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.
For more from this series, find “Motherhood Through the Decades: 1940s and 1950s” here. And 1960s, here; 1970s, here; 1980s, here; and 1990s, here.
I am privileged to call Angela my friend. She truly is what an Air Force friend should be: genuine and supportive. Prior to this interview, we hadn’t seen or talked to each other in several years. Three words into the conversation, and I felt like we were back in Aviano, Italy.
Angela’s husband, Robert, enlisted in the military in 1990 and served eight years before completing Officer Training School in 1998. They have had five stateside assignments and seven overseas assignments: RAF Lakenheath, UK, Andersen AB, Guam, Kadena AB, Japan, Hickman AB, Hawaii, Aviano AB, Italy, back to Kadena, and are now at Ramstein AB in Germany.
Angela, Ramstein, Germany
Relationship to interviewer: friend
Three children: Benjamin (28), Victoria (24), and Nicholas (18)
Wife of an Air Force Maintenance Office
WHAT DID YOU DO FOR FUN BEFORE KIDS?
I don’t remember, that seems so long ago!!
WHAT DID YOU DO FOR FUN AFTER YOU HAD KIDS?
I love to travel; visiting new places and experiencing new cultures!! I also like to read, bike, sail, hike and spend time outdoors especially with my husband and family.
WHAT WAS CHALLENGING AS A MOM?
My oldest and youngest are far apart in age. The challenging part was starting over with a baby while I had a 6- and 10-year-old. The age gap was startling and caught me off guard and yet some how it just naturally balanced out.
WERE THERE THINGS THAT KEPT YOU FROM FOCUSING ON YOUR KIDS?
As a military spouse, it can be challenging when the active duty member deploys and you are no longer wearing just the ‘mom hat.’ You now must maintain both ‘mom and dad’ roles. Robert has deployed 13 times in the last 28 years. Knowing I was solely responsible for the children didn’t give me much room not to be focused. Trying to stay a step ahead and prepare for difficult moments kept me straight.
Coaching gymnastics played a huge role for me staying focused and organized. I always liked working with children (preschool-high school) and teaching them the basic and advance fundamentals of gymnastics. Even though balancing work with our everyday lives was important, at times it could take away from our family time. However it didn’t hurt that all of my children participated in gymnastics at one time in their lives. We didn’t have the baby in a regular daycare program which made things interesting, but we made it work with the help of close friends, hired sitters, and the older siblings helping out.
WHAT WERE THE PRESSURES OF NORMAL, EVERYDAY PARENTING?
Normal pressure for us was dealing with a teenager, tween, and elementary age children. You can’t speak to the teen like a child and vice versa, you can’t speak like an adult to the youngest. The expectation of one simple request was perceived and understood three different ways. They each interpret what you say differently, so we had to be constantly aware of that.
WHAT WAS THE WEIRDEST FAD/TREND THAT YOUR CHILDREN WERE CRAZY ABOUT?
Polly Pockets, Pokemon, and Harry Potter were all very trendy. In Japan, a LOT of kids would dye their hair these fun and crazy colors. My kids were always into different music and dancing, especially our daughter. And flip-phones were making their first appearance!!
WHAT PARENTING ASPECT OF YOUR TIME MAKES NO SENSE NOW? WHAT ADVICE HAS CHANGED?
There are so many new gadgets and gizmos nowadays that we didn’t have. Baby swings and strollers are bigger, lighter, and better, there are sound machines and weird fake hands with a pulse to soothe a baby. In addition, kids will never know what it is like to live without an iPhone or an iPad. They have instant entertainment where ever they go.
WITH THE CURRENT TECHNOLOGY, IT IS EASY TO FIND AN OPINION ON EVERY ASPECT OF PARENTING. WHAT DID YOU DO?
I relied a lot on my mom, my aunts and of course close friends we were currently stationed with. With seven overseas assignments there were always a new group of friends to offer advice and support. But I have a great partnership with my husband. We bounce ideas off of each other and try new things. There just isn’t a good enough book to explain it all, or we would be parenting the same way (and not to mention really great at it)!
DESCRIBE YOUR FAMILY SITUATION?
When Robert was enlisted, he was a Crew Chief on F-15s. As an Officer, he is a Maintenance Officer, same career field just different style jobs. He is very passionate about his job and loves every minute of it! The Air Force has played a major role in our family’s lives.
I maintained my status as a stay at home mom throughout all of these years, but I was very blessed with being able to secure contracting positions as a Gymnastics Coach/Instructor at five different bases. In addition, I also ran a few at home businesses … making children’s personalized bows and necklaces, selling Stampin’ Up! and even decorating personalized cakes for almost eight years. However, gymnastics has always been my most favorite, and it was definitely the best portable job throughout the years and all of our many moves.
The list of volunteering is practically uncountable because with each move there is always a different need and I seem to fall into positions that are needed at that moment. To name a few, I have been a PTA president (2 years), Brownie & Girl Scout leader (not to mention stepping in when Cub & Boy Scouts needed help, too), volunteering in each of the kid’s classrooms on a regular basis (without doubt this was the most important to me). Throughout the years, I also helped raise money for different organizations; the best by far was raising $35,000 in 9 months for Project Grad while stationed at Hickman AFB in Hawaii.
More recently, being a Key Spouse and Key Spouse Mentor has been extremely important and meaningful to me. Even after Robert completed his two commands (Aviano AB and Kadena AB), I could have never understood the needs of our airmen, to include their spouses and children, until we were in that role as Squadron Commander and spouse. The need and sense of responsibility to help, serve, have fun, and support these families at their best (and even worst) moments is extremely important to both of us.
Our eldest son graduated from UMUC, he is currently active duty and also serves in the U.S. Air Force as a JTAC. Our daughter graduated from LSU and is an Investigator with the Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office. And our youngest will graduate from High School next month. He will be attending Louisiana State University in the fall. So Robert and my roles will be changing again as he continues to serve our country and we live overseas.
WHAT ADVICE IS TIMELESS?
If I knew then what I know now, I would understand my patience better. And I wouldn’t let the small stuff get to me like it did. And I would take a few more minutes to contemplate a decision, even the simple ones. It is important to understand what you are about to say and do is exactly what your kids will say and do when they are older. I can see the biggest difference in the way we parented between my oldest and youngest; it’s not bad — just different.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR A NEW MOM?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. None of us are perfect. The one constant thing I can tell you is that ‘everything’ is always going to change. Sleeping. Nursing. Behavior. Everything. And when something doesn’t work, try something new; and sometimes you have to think outside the box because I can guarantee you what worked for one child doesn’t necessarily work for the others!