Recently, while sitting at a table during a unit party, someone asked me if I had a family.
I really hoped my incredulous look wasn’t too transparent. What a weird question. I think she meant to ask me if I had children. But is that what defines a family? How do you put a label on “family” nowadays with same sex marriage, blended families, kids or no kids, cat-people vs. dog-people (you’re one or the other, let’s be honest)?
Maybe I’m just sensitive to the question. I chose to exercise some self-restraint by replying, “My family is me, my husband, and my dog.” I smiled and chuckled for half a second.
I’m what some folks like to call a Millennial. Yes, I was born in the ‘80s, I’m focused on my career, social media savvy, and drink green kale smoothies (wait, not everyone my age does that?). I also am choosing not to procreate quite yet.
It’s totally me, I get it.
I’ll try to be less awkward when people ask. It’s all in my head and I’m being overly sensitive, but I think this example just goes to show how the times are changing, even for military families.
I would love children and hope to have some in the future, just not this second. I’m 31 (gasp), which sometimes feel ancient in the military community (when did everyone become younger than me?!), especially because we don’t have kids yet. To someone who does eventually want kids and constantly feels her biological clock ticking away, this gives me minor anxiety. In case you couldn’t tell.
Is it just me or does the average military family have four children? Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but it shocks me when I see someone who looks 21 and has four kids. What, how, when?! Fun fact: where I live, approximately 100 babies are born to military families each month at one Naval hospital. That’s how you compete with China right there!
To any of you out there who might feel a tad similar, these are a few things I’ve learned–and am still learning–as well as a few mantras to say to yourself anytime you are feeling the least bit sad, uncomfortable, anxious, etc. about waiting to have children or choosing to not have them at all.
Stop freaking out!
You want kids or you don’t want kids, who cares?! Not everyone at the table is judging you. You’re your own worst critic. Stop being so hard on yourself.
There’s never a right time.
Hmm, maybe I should work on getting that job with excellent maternity leave first. Or, we’re due to PCS in one year so if we don’t get pregnant ASAP, we’ll just have to wait another year. News flash: life still happens and we should know by now that planning rarely works out in our favor, am I right, MilFams?
There ARE other childless military spouses!
So go ahead, put yourself out there. For the first four months at our new duty station, I thought I’d never find friends who were like me. Everyone I met seemed engrossed in their husbands’ careers, didn’t care about having a job, and/or were solely concerned about their children. I’ve learned that people you meet might have different priorities than you, but you’ll find that many moms and dads who would love a kid-free lunch (babysitters exist for a reason), and many people are taking a sabbatical of sorts due to PCS moves.
Exercise helps too.
Basically, you do you. I say this to my friends back home all the time. Do what you want, when you want, how you want. It’s your life after all, so you choose how to live it each and every day. Some days are easier than others to deal with the hand you’ve been dealt. But I’m naturally optimistic. So today, I’ll choose happiness and let go of my anxieties. As a military spouse, you know we’ve got plenty of them.
What advice would you give other childfree military spouses?
Posted by Nicole Russell, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer