By Carla Olivo, PCSgrades Director of Strategic Communications
I don’t often have regrets. Life is too short for that. But sometimes, I would have liked a ‘Do Over.’ You know, one of those times where something just slipped out, and you wish you hadn’t said it or a time where one of your kids displays less than ideal behavior, and you wish you had just a little bit more patience in handling it.
My husband served 26 years in the Marine Corps. I wouldn’t change any of our PCSes or Duty Stations. I met some fantastic people along the way from fellow military spouses to some pretty great civilians too. And I think living the military life has served my kids very well.
But there are some things that I would do a bit differently if I had the chance. This is what I would tell my younger military spouse self given the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and plenty of ‘on the job’ training.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
I know, I know! This sounds so cliché, but it’s true. Especially, the second part of that…”And its ALL Small Stuff.” Now, I am not saying a looming deployment is small stuff. It’s not. It’s HUGE and has the potential to be life changing. But if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t waste my time worrying about those things I couldn’t control such as deployments or the unknowns such as will he come home ‘different’ or maybe not at all. Easier said than done, I know. But a complete waste of my time and energy. Luckily, I didn’t spend a lot of time on these things totally out of my control. But I had friends who did.
I would take care of myself a lot sooner
With every PCS, my first mission was to get the kids situated. I would find them a good school. Then, I would look for ways to allow them to continue their interests; Girl/Boy Scouts, Soccer, Baseball, Softball, etc. I figured the sooner I got them signed up for those extracurricular activities they enjoyed, the less they would miss the old duty station and the friends they left behind.
And while this was true, I usually didn’t get around to finding friends of my own, joining a spouse club or Bunco group until much later in the year or at times even the following year. It sometimes made for a very lonely first few months at the new duty station.
So if I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to not necessarily take care of myself first but definitely a lot earlier in the relocation process.
Don’t Compare Your Journey with Other Mil Spouses
Because we move around so much and many times have no sense of ‘roots’ we tend to gravitate towards other military spouses. We are living this life together and have a lot in common that our family and civilian friends don’t necessarily understand. The problem is that we sometimes fail to see our differences. My husband had the good fortune to be assigned to several joint duty stations. Career-wise, I think this gave him some great joint experience, and as a family, we enjoyed some fun duty stations such as Southern Command in Miami. Hello, sunshine and beaches!
There were many times I would come home to tell my husband, “So and so’s husband got his orders/promotion/leave and my husband would have to remind me, “That’s not how the Marine Corps does it.”
Probably the worst was comparing deployments. My friends talked about Skyping with their husbands a few times a week, some every night. So the idea that I could have my husband join us via Skype for the kids’ birthdays made deployment sound bearable. Well, it was a rude awakening when I was lucky to get a couple of emails through a week. Some weeks there weren’t any phone calls at all. Skyping was not even a possibility from his location. I’m not complaining. We made it through like most other military families. But I do wish I had done a better job at managing my own expectations.
One last thing I would tell my younger military spouse self. Those size six jeans that you thought made you look “fat,” you will someday look at a photo of yourself in those jeans and marvel at how “skinny” you were!
Two decades of moving with the Marine Corps was not easy, but with each move, I learned a lot. What are some of the things you’ve learned over the years that might help your fellow military spouses? What would you say to your younger mil spouse self?
Author: Carla Olivo, PCSgrades Strategic Communications Director, previously served as the Director of Communications for Operation Hug-A-Hero and as the Media/Community Relations Officer for the Delaware Department of Transportation. She has garnered numerous TV industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting, News Writing, Enterprise Reporting, and Documentary Reporting. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel, their two children. You can follow her on Twitter @olivowriter.