This month has been difficult. It seems like every so often I wake up and feel a heaviness in my chest that can only be relieved by an insurmountable amount of tears and a lot of talking. This month is that time. This month I had my fill, I cried so much that people are starting to think I am crazy. I’ve stressed so much that the heaviness in my chest turned into actual inexplicable pain, and I know exactly why.
As a married woman in the military with two small children I can say that I have experienced my share of tough times, made difficult decisions, experienced unfairness, and attained my share of success as well. Somehow, this month the emotional rollercoaster peaked a little too high for me and the gut wrenching feeling that you get right before you drop seems to have stayed deep inside. For those who know me personally know I am an extremely proud person, I take pride in everything that I do, from being a good loving mother and wife, to doing my job and I never do anything half way. I take care of Sailors every single day and I love it, but in doing so, sometimes my own family suffers. I come home tired and stressed, unable to think and wanting to be a little selfish with my time. Sometimes I’m angry for no reason and I can’t bring myself to make an effort to be patient. My family sees that, my job doesn’t.
I have served for 8 1/2 years with 5 more to go and the military has always dictated the decisions we made as a family, the sacrifices we made, and the battles we chose to fight, and that’s okay because we chose this life and we did it together. This life has been good to us, it has brought us so much joy and happiness, but not without a whole lot of giving. As a woman who serves, when do you put your hands up and say, “enough is enough!” Is that even an option in the military? Can you really say that’s it?! My 5 year old started Kindergarten this month, and my 3 year old is now alone at daycare for the first time, I wish I could be there every step of the way but the reality is that it isn’t possible for me, and I know its not just the military, I know this is a struggle that every mother and father deals with, but it is my particular situation that leaves me with very little hope.
My son is now getting bused to some afterschool program because he is now school age, if I was a stay at home mom/dad (How I wish I was), I would be able to pick him up myself and ask him how his day was, talk to his teacher, remind him not to forget his lunch bag (which he has done every single day), meet his friends and know their names so when he talks about them I understand what he is saying, but most of all, if I was there, he wouldn’t have been mistreated by some random daycare worker because I wasn’t there. Without going into details, I will just say that there is no worse feeling than entrusting your child to someone and finding out that they could care less about that wonderful little 5 year old boy. That he means so little to them that he was forgotten on his 4th day of school and he wouldn’t be scared to go back to that miserable place. It should go without saying that he is never going back there, it should go without saying that my heart hurts because I let it happen, and that at this very moment in time I don’t see why I do what I do anymore.
My kids are my world, and if I had a chance to call it quits today and leave the military I would. I’ve done a great job as a service member, but the cost has always been paid by my husband and my children. I’m struggling to find purpose on this path I am on, as I am sure many working mothers have struggled with before, but I refuse to continue to put my children second. So the question is, who wins? Putting my children first means taking every possible opportunity for time off, requesting sick days for doctor’s appointments, requesting a “flexible schedule” so that I can pick them up after school and so I can get home in time for dinner, it means getting judged by my male and female counterparts. Allowing things to fall behind and delayed and letting 220 something Sailors criticize my work. It means not putting my best foot forward because I saved that for my family, and being okay with that.
I’ve heard many say that you can find balance, and I have to say that’s bullshit. Those who have said that to me have a parent who helps provide care for their kids, or have a stay at home spouse, or are much higher ranking and make more money than I do (rank does have its privileges), only have one child (Believe me it makes a huge difference!) or quite frankly who just don’t give a shit about their kids, the list goes on. The point is that no one’s circumstances are the same, and I would much rather be out of the military today than to continue to feel like an inadequate parent.
Perhaps I am having a bad month, perhaps I will find a solution to this, a solution that will satisfy my need to be there as a parent and serve as a Sailor. Today I just want to say that I can’t see it. Today I want to say to my 5 year old that he is the most important person in my life, that I’m sorry for all these adult things I have to do, that I love him. Today I want to stop feeling guilty and tell all the working mothers out there, its not just you, I want you to know its okay to feel like quitting some days and its okay to let everyone judge you, because at least your kid is loved and your kid is happy and taken care of.