In honor of Mother’s Day, we interviewed a military mom from each of the past eight decades. We enjoyed hearing what has changed and what has stayed the same. From fads to parenting techniques to timeless advice, moms have an opinion on it all. In addition, each interviewee holds a special place in the interviewer’s heart.
Rebecca and I met at church. Incidentally, we are almost neighbors, living just a street apart. We have worked together on leadership committees, and I am impressed with her can-do attitude and love for people. She is strong, grounded, compassionate and a treasured friend.
Rebecca, 68 years old (San Antonio, Texas)
Relationship to interviewer: friend
Four children: Aaron (1973), Holly (1975), Heather (1976), Jonathan (1981), Matthew (1984)
Wife of an Army officer
WHAT DID YOU DO FOR FUN BEFORE KIDS?
Hiking, biking, traveling, church work
WHAT DID YOU DO FOR FUN AFTER YOU HAD KIDS?
Biking, hiking, traveling, church work, babysitting swaps
DID YOU HAVE DATE NIGHTS?
Friday night movies, game night with other couples
WHAT WAS CHALLENGING AS A MOM?
Learning how to keep them all busy. Busy kids are not as likely to get into trouble or fight with each other!
WERE THERE THINGS THAT KEPT YOU FROM FOCUSING ON YOUR KIDS?
Worries about TDY assignments and if he would be okay.
HOW DID YOU FIND OUT THAT YOU WERE PREGNANT? DID YOU TELL PEOPLE? WHEN DID YOU KNOW THE GENDER BEFORE THE BABY WAY BORN?
When I thought I had a bad case of the flu! Told people right away, didn’t know it may not work out, just was excited. Never knew gender of any of my kids in advance.
WHAT WAS CONSIDERED THE NORM FOR FAMILY SIZE? WERE YOU INFLUENCED BY THAT?
It varied, mostly 2-3. I wanted to have as many as we could.
DID YOU HAVE A NURSERY?
Only with the last baby, We lived at Ft. Sam on Post and the master bedroom had a sliding door to the adjacent room (nursery). It was very convenient.
BREASTFEED OR BOTTLE?
STROLLER OR BABY WEAR?
Stroller, sometimes a double one since we were active and little ones got tired walking.
WERE YOU A FREE RANGE OR HELICOPTER PARENT?
Somewhere in between. We didn’t have those terms and it seemed, for the most part, we were all in the middle. We gave our kids some liberty to roam around the housing area. We all looked out for each other’s kids. It was ideal in my opinion. Safe and supportive.
WHAT WERE THE PRESSURES OF NORMAL, EVERYDAY PARENTING?
Breastfeeding may have been considered by some as a pressure. Most of us found it so much easier. My first children were in cloth diapers and plastic pants that were pulled up over them. They seemed to rip often and were constantly stained. I can’t remember disposable diapers with my first child, but then they came out. The diapers were irritating and not very good. My kid’s skin would break out. Cloth was a big hassle, especially in Germany on the economy. I got used to rinsing out baby diapers but now it would be too disgusting for me as well as most moms to consider!
WHAT DID DISCIPLINE LOOK LIKE?
We were pretty good at re-direction and giving a choice between two things. We gave them some stern looks and reminders when they were getting too rambunctious or refused to listen. Most of the time that would be enough to help them make a better choice. Going to their room to think about it a while was another dreaded result of being sassy, so they could hold their tongue until they got to be teens, and we all know how teens like to express their viewpoint. As young children, if all else failed, and they were headstrong enough to blow through the easier consequences, a spank on the behind did the trick. It did not seem too harsh or hurtful, just enough to get the child’s attention. Then we could talk about what was expected. This was usually much more frustrating for them and definitely boring because it took way too long for them. There were way more interesting things to do than listen to a lecture.
WHAT WAS THE WEIRDEST FAD/TREND THAT YOUR CHILDREN WERE CRAZY ABOUT?
I remember the strange tasting candies that would pop in your mouth, or were sour rather than sweet. It was odd to me to have candy flavors that were not the traditional ones like green being lime, yellow being lemon, red being cherry or strawberry. I still prefer the traditional flavors.
