By now, you’ve probably seen the memes circulating the internet. They humorously link the military lifestyle to a stronger sense of readiness over our civilian counterparts in the rapidly evolving Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Although we’re in a potentially frightening and stressful situation, many of us feel a strange sense of confidence and familiarity in the face of this unknown. For many milspouses, going into lockdown is just a minor pivot from life as we know it — let’s delve into why.
11 Milspouse Experiences That Prepared Us for the Coronavirus Response
- Isolation is the name of the game. Rarely do military families get stationed near our hometown, so we can’t rely on family or friends for support. Instead, we find ourselves in new territory, be it across the country or across the globe, and learn to be self-reliant in the face of difficult times. In a best-case scenario, we eventually get out of the house and connect with new friends on base, but there is always that inevitable period of going it alone.
- Living on less. Due to frequent PCS moves, military families have a great deal of experience living out of suitcases, planning meals on a budget, and rationing food while in hotels or empty houses. We successfully get by for weeks or even months without our household goods. The associated expenses of each move have trained many of us to cut financial corners and stretch our dollar further. At a time when supplies are running low, this feels strangely familiar – we’ve lived like this before.
- Being separated from loved ones. Right now, the world feels a bit unsettled. It’s sad and scary that many of us can’t be with our loved ones, and there’s no telling how long this will continue. Many military families go for years without returning home to family due to challenges with leave, distance, or costs. On top of that, if our spouse is TDY or on deployment, we have learned how to love from a distance for weeks or months at a time. Video chats, letters, texts and care packages are a key to staying connected.
- Plans? What plans? They’re canceled. If you’re a military spouse for long enough, you will see leave denied, vacations canceled, birthdays, holidays, and even births and funerals missed. Many civilians understandably struggled with the idea of canceling Spring Break plans, but it just seems par for the course for many military families. We’ve done this before, we’ve felt the disappointment, had a good cry, and pressed on.
- Celebrating milestones later. As we see news stories of canceled weddings, retirement parties, and birthday parties, we as military spouses have most likely experienced this already. We’ve quickly eloped only to plan a wedding later, we’ve celebrated anniversaries when our spouse finally returned home, and we’ve celebrated Christmas in July before an upcoming deployment.
- Hurry up and wait. This doesn’t need much of an explanation. Whereas others may be especially stressed over how long this will take and how this might affect our lives for months to come, we’ve grown to accept this as a part of life. It doesn’t mean we like it – don’t get me wrong. Although this is not a pleasant aspect of the military lifestyle, it helps build a resilient mindset, which is key.
- Being home with the kids. No matter our life experience, work experience, or number of degrees we hold, many military spouses found that it was more conducive to stay at home with kids at one point or another. Whether a personal choice or a necessity due to deployment, this is not our first rodeo. Whereas others may be accustomed to daycare, afterschool programs, or grandparents right up the road while they work, many milspouses know what it is to have kids at home all the time. We know about having to ration food so they don’t constantly raid the pantry, how to come up with activities throughout the day, and when to retreat to our corners to save our sanity. Odds are, we’ve done this before, done this alone, and done it for an extended period of time. We’ve got this.
- Working from home. As others transition to working remotely, many military spouses already have a leg up. Because we move every three years on average, many of us have already started our own businesses to include freelance writing, social media management, photography, baking, virtual assistants, fitness – you name it. Better yet, we have learned how to do it while still juggling a household and parenting kids who are in the next room… or in our face! We’ve also completed online degrees, and know that conditions aren’t always favorable or quiet while at home, but we made it work anyway.
- Bravely facing unknowns. Milspouses don’t know where we will live next, if we can find work, what the schools will be like, if our spouse will deploy, or if he or she will make it back in one piece – you name it. We deal with so many stressors every single year and have had a good trial run of facing our fears as a result. This doesn’t take away the current anxiety and certainly doesn’t make it better, but we have had some experience in staying calm and positive when we don’t know what is right around the corner. That is a true strength.
- Expecting Murphy’s Law. Anything that can go wrong will – we’ve all been there! It seems that any time our spouse is gone, our cars break, our houses break, kids’ bones break… you get the picture. It feels like the Coronavirus pandemic will get worse before it gets better, and fortunately we are trained to expect the unexpected. It isn’t being a pessimist; it’s being a realist. (I call myself an optimistic realist… I hope for the best but plan for the probable.)
- Helping others. You may be sick of the expression “bloom where you’re planted” but there is something to be said for that sentiment. The key to surviving the military lifestyle is building a community, finding your tribe, helping during times of sickness, new babies, isolation, deployment, and building a new network and family. As the entire world faces this pandemic, it’s very important to find common ground and help in ways we can, even if virtually and from a distance. We are in the midst of a future history lesson, and I’m certain, when looking back, the humanity will shine through. Let’s do this, milspouses!
How has the military lifestyle prepared you to handle the unknown of the Coronavirus pandemic?
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