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Building Community as a Military Spouse Wherever You Go

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Building Community as a Military Spouse Wherever You Go
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When my husband joined the military, we knew moving around frequently was something our family would have to get used to, and building community as a military spouse with each move was something I would have to get used to. In the past seven years alone, we have lived in three different states. I was born and raised in the same house for 18 years and only ventured 45 minutes down the road to go off to college.

To say I like being in my comfort zone is an understatement, so the whole “putting myself out there” thing has always caused me quite a bit of anxiety. As a kid, I would get butterflies in my stomach whenever my dad would make me call someone to thank them for a gift. I would silently wish for the answering machine — just thinking about it now is bringing back those all-too-familiar flutters.

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But, living in a new place requires you to put yourself out there and make new friends. This is something that has never been easy for me. I get really nervous approaching people. I feel as if I’m bothering them or interrupting whatever it is they’re doing.

However, over the years, I’ve come to realize that people are usually just as nervous as I am when it comes to making new friends. Just like me, they’re waiting for someone to make the first move.

The Mom Advantage

I admit it’s definitely less intimidating to meet new people when you have a child. In my experience, it’s a lot easier to open up a conversation with, “How old is your son?” rather than, “How old are you?” But, my problem wasn’t necessarily starting conversations, it was keeping it going. I would make small-talk with another mom at the playground, but that was the extent of it. I might bump into her again at another event and smile politely, or I might never see her again. I’d come home, and my husband would ask, “Did you meet anyone new today?”

I would tell him about so-and-so, and he’d ask, “Well did you get her number?”

Umm…No.

We would joke that making new mommy-friends was like dating all over again. My husband challenged me numerous times: “Why not? Why didn’t you ask her if she works or stays at home? Why didn’t you ask her where she’s from?”

Repeatedly my response would be, “Well, I don’t know. I guess I was too nervous.

My husband’s response would be, “Don’t you think she may have been just as nervous as you?”

He made a valid point. I pondered a lot about it: If I was nervous and shy about striking up a conversation that lasted more than 30 seconds, maybe other moms felt this way too?

“Make the first move,” my husband would say, “I think you’ll surprise yourself.”

So, I decided to put on my big girl pants, step out of my comfort zone, and make the first move. When I did, the results were amazing.

Giving it a Try

One of my first attempts at putting myself out there led to some life-changing and memorable events. I used to take my oldest daughter to a weekly music class. There was another little girl there — the same age as mine — who usually came with her nanny. One day her mom brought her. I heard my husband’s voice in the back of my mind say, “Just talk. Ask for her number. Just do it.” When the class was over, I found myself conversing with this mom who was super pleasant and equally engaging. She told me she recently quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom and was looking to meet new moms. Ding! Ding! Ding! Hello, opportunity.

I took a deep breath. “We should exchange numbers and get the girls together for a playdate sometime,” I spoke up.

And thus, a beautiful friendship began!

On our first playdate, we learned that not only did we attend the same college, but we were a part of the same sorority — just a few years apart! Our friendship quickly grew over the next few months, as did our daughters’. They were soon calling each other best friends, and somewhere along the way, I too found a best friend.

The Military Factor

As our friendship developed, I knew a military move was inevitable. It would have been easy to not let myself get involved, knowing we would be moving in just a few short months. Yes, it would have been easy, but I can’t imagine my life without my friend and her sweet little girl, and I know my daughter feels the same way.

This friendship is just one example of how putting yourself out there can have such rewarding results. With our most recent move, I had to make new friends all over again. It still didn’t feel normal for me to make the first move and ask for another mom’s phone number, but I knew the importance of building community as a military spouse. I didn’t want my only friends to be my kids. It took some time and a few missed opportunities for me to realize how silly I was being. “Just do it,” I could hear my husband say.

So, I did.

I began interacting with other moms at play places, eagerly exchanging contact information. It felt a little foreign and quite random at times, but it was so worth it. I’ve exchanged numbers with moms at parks, in the baby section of a department store, while getting groceries, and at the library for storytime. Bringing a new mom’s phone number home makes me feel like a giddy 15-year-old again. Sometimes, I even throw in a happy-dance for good measure.

Building Community as a Military Spouse

Building community as a military spouse is crucial. I’ve learned a lot from my community of friends, and I’ve learned a lot about me through them. It’s fun watching our children develop friendships, but it’s even more fun when we meet for breakfast after dropping them off at school, grab a glass of wine for girls’ night, or meet once a month for book club.

I’m so thankful (and relieved) I decided to abandon my inhibitions and anxiety over meeting new people. Imagine all I would have missed had I not stepped out of my comfort zone and introduced myself.

If you’re the new girl, yearning for mommy-friends, make the first move. I promise it’ll be worth it.

It’s hard to leave your tribe, but what about When They Leave You: Saying Goodbye to Military Friends?Building a Community as a Military Spouse Wherever You Go

Photo Credits: Renee Slusser

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Katie is an elementary school teacher turned dance-and-yoga-instructor turned stay-at-home-mom to three kids but dreams of being a children's author and illustrator when she grows up. She lives in Southern California (for now, Because: Military) with her strikingly handsome Navy Flight Surgeon husband, who's never too cool for Random Dance Parties. When she isn't hiding from her kids in the laundry room, Katie loves creating art, being sarcastic, tagging friends in ridiculous memes, and going to the gym (but only if childcare is included). Katie openly shares her experiences with conquering Postpartum Depression on her personal blog, "<a href="http://katievanbrunt.com/" rel="noopener">Loyal, Loving, & Learning</a>" in hopes of inspiring others to live their best life.

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