginia from California the summer after our wedding. My parents are older, both disabled, and I had to leave them to do so. My husband has spent his whole career thus far in Virginia Beach, VA. Virginia Beach for those don’t know is on the East Coast of the country and it is neighbors to Norfolk, which houses the largest base on the East Coast and second biggest in the U.S.A., next to San Diego.
I never thought about how hard it would be on my own career though. I assumed with my credentials (degree, certifications, experience, etc) I would not struggle to find a child care job, but I did. I would almost certainly chalk it up to being a military spouse. Every single interview asked “why did you move from CA?” Well in the name of honesty I told them, “my husband is a sailor and is stationed here”. The look on their faces went from “yes you are a great fit,” to more of a “oh darn, she will move and leave us sooner than later”. I gave up on being a nanny all together and ended up finding a job at a preschool, it was great, for a while.
When you live in a military town you meet so many different people. Working at the preschool did just that for me. I met families from all over the the country. I’d say about 60% of the families at the school were military related in one way or another. This gave me the ability to see how children act when one of the most important pieces of their life is missing. Moms and dads alike are required to give a certain amount of time to their work in the military, and being in the military means leaving. We saw kids going through deployments often. And you never know how hard it is on children until you see it first hand. Drop off is harder, naps aren’t as easy or kids stop all together, kids who hardly drop a tear are crying at the drop of a hat. Sometimes kids don’t even show an issue until the parent get back. And some kids don’t even show anything. It varies and it’s unpredictable. As a teacher or nanny or any childcare professional, you learn to adapt your learning to these children. Often times we saved special items and made books for our deployed parents to have when they got back. Just to let them know we were thinking of them.
Flash forward two years and I’m no longer working at a preschool but rather I’m back doing what I love: nannying. And not just nannying for anyone, I’m nannying for a military family. Both parents are Navy. It’s one the best opportunities I’ve ever had. When I started, my own husband was deployed and they gave me the time off to go meet his ship, with a little extra advice and spending money for all the good places to go. Since they had met in that same town. But not just that, they understand what it felt like to be going through deployment. I was asked on a daily how I was emotionally or if I needed anything.
All this experience and know how is helping me immensely now as my families Dad is gearing up for deployment. He’s detaching often and isn’t home as much as they would want. To top it off, he’s a pilot and sometimes fly’s nights on top of all of that. But now I’m seeing the same traits in his kids that I did with the ones I taught in the center. The babies are less interested in eating, they’re irritable, the little girl holds on tighter at morning drop off and she doesn’t listen as much because “you’re not my daddy!” No I definitely am not, and wouldn’t try to be.
As a nanny for a family who is in the military, it’s my job to be there, as a support for not only the kids but the Mom too. When Mom has to work a little later I stay a little longer. When mom needs to drop dad off for a flight on a weekend, I’ll come and work a little extra. They were there for me while my husband was gone so now it’s time for me to be there for them. I don’t mind a mess in the kitchen, I don’t mind an extra messy play room. I’ve been on the other side of the equation. I know what it’s like to have no desire to clean up a mess or to clean the kitchen.
Being a military wife has opened my eyes to so many different possibilities and responsibilities. My biggest suggestion is that if you know someone who is military related, don’t tell them “you signed up for this.” It doesn’t feel good. It actually really hurts. I know what I chose when I chose it, but that doesn’t make it easier. Be there, support them, support their kids. Make them know you are someone they can trust. I promise it makes a difference!