“Hey Girl! (I use this phrase when I don’t really know someone but am attempting to be simultaneously breezy and familiar.) Remember me?”
As I sat on my kitchen floor shamefully attempting to hide behind an open cabinet so I could eat the last three bites of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked in peace, I wondered who in the world I had become. I used to be someone.
I raised money to send kids to college. My home did not look like the Disney Store kicked in the door, threw up and then charged me for it. I got to take a bath alone. I could stay up past 9:30.
Now, here I was, wolfling down freezer burned ice cream in a hiding place even worse than my 2-year-old could conjure. Shockingly, she found me and I got one bite of the vanilla part.
Most days, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the life I live. My kids are healthy and my husband is a genuine partner. He has a fulfilling career in which he excels. We live in a safe neighborhood and have the opportunity to send our older daughter to a good school. We have more than we need. It’s easy to be me a majority of the time. I am privileged to be the platform of support that my family utilizes to excel.
Some days, though, it sucks to be stepped on so much.
I have heard the infamous, “you knew what you signed up for” more times than I care to mention. (If you haven’t read fellow Military Moms Blog contributor Emily Sanford’s excellent post, you should.) Each military family knows the pain of loss — loss of time spent with spouses, children, parents, siblings and friends; loss of a house or community in which you feel at home; and loss of an amazing school with caring teachers that you and your kids adored. In the worst case, we’ve experienced actual loss of a loved one. These aspects of military life are evident and thoughtfully recognized by both military and civilian folks.
What is often overlooked, however, is the loss of self a spouse experiences when he or she is always acting in a supporting role. I never thought I would be Major Edstrom’s Wife rather than Kate Betz. I never imagined the first questions asked of me would be, “So what does your husband do?” and “How many kids do you have?”
I have been a military spouse for just over eight years, and the ease of the calling ebbs and flows with our situation. What does not change, however, is my need to carve out a bit of space for me to exist amid the supernova in my life that is my family.
I am so, so fortunate to be able to stay home with my girls, but, jeez, I have a day every now and again. If you are anything like me, good music always seems to make things a little better. When you need to hide, be it in the bathroom, in the aisles of Target during that very rare solo trip, or in your hair like this super hip lady pictured above, here’s a fun playlist to help you remember that you, too, are a human, who’s still awesome.
“With a Little Help from My Friends” – The Beatles
My friends, both military and civilian have kept me going when “my love is away” and when my kids are being straight up turds. My best friend from high school and my college girlfriends know who I truly am. We morph a lot from place to place, and it’s comforting to know that there are people who continue to hang out with me despite knowing who I really am. My military friends, you all are my people. It should be obvious, but the people who choose to serve their country and the folks they choose to be with are downright extraordinary. These are the people who will be my kids’ emergency school contacts even though they’ve known me for two weeks. These are the people who leave a lasagna at my door and text me instead of knocking because they don’t want to wake up my new baby. We’re lucky to have each other.
“Call Me Maybe” – Carly Rae Jepsen
This is the new assignment anthem. I have become shamelessly desperate (and corny) when it comes to making new friends. I invited literally 499 people to my house for wine when we arrived at our new duty station. Seven showed. The next week, 25 came. I’m thinking about having business cards with the lyrics “Hey I just met you/ And this is crazy/ But here’s my number/ So call me maybe” printed with my info to save time.
“A Little Space” – Ne-Yo
While I am excited to be the parent of the first sister team to win the Nobel Prize for discovering how to redefine the laws of physics by occupying the same space as me, I intermittently need my bubble. Get yourself out of the house and away from everyone. Take a mental health day, or get yourself a Happy to be Alone Meal or sit at Starbucks for three hours staring at people. Whatever you’ve got to do. If you’ve never heard this song before, download it immediately. I’m giving this song a bit more quotable space than the others, it’s just too good not to. Dear Little One, “You swallowed my face when you kissed me today. It was sweet but OK. That’s a little much.” I hear that Ne-Yo.
“Fergalicious” – Fergie
This song may annoy a lot of people, but when I hear it at the gym, I think, I too “Be up in the gym just workin’ on my fitness.” Exercising on a regular basis has been one of the best things I have ever done for my family. I am almost certain I have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder and working out, hard, every day has made me a better wife and mother. I “sweat” (HA!) the small stuff much, much less after I have run off all of my nervous energy. Plus, I am extremely tired by bedtime, so I’m not able to stay up and worry about what I am going to get my mom for Christmas next year.
“Unwritten” – Natasha Bedingfield
The one bright side of being a stay-at-home-mom with respect to professional development is the opportunity to find your passion. I had an amazing mom who cooked every meal for me until I was 28. My goal of being a professional daughter was crushed when I married my husband, but it did force me to learn how to cook. I love cooking. Mostly, I love to eat, and that is a means to an end, but I don’t want to get too much into semantics.
If you are crafty, email me because I need some Christmas gifts made, but also, get it girl! Pinterest the crap out of some stuff and then subsequently Etsy the heck out of that. If you like to work out, get your group fitness or training certificate. You do you. I LOVE dogs. I got to volunteer in a county animal shelter and dog rescue about 30 hours a month. I loved every second of picking up poop, scrubbing kennels and snuggling dogs. My sainted husband is slowly coming to the realization that we will need copious amounts of land for our dog rescue someday. I wouldn’t have felt OK spending that extra time away from my family if I had a full time job.
So if you’re feeling a bit down about being currently unemployed, or if you’re just feeling a little tired of being home with the kids, remember that can be an opportunity to figure out what you love to do, or as Bedingfield sings, “Today is where your book begins. The rest is still unwritten.”
“Killing in the Name” – Rage Against the Machine
Do you ever feel like you’re not “The Boss Applesauce” in your household? This song speaks for itself. “Mama, I need my booty wiped!” “Just hot dog buns, no hotdog.” “Not that bow!” “More WINE please!” (That last one may have been me “asking my husband a question.”) “I won’t do what you tell me!” (enhanced a bit.)
“Shoop” – Salt-N-Pepa
I am near certain that all women of my “certain age” know every single word of this song. It thoroughly embarrasses my daughter to hear me rap. This is a more than a fair assessment, but seeing her horrified face thrills me more than it probably should. My Dear, I seem to remember having to leave full carts of groceries in the store with that exact look on my face, so, there. Ha!
“Firework” – Katy Perry
Support your fellow moms. Lift them up when you can. My friend recently brought me flowers after my kid had been mean to hers because momming is hard. It meant so much to me. I often joke about the Facebook side hustle, but we’re all just trying to better our families in any way we can. If you are like me, it’s hard to feellike you aren’t “contributing” in a conventional financial sense, no matter how much you do at home.
I’ve been lucky enough to get to write anything I feel like for this blog; some moms are gaga for essential oils; some really need your help for the PTA. Whatever it is, make sure you show them “what they’re worth.” I guess I also identify a little too closely with Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Sing” who is a mom to a family of pigs. I’ll leave it there.
“Cowboy Take Me Away” – Dixie Chicks
I have very fond memories of belting this song out on the back of a tailgate. Gosh, wouldn’t it be nice if our cowboys or cowgirls (dressed in some tight jeans and boots) would whisk us away to open spaces and blue skies? I’m not into sleeping “on the hard ground,” but I would trade my kingdom for a night out with just my guy.
“Home” – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Any military family should know this song. “Home is wherever I’m with you.” Really, that’s what this life is all about — being home in a house, in a town, in a country somewhere around the world with your family. Even if they do eat your stupid ice cream on the regular.