Life Between Villages, Part II
Life changes are hard, yo!
Like most people, transitioning from being a full-time breadwinner to being a stay-at-home parent, was really difficult for me. I separated from the military, in 2007, and became a stay-at-home mom. It was a whole lot less glamorous than I had expected. Honestly, I felt pretty isolated. I went from having plenty of adults that I talked to every single day, to singing ridiculous songs and reading the same book 9,000 times. To this day if I see ‘Happy Feet’ hit my TV screen, I audibly groan. To be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t know how to change that. So began a series of experiments, in finding adult friends, after you leave the workforce; A.K.A. A Village.
I felt like one of the biggest advantages I had was my toddler. It’s one of the very few circumstances where you can walk up to another human with a child and say something ridiculous like “I see he’s into Happy Feet as well” or “we love the Tyrannosaurus Rex too” and you aren’t going to get any judgment for it. As a matter of fact you may even get a new best friend. Seems simple right? Wrong. Apparently, just because you have children the same age, doesn’t make you immediate besties, but it was a nice thought while it lasted.
My very first attempt at making new stay-at-home best friends, so I could live my life like an episode of Desperate Housewives, was the Tinker Air Force Base Toddler Time. Basically, it was a group where a bunch of same-aged small children and their parents go together and the children played. I think I was sheltered before, because this group opened my eyes to a whole new world. In case you have never experienced one of these toddler groups, what I’m talking about here is the mompetition. This is the craziest game of one-up you will ever participate in. This was the first time I have ever heard that disposable diapers and formula could be considered child abuse. Not in any real legal sense, but to these women it was. Granted, I was never one for reading parenting books or books about the growth and development of children in any sense, so I didn’t realize that “milestones” were a badge of honor in these groups. So here I am trying to figure out what milestones we had achieved and whether or not that gave me some sort of status within the pack. It didn’t take long for me to learn that toddler time was not for me. I didn’t make any friends.
My next, and more productive attempt was my neighbors. That’s how I met C, who is to this day one of my best friends of all time. I knew we were meant to be when she almost burned her house down, baking one single cookie. In case you weren’t aware, the bottom drawer on an oven (in America, can’t speak to the other countries) can sometimes be storage…and sometimes it’s a broiler. It was a broiler that was accidentally being used for storage of kitchen towels. She had kids the same age as my son, we shared a lawn and we hung out everyday. I very nearly delivered her last daughter, in that kitchen. It doesn’t get much closer than that guys.
Now I knew, I had at least one person I could call in the middle of the night. I knew she would show up and help in any emergency. And I really feel like that took a lot of my stress away. I still get a little emotional thinking about C and how I miss her. We are still close emotionally, and talk all the time, but she was my first real village. We ended up moving and buying our first home, so I didn’t get to share a yard with my best friend anymore. And my new neighbors were a bit crazy. The fun kind of crazy, which is great in its own way, but I knew they wouldn’t help me out at 1 A.M. if I had a sick kid.
I had 11 years invested in Tinker Air Force Base and my village did grow. I have many more silly stories, but I think I’ll save those for another day. I learned the value in websites and apps that help you meet up with like-minded people. I also learned about Facebook support groups. I met many more people, who helped me get through some really difficult times. The birth of my second son was extremely traumatic, and my village rallied with me. They supported me consistently and particularly while my spouse was deployed. This entire community helped me throw a charity event for St. Baldrick’s and laugh cried with me when I shaved off all my hair. I even reconnected with a former work friend, K, who became my sister by choice. These are the people who set my bar and it broke my heart to leave them.
It’s a sense of loss I can’t adequately explain. The community I had built around myself, was now going to be 7 hours away. We were ordered away, and I had to begin again.