As an active duty member I always strove to dissociate my private life from my professional, military one. This was never more true than during the time I was preparing for the birth of my first child. The moment my son was born I assumed that a soft, maternal woman would emerge and be born in me; a woman without a trace of my regimented, military existence. Luckily, for my child, myself, and my husband this wasn't the case and I have never been more grateful for my active duty years than I am now in trenches that they call motherhood. Upon reflection, I came up with 7 realities of military life that best prepared me for the realities of parenthood. They're worth a read (and a laugh...especially for you military types).
1. Late-Night Watches- My extensive experience operating late in the night helped me approach a helpless child's screams and late night feedings with a calm acceptance. The military demanded late nights and clear-headed decisions at all hours and my howling infant demanded the same. Many first-time parents begrudgingly discover that nighttime no longer means sleep- but I had learned this a long time before and was used to functioning with little sleep the next day.
2. Taking Sh** (and Cleaning it Up)- Or rather putting up with impossible and unnecessarily difficult situations, policies, and people is a staple in military life. (I'm also convinced it served as the inspiration behind the military discount at select retailers but that has yet to be proved). Parenthood also has these moments- where your child is being unreasonably difficult for no apparent reason. Then, there is the diaper business, where you're elbow deep cleaning up someone else's sh**. In the literal sense, I've only done this twice in my military experience (don't ask), in the figurative sense this act is performed daily by our men and women in uniform minimizing the damage of some catastrophic event, mopping it up, and bravely carrying on.
3. Lackluster Meals on the Go-Time is of the essence in the military. And mealtime is oftentimes approached as an interruption to more important work; often rushed through and endured rather than savored and enjoyed. Although I had separated from the military before the birth of my son, I soon began to experience the deja vous of my service days as I began shoving food senselessly into my mouth before my son woke up from his nap.
4. The Impenetrable Mom-Bun-I will never forget the day after my separation from the military. I couldn't wait to frolic off to the nearest hairdresser and begin sporting a bold new hairstyle with perhaps a pop of purple highlights. Ironically, after having a baby, I found myself reverting back to old ways...a tightly wound military sock-bun. I have found any other style impracticable and bothersome. Sadly, I only came to this reality after my hair strayed into a few dirty diapers during changing and after I found a few boogers lingering in wayward locks. Not to mention my son makes a sport at pulling it and tying knots in it whenever he has the chance. The slicked-back, gel-helmet military bun, however, proved impenetrable and functional.
5. Sleeping Through Anything on Anything-Whether it's sleeping on a C-130 flight or in a reckless rack through a hurricane; military personnel at one point or the next learn to sleep through anything on anything. This skill was worth it's weight in gold once motherhood found me. Sleep is essential to maternal sanity. Thanks to my former training, as a mother I now find myself able to sleep at the drop of a hat in the car, on the recliner, on the floor, in the bustling hospital, at the hairdresser, even while waiting to be seen at the doctors. And yes-each wink was golden!
6. A 24-7 Job-As service members we are constantly reminded that we are never off-duty and that our actions in and out of uniform have real consequence. I remember this reality often weighed heavily on me because I never felt I could just kick-back and relax. Like the military, parenthood is a 24/7 job and few life experiences or jobs can ever prepare you for the gravity of such a responsibility. I even wager that parenthood is an even greater responsibility because its a lifetime responsibility to the care, wellbeing, and development of another human being. The parenthood crown is heavy, but at least I was accustomed to the weight.
7. Coffee as Lifeblood- Several times during my military career, I recall wishing that I could be hooked up to an intravenous source of caffeine to propel me through tasks that demanded boldness and rational thought. As I later discovered, motherhood is a task that demands boldness and rational thought and a steady stream of strong coffee. I'm just grateful that my stomach (and teeth) were already accustomed to the practice.
To those of you who have served and are parents, I hope this post gave you a good laugh. To those of you who have served and are not parents, I hope this instilled new confidence that you've got what it takes to survive. Cheers!