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It Takes Unique Skills To Be A Stay-At-Home Military Wife And Mom

by Sarah Smiley

I'm a military wife and stay-at-home mom. I spend my days eating chocolate kisses, meeting my girlfriends for extended lunches and playing bunko. I do all this while cleverly and conveniently avoiding work and my husband commits to extraordinary hours serving his country. Oh, and did I mention I'm a dues-paying member of the spouse club, too?

Sadly, this is what many people think of military wives - especially the stay-at-home, card-carrying spouse-club-member ones. Mention "wives' club meeting" in some circles and you are instantly labeled a wretched woman with zero aspirations of her own (well, except to marry a man in uniform, of course).

Society, it seems, often fails to recognize contributions that aren't instantly gratified, or that don't come in fancy packaging. After a while, even we wives - the ones at home - begin to believe the labels given to us.

I admit that I went straight from Daddy to sorority to Holy matrimony. I've never paid the rent and, until my husband's first deployment, I had never balanced a checkbook. You're thinking, "What makes a woman put her own goals on hold and marry someone at a very young age, only to hop around the country with him and bear his children?"

My answer: The military.

Yep, I blame it on the military. If Uncle Sam hadn't asked my husband to move across the country six years ago, I wouldn't have felt the need to jump on board or miss the ship. If Uncle Sam hadn't called my husband to sea for two out of three years, I might have put the kids in daycare, gone and gotten myself a job outside the home, and been on my way to being a college professor (my former dream).

Oh, all right, so I hold myself accountable, too. We all have the choice to stay at home or go to work, to say "no" to the ring or catch the U-Haul to California. When faced with these choices, I alone made the decisions that have now become my life. And, theoretically, my choices are no better or worse than my good friend Tonya, a Navy wife and mother who works outside the home... and manages to be president of the spouse club, too (imagine that!).

So why do I feel so lousy sometimes? Why do I often feel like I've done nothing with my life? Why do I cringe when I see my diploma on the wall? Why don't I consider staying home with the kids as my full-time job?

My best friend Amy (who happens to be single and without her own little munchkins) lives a jet-set life in New York City. The closest I come to her big-city lifestyle is when she calls me from her cell phone while she's riding in a taxi. She's up there saving the planet or whatever, and I'm here trying to convince myself that mac-n-cheese is a nutritionally sound meal for my boys and can be spruced up and disguised in innumerable ways. (Why, I might even be able to poke tiny inconspicuous spinach leaves in the noodles!)

Amy probably would tell you my life is much more demanding than hers. She might tell you that I have skills she lacks. But then, I don't even know how to hail a cab for heaven's sake! She would tell you that she envies my family and choices and is looking forward to her own wedding next year.

But I can't help but think the world wants me - wants us all - to be New York City "Amy's," people with voice mail and assistants and miniature cell phones with a hundred different ring settings. I can't help but wonder if I'm supposed to be out saving the whales or the penguins or something.

I would wonder about all this a lot longer, except now I feel compelled to brainstorm ways to do something important with my life. I'll get right on it... just as soon as I get the kids in bed.

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