I am a former Air Force officer with a Civil Engineering degree.
I hold a Professional Engineering license.
I deployed to Afghanistan for 9 months on a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and came home with a bronze star and combat action medal.
Are you impressed yet?
I am also now a bewildered and struggling stay at home mom who doesn’t know how to reconcile the purpose and prestige I experienced in my ‘former’ life with the reality of the mundane life I live now. Motherhood has humbled me. It has also held up a mirror for me to take a long, vulnerable look at myself. Who am I really?
Am I still that success-driven woman I once was? Most days, I don’t feel like her.
I refer to my deployment to Afghanistan as the glory days—you know the days when I used to be important. I spent six years in the military, including a 9-month tour to Afghanistan. I’m proud of my deployment and the story that goes with it. A PRT deployment isn’t a traditional military deployment. It took me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to interact directly with the Afghan people on a near-daily basis, putting me on the front lines of a combat zone where danger is a constant threat and where I had no way of knowing if the person I was helping was a friend or foe. I helped, as best as I could, to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and attempted to bring hope to a people who desperately needed it.
Now I am a stay at home mom who cannot control what each day throws at me. I just want to be able to know what I’m in for, but I never know what my day—or night, for that matter—will look like. Some nights he sleeps. Other nights, he is up every hour. I am constantly in limbo trying to figure out how to define success, and I continually feel like I’m not doing enough…and that I am not good enough.
I used to wear a uniform that carried with it a sense of purpose. It was something that came easy and with regular affirmations. It looks hard to people looking from the outside, but for me it was second nature to follow orders to the letter. Now I wear yoga pants and struggle every day. Will he eat the food I give him? Will the day go at least sort of like I planned? Will what I need to do will get done so at the end of the day, I can look back and feel some sort of purpose or accomplishment instead of seeing the mess in the kitchen and pile of laundry that still needs to be done? It feels like I never get anything done and the rare times I finally do, it is time to start cleaning, doing, giving all over again.
My type-A, perfection-driven personality that helped me succeed in the military and other areas of life sometimes doesn’t fit so well with the role of being a mom. The do, do, do and go, go, go doesn’t always fit into the life of being a stay at home mom. Sometimes it is the mess that makes the memory. Sometimes it is about taking twice as long to complete the task so my little helper—who is not only willing, but excited to help me—can cook, clean or attempt to load the minivan alongside me.
Mothering isn’t about acing a test, or removing the challenging aspects of raising a child. Mothering is about recognizing that loving and nurturing a child is as simple as pausing long enough to stop with the to do list and just sit with a baby wrapped up in your arms. Success in mothering isn’t measured by a clean floor, but by silly giggles, funny dances, or maybe even a tickle war.
The transition to motherhood been difficult for me. I have had many struggles as I adjust to this new life, but motherhood is changing me for the better and as time goes on it gets a little easier to let go and just be; to let the mess linger and make a choice to play.
Amanda Huffman is a former Air Force member who has transitioned to being a stay at home mom and Air Force wife. She left the military in 2013 after her son’s birth and in 2015 her family was completed with her second son’s arrival. She currently lives in Southern California, and says she is “living the dream until it is time to move on to the next adventure”. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.