When I left the military to become a mom and military spouse, I thought I was giving up my hard life for the good life. Being a mom looked like so much fun. It didn’t look lonely, stressful, or tiring. From the outside, it looked easy and fun. I had heard stories of parenting struggles, but I didn’t understand what the parents were saying. I couldn’t image the stories they told to actually be real life.
Shortly after my son was born, I talked to a seasoned mom. I told her of my exhaustion and my struggle with my newborn son who suddenly stopped sleeping. She said, “Well you are just not used to it yet.” I had expected her to say, well don’t worry it gets better and soon he will sleep and so will you. Instead, she let me into the mom club and told me the straight up truth that “one day I would be used to getting limited sleep and still having to function the rest of the day.”
It was a hard reality to accept. I still don’t think I even believed her. Ok, I know I didn’t believe her. To this day I still remember thinking “people can’t possibly live this way,” but they can and do. Moms even handle it so well that people who haven’t had kids can’t even relate to the struggle that comes with the first year of parenthood.
When I was pregnant with my first son, I imagined life after leaving the military would be easy and boring. I had previously deployed to Afghanistan and not only survived but thrived. I might have had a pride issue that I’m still working on, but motherhood brings you to a point where the books you read only cause frustration and you learn to let go of so many things you once held so tightly.
Becoming a mother changes you and molds you into something new. While it is painful, it was so needed and necessary for someone like me. Had motherhood gone like I planned, my life wouldn’t be nearly as full as it is today. I likely would have never found writing as a way to survive each week. There is so much good in the struggle and I cried more that first year of my son’s life than I even care to admit. The only thing I can say when I look back is how thankful I am to be where I am today.
My son was four months old when I left the military. I quickly realized my identity was wrapped into the rank I wore, the job I performed, and the people I interacted with each day. I had already had a rough four months. My son wasn’t sleeping as I expected. My husband had been gone for 8 weeks of training and I barely managed to survive. He was finally home and I was finally out of the military. Life should have been getting better and easier.
Instead, one day I found myself hiding in the shower to get away from it all. I cried and prayed out to God, while wondering how my life could have ended up at a point that I felt so lost and confused. Quite often, I felt like a failure to my son, my husband, and myself.
I called a trusted friend and cried some more. When she said she understood my struggle, I couldn’t believe it. She had a baby a few months before me and it seemed like everything was going well. From the outside everything looked perfect, but on the inside, we both were struggling through the first year of motherhood. Something changed that day. Now, we both knew we were not alone.
She was dealing with a loss of self too. She was struggling with this new role of motherhood and all that it entailed. She struggled as her baby didn’t follow what the books said he would do.
This journey to motherhood requires us to break up with ourselves in a way. We have to let go of the person we once were and the things we once did. One thing I have learned is life rarely looks the same after the baby you waited for comes home.
© Strength 4 Spouses LLC, 2018.
Amanda is a military veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer including a deployment to Afghanistan as part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and to follow her husband’s military career. They currently live in Northern Virginia.
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