WHAT DID YOU DO WITH OTHER MOMS WHEN YOU HAD TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND HAD YOUR KIDS WITH YOU?
Going to the free museum days, going to the park to play on the playground and have a picnic, sitting in the yard on folding chairs while the kids played, going to the river to play on the banks, sometimes going to McDonalds and talking while the kids played on the indoor playground.
WHAT WERE YOUR FRIENDSHIPS WITH OTHER MOTHERS LIKE?
We were such a good support to each other. Being military wives is like having built-in sisters. We shared so much with each other and helped each other get through some scary or hard assignments our husbands were assigned to while we were left to care for the family.
WHAT WAS YOUR GREATEST SOURCE OF PARENTING STRESS?
When dad and mom didn’t agree and the kids tried to go between us or when grandparents came to visit or we went to see them, and they let the kids do whatever they wanted. Grandparents didn’t get to live near them, so they wanted to make up for all the lost time.
WHAT WAS YOUR GREATEST SOURCE OF PARENTING JOY?
Seeing our kids playing together and having some great families and friends to support them growing up.
IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND DO IT ALL OVER, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY AS A PARENT?
Take more pictures and write more stories of our adventures together and the funny, sometimes brilliant or quirky things they said and did.
WHERE DID YOU FIND SUPPORT OR DID YOU FEEL LIKE IT WAS DIFFICULT TO FIND?
I found support from God, my family, my church family and military family. You can find at least one of these any time. Most of the time they are all available if you will reach out to them.
WITH THE CURRENT TECHNOLOGY, IT IS EASY TO FIND AN OPINION ON EVERY ASPECT OF PARENTING. WHAT DID YOU DO? ?
Yes, it is easy to find on the internet. Asking people you admire and reading books was helpful. I liked both means of gaining information, but in the end, I had to do what I felt was best for my situation and family. Sometimes they were popular and sometimes they were not.
DESCRIBE YOUR FAMILY SITUATION? DID YOUR HUSBAND COME HOME AT 5? DID HE TRAVEL FOR WORK? DID YOU WORK OUTSIDE THE HOME?
In our family, we were fortunate to have mom able to stay home and not work outside the home during most of the kid’s elementary school years. Dad was in and out with military assignments. One year he was gone the entire time with an exception of a couple of weeks in the middle of his assignment to Korea. We depended on each other and the support from church and military friends who became our family. We were always included in activities, so actually it went well for us.
HOW DID THE DIVISION OF LABOR WITH THE CHILDREN AND HOUSE WORK FOR YOUR FAMILY?
Since dad was gone a lot either physically or mentally/emotionally, mom took the lead. At times when dad was present more, it was hard for him to think to help out. He liked to relax when he got the chance. It did make it a little stressful, but the family was very resilient.
DID YOUR HUSBAND HELP WITH THE KIDS?
He saw his role as a babysitter. When he was home he was “off duty.” He did love going places, and we spent a lot of fun time doing those things. The day to day parenting was more my department, but he stepped in when he was frustrated, which rarely went well. Mom did a lot of “mopping up” after these exchanges since neither he nor the kids were happy. It took its toll on the family for sure. Being a provider in the military is hard and to be honest it takes a special type of family to be up for the job. Now there seems to be more parent equity, but our military spouses do have a heavy weight to bear being on call 24/7. It seems to me military spouses are still called upon to take a lot more day to day responsibility for parenting than the average spouse.
WHAT ADVICE IS TIMELESS?
Spend time with each other talking and playing and sitting down at a meal together. Monitor the music and limit the technology, especially social media and secure your children from the threats of evil influences on those devices. They need to be taught values and principles of conduct that are based on truth and common courtesy and caring for each other.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR A NEW MOM?
Be easy on yourself and just do the best you can when you can. Let unimportant things go. The time you spend with your child is so fleeting, enjoy it and make plenty of time for them. All the other stuff of life will be there when they are grown.
I loved our military experience overall. The typical military family is one of the bravest, resilient, most compassionate, supportive units I know. I am privileged to have so many wonderful lifelong friends (really extended family members) as a result of our time in service.