Please welcome guest blogger, veteran military spouse and BSF Advisory Board member, Sheila Casey.
I have been a military spouse for 39 years. During that time I have experienced all the same things each one of you have…raising a family, moving, deployments, reintegration, children changing schools, volunteering and making lifelong friendships. It has not always been easy but I would not change a moment of it. I say that now although there were days when I thought differently. When military life became difficult it was easy to think “enough” but then I would figure my way through it and get on with life.
What I realized is that I needed something that was mine. I could not live my life through my husband and I needed something in addition to the Army. I knew that one day my husband would retire and that the military part of my life would end. I needed something that would continue. The big question was what.
I stayed at home with my children until they went to school full time. I realized that I needed more to keep myself occupied so I went to work. That decision brought a new set of challenges. I was constantly questioning my decision. How am I going to get everything accomplished? There were issues with daycare, carpooling for after school activities, medical and dental appointments, and all the other day-to-day responsibilities we have as the primary caregivers to our families. Many days I worried more about where I wasn’t than concentrating on where I was.
Somehow it all got done. I managed to raise my children, have a career that continues today and keep my sanity. I did not do it alone. My husband, George, was very supportive. He understood my need to work and helped lighten my load whenever he could. Actually the year he attended Graduate School he did the carpooling and went on all the school trips with the boys. It was great for him and better for the boys.
As I reflect back, there were things I wish I knew as I started this journey.
You need to take care of yourself first. No one else can do that for you. As caregivers we tend to put ourselves last. Reversing the order and putting yourself on top is not selfish; it is survival. If you don’t take care of yourself physically, spiritually and emotionally you will not have the energy to take care of your families and accomplish all the other things you want to do. Not taking care of yourself puts you on the fast track to burnout.
Find something that is just yours and unrelated to the military. It could be a job, a hobby or volunteering for a cause that is important to you. It should be something that will continue after you leave the military community.
Lean on your friends. They are going through the same things you are. Your “battle buddies” can be your greatest source of strength.
Don’t worry about being all things to all people. You never will be and that’s okay.
Don’t worry about not attending every military event. In 5 years no one will remember that you were not there.
Have fun along the way and never lose your sense of humor. It will pull you through the tough times.
I spend a lot of time speaking with soldiers, spouses and family members about finding balance in their lives. I am very quick to say that I battle with it everyday and that most days I lose. That said I keep trying.
So much is being asked of military families. We are stressed and stretched after 8 years at war. Each one of you needs a break. Do something nice for yourself today. You deserve it.
Sheila Casey has been a military spouse for more than 39 years. She is the Chief Operation Officer of The Hill, a mother of two and a grandmother to five. Mrs. Casey is the wife of General George Casey, Jr., the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. We are thrilled to have Mrs. Casey serve on our BSF Advisory Board.