One of the challenges of being a military spouse is that you are unlikely to live near your (or your spouse’s) family. That means your support system may not be what you’d like. In an effort to have a good support system wherever we land, I have learned to put myself out there and make connections.
Our first duty station in North Carolina was a six-hour drive from my parents and a six-hour plane ride from my in-laws. Ten years later, I am still very close with three friends I made while living there. They saw me through getting married, adjusting to military life, two long deployments, switching jobs, and getting pregnant.
We moved to Germany when I was six months pregnant with our first child. It was difficult being the new person not only “in town,” but in country. As if adjusting to a new baby and learning to be a parent isn’t challenging enough on its own, I was doing so in a foreign country with no close friends or family around! Initially, the easiest way to meet potential friends was through my husband’s coworkers and spouses. And these people went above and beyond to welcome me. They even threw me a baby shower! I was floored, and I never forgot that act of kindness on all their parts.
A family friend put me in contact with another military spouse from my home state who was stationed in Stuttgart, too. We hit it off and became fast friends. Later she invited me to MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers, though mothers of tiny ones of all ages, are welcome!). Typically I am too lazy to make the effort to join this type of group, but I figured I needed to take advantage of the opportunity to meet new people. I met a number of friends with whom I am still in contact today, despite the fact that many of us no longer live in the same place (Thanks, social media!).
When I needed someone to watch our daughter for the first time so we could go on an afternoon date, I couldn’t call my best friend or my mom like most people would. However, I had Jess, whose husband worked with mine. I was anxious about leaving my daughter with anyone, but after months of friendship, I felt confident that she was trustworthy and able to care for my child (After all, she had three of her own!). It’s hard, but at some point, you have to trust your gut and take a chance by letting new people into your life.
It takes a village, and you need to allow other villagers to help you.
When we left Germany we came back to North Carolina. I was glad to come back because two of my friends from before were still here (I could also return to my old job!). It was nice to arrive and know that I had a support system in place. I had someone I could list as an emergency contact on my daughter’s school enrollment forms! I came back after two years away and picked up right where I left off with these friends.
Time passes, many things change, but some of these women will be in my life forever. I am sure of it.
Unfortunately, my closest friend here is moving to Colorado this month. It’s par for the course; friends (physically) come and go. Other friends from Germany are now in Georgia, Korea, California, Virginia, and who knows where else. I lose track of every friend I have met and where they are now. We are all constantly shifting.
Now I have fabulous neighbors. They are another military family, and we have called on each other for missing dinner ingredients, to check on pets, unplug forgotten coffee pots, and watch houses while on vacation.
I am happy to open my heart and home to new friends. I don’t know whether they will be relatively transient or lasting, but I don’t let that stop me from investing in them. Emergencies happen, and if you don’t make the effort to surround yourself with people who can support you in a time of need, you may come to regret your reclusive ways.
When I was pregnant with my second daughter, I was very anxious about who was going to watch our 4-year-old when I went into labor. In the end, another dear friend I met in Germany was the perfect solution, and it couldn’t have gone more smoothly. We were actually at Jess’s house when my water broke! As it often happens in the military, we had both PCS’d to the same base from Germany. So two friends I met in Stuttgart were with me the day I went into labor with my second child, four years later. Sometimes things come full circle.
There are moments when I get really frustrated that we don’t have family nearby. I am currently in the process of finding a new childcare provider. If you live near Grandma and she watches your kids for free, give her a kiss for me and count yourself lucky! But overall, I feel so grateful to have the friends in my life that I have. Whether I met them at work, through my husband, or happenstance, they have made my life more full. They will move away; we will move away. But instead of feeling disappointed that we may lose touch at some point, instead, I appreciate what they bring to my life today.