When you’re a military family it feels like you have very little say in your life.
You don’t have much control over big significant choices that most people take for granted. Where to live, if/when you want to move, whether or not your spouse wants to quit their job.
We live in a free, democratic country, you’d think these would be things you get to pick for yourself instead of being told.
This seems very true.
It feels very real and very accurate and not subjective at all that you don’t get to choose these things as a military family, the way most civilian families do.
That’s one way of looking at it. It’s the way most people look at it.
Sometimes it’s fine. But sometimes, a lot of times, it makes you feel like garbage.
If I had a dollar for every time I thought or said “I just want to have more control over my life”, I’d have so many dollars.
We have more choices than we think
The other way of looking at it is, I do actually have a choice. My choices don’t look the same as my civilian counterparts, for sure. But I have more say in all this craziness than I choose to acknowledge sometimes.
My kids and I do not have to move every time Chris moves. There are plenty of mil families/service members who geo-bach (family stays in one place and service member moves when required and is a “geographical bachelor”).
Chris doesn’t actually have to continue to show up to work every day.
Now, the consequences in his case aren’t just that he gets fired, they’re much more serious than that. And because of that (and several other reasons too of course), he continues to move, show up to work, and do what the Marine Corps asks of him.
But it is still a choice he makes each day.
We don’t have to be a military family for 20 whole years. Chris does not have to stay in until he’s eligible for retirement. There are plenty of people who don’t, me included! I got out after 10 years of service.
We made the decision together that the discomfort of being apart is greater than the discomfort of moving all the time, so we all PCS together as a family.
Chris has decided that he doesn’t want to go to the brig, so he goes to work each day and isn’t AWOL (absent without leave).
We decided together that he’s going to stay on active duty for 20 years and also that he will retire at 20 years (or very close to). An O6 tour is not the goal. We’re not going to 25 or 30 years. But he could drop his papers tomorrow. That’s always an option.
(I know there are contracts and orders and all the things, he can’t be discharged from the Marine Corps next week. We all know the government doesn’t do anything that fast. But you get my point.)
Reframing the choices you do have and do not have this way doesn’t actually change anything. But…
When I find myself having a pity party because he just called me while deployed, to tell me we’re moving back across the country after only 18mo, when I’m supposed to be giving birth to our third baby, shifting my thoughts doesn’t change the facts of the matter.
All of those things are still going to happen.
It does however help me feel WAY better. Which directly translates into me handling the whole situation in a much more productive manner, showing up for my kids better, etc.
I’m all for a good pity party. Sometimes you need to just get it all out. In fact, I encourage it.
But don’t sit in that for weeks or months or years.
There’s NO upside to that.
You just feel like garbage and like a victim with no control while your life happens TO you for weeks or months or years.
No thank you.
Remembering that I do have the choice helps take back control over my life.
It helps me take back the power and authority of my life.
I no longer feel helpless and at the mercy of the Marine Corps.
I’m choosing to move again with him. I’m choosing to stay married to him (another choice I have, and you do too).
These are all no-brainer choices for me. OF COURSE, I’m going to stay married to him. Of course, the kids and I are going to move with him every time, even if it’s twice as often as we expected.
Even if it means my 3-year-old is already in her third preschool and my 2 year old has already lived in three houses on both coasts.
I DO get a choice. We have control. It looks different from our civilian friends.
If you grew up knowing nothing about the military until you married into it, this is almost certainly not the picture you had in your head about how your life would look when you got married and had a family.
But here we are. It’s crazy and frustrating and freaking bananas.
Change is the only thing we can count on.
But we’re choosing it, and I don’t know about you, but as much as I look forward to retirement, I wouldn’t change it now.
And even if you would change it now, spinning in how much it sucks and how miserable you are still doesn’t change it, and now you feel like shit. Stop doing that to yourself. Only you can change that.