Learning to Be a Military Mom: Part 1 (Part 2 in July issue)

When I suggested the subject of being a military parent, I admitted that I didn’t know which direction I would go with the article.  I only knew that sometimes I feel very lonely in the experience so undoubtedly others do, too.  Maybe sharing some of the challenges, joys, and worries could help other military parents.

But where to begin?  My son joined the U.S. Navy in August of 2020, so it’s not like I’m a seasoned mom who has been living this way for decades. I’m still very new at it and learning all the time. So I decided to turn to the community that I have found and become a part of thanks to, of all things, Facebook!

I joined Navy Mom Strong (9.7k members), Navy Moms Surviving the Journey (4.6k members), Navy Mom Support Group (10.9k members), and North Carolina Navy Moms (452 members). As I typed this I realize it might seem like overkill to join four groups who appear to be quite similar. Yet the information, compassion, support, and even humor that I have found on the various groups is so valuable that I can’t imagine leaving any one of them. And in these groups we can share knowing that on the other side of our screens are thousands of moms who “get it” and can relate without judgment.

So, as my article deadline approached and I found myself with a wee bit of writer’s block, I turned to just one of the groups, Navy Mom Strong, and explained that I was writing an article and I asked this question:

“I’m thinking that maybe I’ll do a Top Ten or even Top Five Things Moms of Military Kids Want You to Know. So, what are some things YOU think people without any ties to the military could learn from us? What do YOU want readers to know?”

Within hours, I had received 70 comments and at last count it was up to 93.  Clearly, these moms had something to say! I have read and reread each and every comment and have cried a little, laughed a little, and been humbled as I so often am when I hear about other people’s personal journeys, military or otherwise. From the responses and my own experience, I have compiled the following collection of heartfelt expressions.

The main themes that emerged were:

  • Military parenting is very different from college parenting
  • Pride is abundant but freedom comes at a cost

Seeing your son or daughter join the military is very different from sending your child to college.  It’s not that military parents don’t respect the emotions and challenge of parents who send their kids to school, but being told it’s “the same” or “I get it” by college parents is a real hot button for military parents. Many of the moms in the group have experienced college send-offs AND children joining the service and they shared their feelings about the differences.  I appreciate what Jennifer said about this: “As a mom that has experienced both college and military it’s not them leaving that’s different, the heartache is the same. It’s the little to no contact. When my kids were in college I knew they would eventually get my message. And if they didn’t respond, I could bug the heck out of them. In the military, whether boot camp, deployment, or…. It is out of our control. And we wait.”

Susan, another mom with both college and Navy experiences said, “There is a very big difference between the two. I have four children. Three chose college and one chose the Navy. My youngest, twins, left within a day of each other. My daughter went to school 800 miles away and my son went to boot camp. We experience stress from both, but, with a child in the military, you can’t call and check up on them, they can’t call you either, most of the time, to check in. Both are not fun at all but, stress from ‘the unknown’ is harder to deal with.”

Susan and Tony Johnson, parents of Petty Officer Third Class Grant Johnson have this advice for fellow military parents:  Pray a lot, trust that you raised your child to be a good person and know that the military is going to fill in the gaps making them even more awesome!


Please be sure to pick up next month’s issue of Forsyth Woman for Part Two of this article.


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