Myself, my husband and my two young boys hopped in our jam packed car in Virginia and set off to Washington not knowing very much about the Seattle city life or what the next few months would be like on the other side of the United States. We are a military family that is used to some of the toughest changes a family can go through, yet this was different because we were headed to a city where we literally knew no one and didn’t have our normal culture of military families to reach out to for help. If you haven’t experienced life as a military spouse, it is something that is not always easily explained. I’ve dealt with 7 deployments, becoming a mom and 2 weeks later saying good bye to my husband, the birth of my second son was done without my husband there, my husband meeting him for the first time when he was four months old, becoming a stay at home mom after a career as a social worker, holidays apart, living away from our families and traveling the world.
To give readers a little understanding of married life to a military service member, let me start from the beginning of our marriage. I graduated college in Texas with a degree in Social Work. I was already married at that point, but wanted to finish school before I moved with my husband. I graduated and two days later I was on a plane to my husbands duty station. I moved into an empty house my husband bought 6 months prior. He was gone on a training trip when I moved in. The next three years I worked many hours as a Social Worker and saw my husband on occasion. I loved the independent life I was living. I missed my husband, but I didn’t know anything else. One year, I was informed by my husbands command that he was gone from home 316 days total that year. Again, this didn’t even faze me because it was all I knew of married life.
Fast forward and I become pregnant. In fact, my husband was on a training trip when I realized I was pregnant and I was able to tell him when he returned home for a weekend. We were so excited and a little nervous. I found out I was 7 weeks pregnant with my first baby and my husband was set to leave for another deployment. He returned home during my ninth month of pregnancy. We worked hard to get the nursery ready and he was able to come to one of my doctors appointment. I finished work on a Friday and had my baby boy that Sunday. For two whole weeks I had my husband home to help with the new baby venture. For the first time in my marriage though I felt a little lost. I was told you have a baby and the love you feel for that baby is something unexplainable. Why wasn’t I feeling this way? I was quite miserable to say the least and breastfeeding was harder than I ever imagined. I was so ready to start my maternity leave and here I was on maternity leave with my whole family home, yet I wanted to go back to work. I cried a lot those months. To make things harder, my husband left for the 100th time or so for a training trip. This time the trip was a 3 month operation. He was stateside, but not home. I am the type of person that hates asking for help. Luckily, living in a highly populated military city, I was greeted with lots of help and advice from friends who could truly emphasize with me.
Like many military spouses, I persevered and started baby rearing alone and actually started getting the hang of being a mom. In fact, I remember vividly walking out of Target one day with a baby carrier in one arm and a bunch of bags in the other and saying to myself, “I got this, I can do this all by myself.”
I am not trying to take away from any service member who is away from their family. I know it is extremely hard on them as well. My husband would come home and he always said he would feel relief but also a little uncomfortable. He would step into my territory and sometimes it was hard to figure out our roles because I was so used to doing everything on my own. If you have ever been away from your child and just miss the heck out of them, imagine being the service member who is ordered to be away and has to count the days before they see their children. Yes, we made a choice to have this lifestyle, but some days are harder than others.
Bring on baby number two and this time I had my second boy without my husband there. He saw his second son born via Skype. I have a screen shot the moment he saw his son on Skype and it is pure joy and a little sadness. I know he wanted to be home more than anything but he had a job to do and he knew I would make sure the kids were well taken care of. Finally, after years of coming and going, my husband was accepted into a program where he would have two years to finish school while active duty. After those two years he would owe the military 6 years of service. We jumped at the opportunity and my husband chose University of Washington to finish his degree.
I was so excited to move to a new city where the military “fishbowl” was out of sight and we could just live life for 2 years not dealing with the uncertainty of training trips and deployments. I could actually go to the grocery store alone or plan a trip knowing our family would all be together. I learned though that while coming to Seattle was a great change for our family, it was harder than I imagined not having that military community around us to help. You see, when you are in a military community, you have resources everywhere. You have offices that give you everything you need to start in a new city. You meet friends immediately because we are used to throwing ourselves at people because we know how hard it is to start over in a new place.
My husband and I went over 6 months in Seattle not having any help with our kids when we needed it. We didn’t go on one date night alone and it was tough. We didn’t realize how important it is to have a good support system wherever you live. My husband looked at me one day and said, “Jodi, we seriously need a date night.” For the first time I couldn’t call on friends or past babysitters to help us out. Anyone with kids knows how important it is to not lose yourself and to also have time away from your kids to enjoy a couple hours with adults only. I did a quick Google search and checked out some of the professional Nanny/Babysitter websites. I looked at a few but Poppy truly caught my eye because the website was appealing. It was easy to access and best of all, everything was done for me. I didn’t have to figure out who was going to come to watch my boys or figure out if the sitter would be qualified.
This company was a my lifesaver in this new city. I’m proud to say my husband and I had an amazing first date in Seattle and when we got home our children were asleep, safe and sound. I’ve used Poppy to help when my work schedule doesn’t line up with my husbands schedule or when I just need to run some errands alone. I feel like I am a part of the Poppy community and that is so important to a military family. That tribe that so many people talk about is what I’ve found with Poppy. I’ve had multiple sitters come to my home and they’ve supported my family by letting us have that peace of mind that our children are safe with them.
Guest author Jodi Griffin