Even garden-variety military spouses inspire
By LISA SMITH MOLINARI | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: May 7, 2020
I’ve always been a bit of a loner. This may seem to contradict my image as class clown, columnist and book author — but it’s true nonetheless, and it has affected me as a military spouse.
I’ve always taken longer than most to make friends. As a young child, I often played alone. As a teen, I had goofy girlfriends, but lots of insecurities, too. Humor became my cover.
Whatever the reason, loner became my natural default mode. Our mobile military lifestyle added another social challenge. When our family moved to a new location, I had to muster the courage to put myself out there, and face possible rejection. No matter how old I was, I relived middle school every time we moved. “Will they like me? Will they think I’m funny? Will I be included?” I wondered well into my late 40s.
Becoming a writer made matters worse, because it was necessary for me write, alone, for hours at a time. When we lived on base, spouses assumed that I was standoffish because I wasn’t out on the shared patio or around the fire pit with everyone else. In reality, I was just trying to be successful as a writer, but I felt inadequate in military spouse social circles nevertheless.
About five years ago, I was asked to appear on a podcast called “One Bad Mother.” The show was hosted by two hilarious, irreverent young moms, Biz and Theresa, who spent each show laughing about their parenting foibles to entertain young moms who tuned in each week. They had found my blog online, and offered to interview me during their “Let’s Call a Mom” segment. I had assumed that they wanted me to joke about my own mothering mishaps, of which I had many.
However, Biz opened the segment, “I might actually get a little weepy with today’s guest, ‘cuz she one of those people who just seems to be kicking [expletive deleted] … we always talk on the show about, like, ‘no one’s all that special no matter what their circumstances are’…. But occasionally, you’re like, ‘well, that’s really inspiring’ [laughs]. So today we’re calling Lisa Smith Molinari …”
“Inspiring?” I thought after I listened to the full recording later. I hadn’t realized that I was supposed to be inspiring. I felt like a fraud.
But, I was seeing things from the perspective of a spouse who was fully entrenched in military culture. At that time, I had lived in concentrated military communities for 24 years. As a military spouse, I was nobody special. My Navy intel husband didn’t deploy as much as aviators, surface warfare or infantry. We had moved quite a bit, but I knew military families who’d had it worse. I hadn’t done anything to merit accolades of praise, swarms of sympathy or chants of disapproval.
I was simply a garden-variety military spouse — albeit a bit of a loner — who happened to write a funny blog. That’s it.
But to the civilian moms who were hosting the show, I was somehow “an inspiration,” for the simple fact that I did what they did — raise children and run a household — within the unique parameters of military life.
Biz and Theresa asked me what it was like to be a military spouse, why I started writing and how I coped with motherhood stress under military circumstances. I thought my answers, like me, were garden-variety, but Biz said, “You said several things that, like, made my mind explode.” In their irreverent, humorous style, the hosts explained that hearing from a military mom handling their same responsibilities — while simultaneously coping with long absences, frequent moves, employment disadvantages and constant uncertainty — was truly impressive.
“I mean, Stephan leaves for a week, and I’m like, pissed,” Biz said, laughing at herself.
I learned that military spouses do not have to be extraordinary to be inspiring. The mere fact that they handle their everyday responsibilities under uniquely challenging circumstances makes them deserving of honor and respect.
To nearly one million active duty and reserve military spouses serving at home and abroad, I wish you all — from the extraordinary to the garden variety — a happy and well-deserved Military Spouse Appreciation Day!