Military life is unpredictable. And when both parents serve, the craziness more than doubles. Sometimes, a decision has to be made. Will both parents stay in? Should one get out? Which one? Going from service member to military spouse isn’t easy. Here’s my story of the hard choices I had to make when I left the Air Force and become a stay at home mom.
My husband and I met in college during the ROTC program and when I joined the Air Force, I planned to make it a career. We received lots of advice on being a dual military couple, and one that stuck with us was when we were told that, at some point in our career, one of us would have to make a sacrifice for the other’s career.
Dual Military Challenges
The challenges we faced as a dual military couple intensified the longer we served. And the things that were once inconvenient became very challenging as our family grew. Even as young officers the challenges of getting stationed together were hard, and we knew that if we both stayed in for 20 years, we’d eventually be stationed apart. When we added in deployments and a busy TDY schedule, creating a family care plan would prove to be very difficult.
The instability that military life brings with just one parent being in the military is challenging, and as we began to consider what life would look like as a dual military family we knew we had to make a decision. Was the goal we shared of serving for 20 years worth the unknown sacrifices we would face in the next 14 years?
So, we made a list. We listed the reasons I should stay in and the reasons I should get out. The reasons for leaving the Air Force far outweighed the reasons to stay. But it still wasn’t easy to walk away from the military, even though it made the most sense. My husband and I hadn’t even hit the halfway point in our careers yet! But we also had never PCSed together! Each move required a lot of extra effort to find a job for the other one at the same location.
One Reason to Leave: Deployments
Between four months of training in Indiana and a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, I missed a whole year of my life. I considered myself lucky because I left behind a husband and not a family. I missed a lot that year we were apart.
While I was deployed, my husband had moved to his next assignment. Instead of coming home to one of those amazing homecomings, I came home to a nearly empty airport, got my luggage, and waited for my friend to pick me up. (She was late because she decided to make a sign and lost track of time.) My husband couldn’t be there for my arrival. He had moved all our stuff to the next place and left behind my clothes and a handful of carefully selected items.
Why I Left the Air Force
It is easy for me to make a list on paper and see the reasons I should leave the military behind. Two weeks later we were finally reunited, but just for a week. I went to visit him for Thanksgiving, but I still had one more month until we were finally stationed together at the same location. Being separated while deployed was hard, but the fact that the separation continued after coming home may have been the hardest part.
Without a doubt, leaving is the hard part. Because leaving requires you to put those dreams you had aside and to change the course of your life as you begin to head out on the next adventure. But in the end, that was what I decided to do. I left the Air Force to become a stay at home mom and it wasn’t an easy transition.
Now six years later I am happy to have left the Air Force behind and started this new adventure. It isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it.
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Photo Credits: Amanda Huffman and Unsplash