by Amanda H., Author of Airman to Mom
I was in the military for just over six years and, with one deployment, lots of training and a couple different jobs, I learned a lot. These are the top seven secrets the military taught me to prepare me for motherhood.
1 - The Battlefield Is Different than the Training Environment
Before I left for Afghanistan, I went to training after training. Those trainings were great because they helped me prepare for going to war, but they were still different from going on combat missions. During our training, we were taught that sometimes insurgents use piles of rocks to mark Improvised Explosive Devices. We quickly learned in-country that there are piles of rocks everywhere and we couldn’t stop to inspect them all or we would never get where we were going. If every pile of rocks was a road marker for Improvised Explosive Devices then it wouldn’t be as effective of a tool. Piles of rocks are everywhere.
It’s the same with kids. You can train (go to classes, read books, hear stories from others) before your baby arrives, but until your baby is there you won’t really understand what it is like to be a parent.
2 - How to Give Up at Least Some of the Control
The military has a lot of control over your life. They tell you where you are going to live and what you will be doing at each assignment, but you have some choices to slightly have control over your life too. It is a give and take.
Parenting is very similar. Your kids have a lot of control. Some babies need to be home for their naps and have a very set schedule; others do not. It partly depends on your parenting style — it is another give and take, but sometimes you have to realize this little person has some of the control, and when you take their cues you likely will have a better day.
3 - Repetition
The military makes you practice the same thing over and over, so that it becomes second nature. A good example of this was when we were at training and we had to clear (check to make sure there was no ammunition in our weapon) every time we went into a building. It was annoying and, for the first few times, it was a clunky motion. But eventually it became something easy to do.
I guess this more relates to the second kid more than the first. It was interesting how easy I remembered how to breastfeed, change a diaper, and hold a little baby. I guess all that repetition with the first paid off.
4 - Being Okay with Cultural Differences
Before I went to Afghanistan, another huge part of my training was learning about this new culture I was walking into. I learned a little bit of the language, a lot of the history, and a little bit of how and why they did certain things. I even had an Afghan meal.
Every family has a different way of doing things. This doesn’t make one better than another — just different. Knowing about different cultures has helped me have confidence in some of the choices I made for my family, even if it wasn’t something my friends were doing.
5 - Self-Confidence
My deployment may have boosted my confidence a little. It made me feel invincible. I was pretty certain when I found out I was going on a deployment that would have me off the base, interacting with the people, I wouldn’t be able to do it. But not only did I do it, I excelled at it.
I was pretty confident motherhood would be another trophy to add to my list of accomplishments, until it wasn’t so easy. In those moments, I looked back on times that I thought I couldn’t do things and had accomplished them. This helped keep me going and striving. I still have hard days, but I have confidence that I am a good mom and am doing the best I can for my family.
6 - Communication Is Key
When planning a mission to go off base there are a lot of moving pieces, and it is important to have good communication leading up to the mission and when you are out in the field.
Communication is super important when you have a new person enter your life. You might not be sleeping well, feel stressed, and not know what you are doing. Being able to communicate your needs and ensuring your partner knows what is going on in your head is a key success for parenting. Apparently, husbands can’t read minds.
7 - Trust Your Support Group
The person standing next to you is your battle buddy on the battlefield, and you often have to entrust your life into their hands. The guys who took care of me on my missions took my safety seriously and I felt safe. They were always there when I felt threatened. Never once did I look for them and not find them.
Motherhood is a group effort. The phrase “it takes a village” is true because we can’t do it alone. I know that military moves make it hard to find groups sometimes, but when you find your people, hold onto them and lean on them.
The military taught me so many things while I was in. I could have made this list twice as long, but I thought that might be too much. I think the thing I will leave you with is that the military taught me how quickly friendships can be formed and trust created.
When you are part of the military community you don’t have time to wait. The best way to get involved is to dive in as quickly as you can. And to take the risk of going first when you are not sure how the other person will respond. It is scary and there is a risk involved, but so far on my journey it has been worth it every time.
Hi I’m Amanda! I am a former Air Force member who has transitioned to being a stay at home mom and Air Force wife. I left the military in 2013 after my son’s birth and in 2015 we completed our family with our second’s son arrival.
I blog at Airman2Mom (www.airmantomom.com) with stories incorporating life experience from motherhood and daily life while occasionally throwing in my past letters home from my Afghanistan deployment. My goal is to inspire others on their life journey and hopeful find some encouragement along the way. I love making new friends and would be honored if you subscribed to my blog (www.airmantomom.com), like my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/airmantomom), follow me on Instagram (www.Instagram.com/airman2mom) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/airman2mom/@Airman2Mom).