As a mother of two boys, moving three times in two years has been especially difficult. I have worried that the military lifestyle will have a negative impact on their lives. Like many of you, I have held them as they cried when leaving teachers and friends. I have even pulled my youngest son off the fence in the backyard when he was convinced he could run away back “home”. I absolutely love supporting my husband as he works hard in his calling. But sometimes, watching my children struggle is enough to make me doubt it all.
Anyone who works with military children will tell you they have an amazing ability to adapt to new circumstances. They learn valuable tools that will make them extremely successful in the “real world”. As Brene Brown, a researcher, once said “children are hard wired for struggle”. Over protecting them actually does more harm than good. Sometimes I have to remind myself that our lifestyle is all they know. They have not experienced living in one place their whole life. I also remind myself that what I am feeling inside is not what they are feeling.
Mommy Guilt, is actually shame. Telling myself “I am a bad mother for _____” is extremely unproductive. You can identify it by almost any negative statement that starts with “I am…” I am a bad person, I am unworthy, I am unloved, I am a horrible parent… Known as the “swampland of the soul”, shame can spiral into a place where no one can save you but you. None of it is true, and it is up to you to pull yourself out. Guilt, on the other hand, is admitting I have done something wrong and then making it right which is very productive. If we can identify something we have done wrong, we are usually motivated to make it right. I have already seen the battle of shame start in my child’s life. Knowing how to differentiate the two and modeling handling it in our own life is a powerful tool to teach our children the same.
So when the warm wash of shame comes over me, I pull myself out of it, comfort my boys, and tend to their heart. I assure them that life is never easy but we have each other. If needed, I explain the calling on our hearts as adults and how they will one day feel a call too. Their role is an important part of our team. To tend to my own heart, I know I can go to my more seasoned military spouse friends who assure me that my kids will turn out more than fine. They share with me their own stories of parenting and the importance of keeping the marriage team strong. I am so thankful for these mentors in my life who share how they raised successful well adjusted adults. Their example and willingness to serve in the “village” of the military culture paves a path of success for my own family that is priceless. It is also a reminder that we are all part of the village. That we, too, get to pay it forward as we serve another parent struggling.