By Lauren Tamm

5 life regrets military spouses need to stop having right now
(Photo: U.S. Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Erica Yelland/Released)

The swampy Okinawan air made me immediately regret leaving the house. The heat index was a wicked 110 degrees, yet to my surprise, my daughter seemed pleased we were leaving on a stroller ride.

Trudging along, I finally reached an underpass about half-a-mile from our house, and took a break under the shade to enjoy the “cooler” swamp air for a minute. My sweet girl was having a hay-day listening to the echos of her voice under the bridge.

After a few minutes, a jogger made a pit-stop to enjoy the cooler air too. I never met her before, but after she caught her breath, we instantly started chatting about living overseas and adjusting to a new culture.

Then she shifted the conversation, and what she said next sent uncomfortable butterflies into my stomach:

“When my service member gets out, I’m going to…”

It’s no secret that the life you lead as a military spouse is far different than the life you would lead as a civilian spouse.

You’d probably live in the same city for longer than 3 years. You’d have a steady job with a clear cut vision for advancement. You’d have a network of nearby friends (or maybe even family) to offer you support. You’d be able to somewhat predict where your life was going to be in the next 5 years.

But as a military spouse, things are different.

Moving is a permanent resident on your life to-do list. You resume makes it look like you can’t hold a job. Friends and family live too far for your own comfort. And your life looks nothing like the “5 year plan” you originally created.

This is a trap.

It’s too easy military spouses to fall into the trap where they compare the life they currently have to the life they thought they’d have. You may hear things like…

“I’ll finally get the career I always wanted when he gets out.”

“When he gets out, I’m getting my dream home.”

“In 10 years, we will be able to move closer to our hometown friends and family.”

“My life will fall into place once his military career is over.”

Spending your years as a military spouse in the “could’ve,” “should’ve” or “would’ve” mindset is the equivalent of kicking yourself with steel-toed boots for years on end. Your life could be on a path filled with regret, but it’s never too late to change your direction.

Not living in your dream city or home.

Uncle Fester home? from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 stuart.mike, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Whether you live on base or off base, chances are it’s not a posh palace or the dream home you always wanted. It’s easy to let materialism creep up on you. But this is the hard military life truth: perspective is everything.

I know there are people all over the world who would kill to live in our on plain ol’ base house. A home is made beautiful by the people who live in it, not by shiny hardwood floors or double sinks in the master bathroom.

Not having the degree or career you dreamed about.

Business Photo Shoot from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Randy Kashka, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

By focusing so much on the career you are going to have in the future, you are missing out on the career you could have right now. Will it be different than you original dream? Absolutely. But it could turn out to be even better than your original plan.

If I would’ve stayed in my nursing career, I never would’ve fallen into entrepreneurship. I never would’ve taken the risk. In a way, military life gives you permission to pursue the risks you would’ve otherwise pushed to the side.

Not living closer to your hometown friends and family.

summer 012 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 felice, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Each time my husband and I return to our home state, we witness the same thing over and over again: countless friends, who haven’t spent time together, despite living only a few towns apart. Regardless if you live nearby your family and friends or halfway around the world, your relationship stays close by the effort you put into it.

Not following the original life plan you had for yourself.

Road Signs from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Claudio Calvao, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

When I was working as a nurse, I cared for many elderly people facing the last days of their lives. I remember one eighty-year-old woman in particular.

When I asked what her biggest life lesson was, she told me exactly what I needed to hear. She said, “I didn’t appreciate the good in front of me when I had it. Life is an adventure. I wish I spent more time appreciating the beauty in the mess.”

Embrace flexibility and change. It’s messy and imperfect, but it is full of all the life lessons.

Not celebrating every birthday, holiday or occasion with your service member.

Cupcakes from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 Annie Mole, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

It’s easy to fixate on specific dates when your service member is gone a lot, but ultimately those special occasions do not define the richness of our relationships. Showing up and really being there on the regular days of life is what truly matters.

Saying “I love you” in the morning or holding hands during an after dinner stroll or kissing your service member before bed at night…those are things that matter.

The heat was getting to me.

I stayed under the bridge for a moment longer, listening to a fellow spouse share her detailed plan for her “real” life to begin after military life. My daughter was starting to fuss, and it was time for me to head home.

As I left the underpass, I looked back in her direction and said this: “Those things aren’t a guarantee after military life is over. Lead, appreciate and enjoy the life you lead today. Don’t allow your life to be filtered by a lens of regret. There’s so much out there waiting for you right now.”

She smiled. I turned and continued back home through the swamp air. Maybe I changed her mind, and maybe I didn’t. But at least I don’t regret letting her walk away without hearing the truth.

5 life regrets military spouses need to stop having right nowLauren Tamm is a mom of two and author of The Military Wife and Mom blog where she writes on practical parenting, enjoying motherhood, and thriving through the ups and downs of military life. She is the author of four eBooks, including Modern Military Spouse: The Ultimate Military Life Guide for New Spouses and Significant Others. Connect with her on Facebook or Pinterest.