I like to think of myself as an independent woman.
It sounds good, doesn’t it? I also want to raise my daughter to be independent and think for herself. That said, I sometimes think there are times it is hard to marry the concepts of being an independent woman and being a military spouse. After all, our lives are often dictated by our spouse’s career.
Growing up, I always thought that an independent woman was someone who made their own way in the world; someone who thought for herself; who knew what they wanted and went after it without being reliant on anyone else. That was who I wanted to be, and I tried not to let a lack of confidence hold me back too much. I have to say, this is still a work in progress!
I don’t know about you, but I have always been the sort of person who does everything to work towards a goal once I have decided what I want to do. I’m kind of all or nothing. My friends will tell you that I am in my comfort zone when I have a plan and know what to expect from the coming days, months and even years.
Do you know what doesn’t work well for someone who likes to plan and be independent? Being a military spouse.
I started to wonder if being a military spouse was compatible with being an independent woman.
The first time I began to ponder this was when my husband was deployed overseas for six months. I was left at home with two very young kids, and I was surprised at how big an impact his absence had on us all. I knew we would miss him, but the biggest thing was that I suddenly felt a huge weight of responsibility – for the kids, for the house, for everything.
Surely a strong, independent woman would take that in her stride? I really didn’t, and I felt far from independent for those six months. I felt broken.
Immediately after that deployment, we moved from Scotland to the USA. We have been quite lucky in that we haven’t had to move a lot as a military family. In fact, this was our first move. Go big or go home, as they say! But for someone who felt her “independent woman” status was already shaky, this threw me even further off course.
Like many military spouses, I found that I had to give up my job to move with my family. I worked in Human Resources and although the basics of that could have been transferable, the employment law in Scotland is very different from the US. I wasn’t going to be able to work in the same field when we moved, certainly not at the same level.
This was the main thing that pulled me out of my comfort zone – I didn’t have a plan for me.
I didn’t feel like that independent woman that I wanted to be. I felt like “just a spouse,” and I had never really felt like that in our marriage before. I had always had a career of my own to focus on but now suddenly, I found myself in a new country without a job or any friends and no real plan for what I was going to do with myself for the next three years.
I was feeling like the “dependent” label on my visa. I know that a lot of military spouses object to being called “dependents,” and I can see why. I felt like my only purpose was to support my husband and kids and in truth, I probably lost myself a little that year. Doesn’t every military spouse feel like this at some point?
However, like many military spouses, I got on with it and carved my own way.
I found a great group of friends and decided to use the three years we have in the USA to do something that I had always loved but had never been in a position to pursue in any real sense – writing. I started blogging about our move to the USA and the adventures here, and I rediscovered the love I had for writing as a child and young adult. From that, I developed a plan for writing a novel and found myself working towards a goal again.
Hurray! I was a girl with a plan again!
Once I started to focus on writing, I found that I felt more independent again. I had something to work on that was just for me – not about my husband or kids. This is something that I have seen many military spouses do. Although our plans don’t always match up with what the military needs us to do or where it needs us to go, I have seen so many military spouses carve out their own niche in the world. Military spouses are nothing if not adaptable, and we find ways to work around the obstacles that the military throws our way in order to make the best of our life and do things we enjoy. Sometimes that becomes a business, and sometimes it is a passion project that we work on. But it always gives us a sense of independence.
In some ways military spouses are dependent on our spouse and their career, in terms of location and the circumstances we find ourselves in. And there will definitely be times that we lose some independence as a result.
More often than not, military spouses come through those trying times and are stronger for it. The strength of the military spouse is in letting that independent woman shine through, whatever this military life throws at you.