As a rule, I try not to dwell on my struggles and live under a “woe is me” mentality. That might explain why it took me so long to go from the throes of depression to a place where I am eager to share my experience, my growth, and my success with other military spouses. I never wanted others’ pity and asking for help is hard!
I know now that if we don’t share our lows as women, spouses, and mothers, we can neither lift each other up, nor can we appreciate each other’s tremendous strength. Sharing my story, I hope, will inspire and encourage other military spouses who are struggling through their journey of motherhood.
My Military Spouse Story
I married my service member shortly after we graduated from college. Choosing love meant quitting my beloved job as a teacher, leaving my family and friends, and saying goodbye to my chosen home. Together we made our first move to Fort Bliss, Texas. Finding myself unemployed, bored, and without any real friends, we chose to start a family right away.
That first year alone in a new city as a military spouse and new mother broke me down. There were some good days, but there were many more bad ones. I was lonely, exhausted, and lacking direction. I missed working, I missed my husband who was frequently away training, and I missed the family and friends I had left behind. I missed my pre-pregnancy body and the woman I was “before.” To put it plainly, I had a lot of feelings. I cried a lot. It started out fairly mild, but soon those feelings evolved into undiagnosed anxiety and depression that I would silently live with for several long years. In spite of the very low lows, we went on to conceive our second son when our oldest was just nine months old and as my husband was gearing up to deploy.
Isn’t that just the story of so many of us? Starting a family young, husband halfway across the world, getting by and trying our best. Some of us love this life, but I am positive I am not unique in feeling an emptiness in stay-at-home-motherhood and homemaking. While I know too well how hard full-time moms work every day, I longed desperately to offer the world something more!
As military spouses, we are often implicitly, or even explicitly, taught that we should set aside our goals and aspirations to support our service member. We shouldn’t whine or complain because it may stress them out when they already feel ample stress at work and they need to focus on the mission. We should joyfully pack Pinterest-perfect care packages, not our own briefcases. These expectations may never be stated aloud, but they are felt. We are pressured to manage the children and the home front with a smile.
Unfortunately, that just isn’t enough to give all of us a sense of meaning. The days are long and monotonous, and occasionally downright dreadful. More laundry. Another kid-friendly lunch. When is naptime? The baby is crying again. We have seen every episode of Paw Patrol. Bedtime is a battle. This is exhausting.
Every single spouse is more than “just” a spouse or “just” a mom, but it took me diving deep into anger and resentment to come back up to the surface with a sense of purpose and self.
Finding My Purpose
Around the same time that I admitted that I couldn’t hope and pray my way out of depression is when I took the first steps toward building my “something more” to share with the world, and especially the military world. My experience as a young military spouse is not at all unique and I know that every single day there are thousands of women living through similar experiences to mine as a young mother. What might be unique, however, is the fruit that came of this struggle. I fought with various demons- depression, resentment, loneliness, anxiety- for years before I found my own, small way to give back to women like myself. I founded a business providing concrete support to real moms as a certified pediatric sleep consultant, and I called it Mother Together.
We should all mother together. We should all have a support system. We should all have someone to turn to. Too many of us do not. My little business can never fill the void left by the lack of village, but it does, in a small way, try to create a real connection with real mothers and, at least as importantly, I help make sleep something that moms can count on.
I am a real mom and a real Army wife, providing a small service to other moms by making sure that your family gets the sleep it needs. Mother Together makes mother-to-mother connection the center of my service while we work closely to develop routines and sleep habits for kids, and in turn, promote quality rest and wellness for mothers. I probably don’t need to tell you how good it feels to be well-rested or how it makes us better mothers than we would be without sleep. Sleep also can’t cure depression, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. My little military spouse-run business has let me help over a hundred families over the 18 months since I started this venture. And, by the way, we found time to have our third child during this time.
The weight of motherhood should never be left for us to carry alone, as I did for so long. It is said that moms today lack the “village” that mothers shared for centuries before us. This is especially true in military communities. While many are blessed to have found their “ride or die” battle buddy who conveniently lives on the other side of their duplex, there are just as many who feel profoundly alone in an unfamiliar town away from family and any support network.
I hope that my story has helped other military spouses feel understood, valued, and less alone on this journey. I wish I could personally cheer for every single one of you out there: the unemployed spouse who wants to find “something more” to offer the world, the new mom suffering from postpartum depression, the spouse who is raising family without the support of a village. You are so much more than “just” a military spouse or “just” a mother. You are valuable and have so much to offer and you don’t have to do this alone.
© Strength 4 Spouses LLC, 2020.
Mary Vaughn is an Army spouse, mother of three boys, and the owner of Mother Together. Mary is currently stationed at Fort Bragg, NC but helps families around the world by providing fully virtual, customized, one-on-one support as a sleep consultant and potty training coach. When Mary is not helping other mothers, you can find her cooking a new recipe, clearing her head on a long run, or on the hunt for the best local coffee spots.