Trait: The competency to raise your family alone, without extended family nearby.
I have a running list of “how to tell you’ve met a military mom.” At the top, is the tell-tale sign of finding out that every one her children was born in different states or countries. For example, my daughter was born in Texas and my son was born in Massachusetts. It is not atypical to find a military family’s birthplaces spanning the world—like the first child born in Alaska, the middle one in Italy, and the youngest in Georgia. With globetrotting like that, chances are the extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are not local. It can happen on occasion, but then the next move fixes that.
A funny joke is told amongst the military men, “You’re either there for the conception or the birth. You decide.” This is meant to soften the blow when the new father cannot be at the birth because of duty. This may not resonate much with women older than my generation since it was once standard that the expectant father stayed in the waiting room during labor and delivery. But to women in my bracket and younger, having the husband completely absent from this momentous occasion can be heartbreaking and difficult.
Another plot-twister is when the couple already has a young child and a helper needs to be sought out to watch the existing child(ren) when the mom goes into labor. When my second was born, my mother flew in from out-of-state to be the “sitter-on-call.” Well, sometimes the baby doesn’t show up when it is expected! My mother needed to get back to her home. I had neighbors who offered to watch my toddler if my mom left before the big event. But, they all had little babies of their own and I feared one of those 2:00 a.m. scenes of rushing to the hospital. I also knew I would be in the hospital for up to two days. To make sure I had a sitter for those two days, I ended up asking to be induced—screw the original birth plan of being “natural.”
In life, there are some things that you cannot bring your children to—you have to get a sitter. I get jealous when I am around locals who say that their mom or sibling is going to watch the kids for them. Being new in town complicates the sitter-search. I get desperate at times. Like in 2005 when I first arrived in a new state, I needed a babysitter quick. I found myself eavesdropping in the grocery store line. The cashier was telling a bagger that she loved kids. I thought, “Bingo!” She was allowed to handle money for the store; so I knew she had a background check completed on her. I introduced myself and we exchanged numbers. Necessity creates innovation.
More importantly, my jealousy deepens when I hear of invaluable relationships being formed and commonly reinforced between their (the locals) children and the rest of their family. It is hard to accept that my children do not have that life-enriching benefit. The military mission must come first.