Over the last dozen years my life has changed a lot. I went from being a college graduate, to a newlywed, to a mother, to a constantly moving military spouse. I have changed and grown a lot and even though I didn’t recognize it until recently, I am very happy with where I am at in my life now.
Looking back, I was so bright eyed and excited about the world as a young college graduate. I had a great career in advertising and an Apartment outside of Boston. But even at that young age I wanted to settle down. It is funny how your priorities change. In college I couldn’t wait to have a career and be on my own. I had it all, a great career, my own place, new friends – yet I was daydreaming about a white picket fence. I don’t know why I was in such a rush to get to each next phase of life. Looking back, moving so fast made me have many years of resentment and regret. But now that I am in the next phase of my life I have let go of that regret and resentment and replaced it with gratitude. I am getting ahead of myself here so let me give you the scoop.
Shortly after working in my advertising career I met my husband. I was only 23 years old and very smitten instantly. He is an active duty service member and when I met him I found out he would be moving overseas within a year. Fast forward to a year later and I was literally a new bride living in Italy. Not only was it an adjustment to be a newlywed and new military wife but I was living in a new country. Work overseas was hard to come by but I did find an administrative position on base. It was a great job with great people but it was a serious step back career wise. After working there for a year I had my first daughter and dived headfirst into my new job, as a stay at home mom. I decided to stay with her rather than to go back to work for a job that was not really helping my career path. I also decided to start my Master’s program since I was home. My Bachelor’s was in Business so a MBA seemed like a natural path for me, but after a couple of classes I decided business admin was not exciting enough for me.
In search of satisfaction, I switched to a Master’s in Criminal Justice with pipe dreams of becoming a federal agent. Because of course a stay at home mom is going to be the number one hire for a top secret agency position right? After completing my program and graduating with honors I had my second daughter. I took a few part time administrative jobs here and there but I was not having any luck finding anything in either field of knowledge – business or criminal justice. I assumed having that degree would give me the edge to getting into my dream job. My husband told me and everyone how when he retired from the Navy in a few years how I would be the career woman and he would be “Mr. Mom” and I believed him. He always believed in me and encouraged me to dream big, something I am still thankful for.
As the years passed I felt constant disappointment over the lack of work. Cobwebs formed on both degrees as doors were constantly shut in my face. We didn’t make a dent in my student loans as we were living on one income. My dreams were slipping away as I spent my days as a stay at home mom. I lost myself at times feeling like I was trapped. I felt resentment and bitterness as I saw my husband attend fun events and parties, have lunch with friends, and get sent on deployment to exotic places. My world revolved around naps, feedings, diapers, play dates and constant stress and exhaustion. I rarely made time for myself and didn’t have many if any, close friends to confide in. I just kept thinking, if I could find a job I would be happy. That was the answer in my mind to all of my problems. Little did I know how good my life really was.
Fast forward to now and it has been almost 10 years that I have been a stay at home mom. I recently found a full time job now that my kids are school age and I don’t feel as torn about being away from them. Granted, the job is administrative, the best I can do with 10 years of no experience on my resume. At first I felt the burn of being in an entry level job even though I have my Master’s and Bachelor’s degree and should be in a mid level position by now, 14 years out of college. I see my friends post on Facebook about their amazing careers and executive positions and it used to really get to me. But now I get it, instead of resentment and regret I feel gratitude. I am grateful that I was there for every milestone, every special moment, every night kept up late to recover at home snuggling together the next day since I didn’t have to work. I can’t imagine having a sitter tell me of the milestones I missed that day. I appreciate my husband’s sacrifice to go on deployment and also miss these moments, rather than resent his absence. I am grateful for all of the days spent at the park, playing silly games around the house to fill the time when my husband was gone, and helping with new routines once they first started school. I see new moms who go straight back to work and how they only get flashes of all of these moments and I realize how lucky I was, even if I didn’t feel that way at the time. Not that I judge the moms who choose to put their career first, but just now that I see how lucky I was even if I did not appreciate it at the time.
Being at work now is a balancing act, trying to find time for those special moments with my children, time for my husband, time for my household and also time for myself. I am still learning each day how to balance all of that but I am also learning to let go of all of the regret and find gratitude for every moment. So even though we all have days when we want to fast forward our lives or walk in someone else’s shoes, we need to stop and enjoy the path we are on.