I enlisted during Desert Storm, which for you young 'uns out there, was this thing that happened many moons ago that made Desert Camo both a military necessity and a bizarre civilian fashion statement. I enlisted because I was (am) insanely patriotic and also because I didn't know what I wanted to major in; throwing myself into the fracas seemed like an excellent idea. And surprisingly enough, it was. I consider myself fortunate that I was never sent to Iraq; I was stationed in South Carolina and then in California.
Not only am I proud of having served in the military, the whole experience made me a stronger, better person. And, it helped prepare me for the toughest job I've ever had: Mom.
Although I was much more organized when I was in the military, and although I was allowed to swear way more than I can now, there are certain distinct similarities.
Which leads me to this:
The Top Ten Reasons U.S. Army Basic Training Prepared Me for Motherhood
10. We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do an entire day. Remember that clever slogan? I remember in Basic Training, we would have had eaten, run, and done weapons training, and it was still o-dark-thirty. By the time 9 a.m. rolled around, it felt like a whole day had gone past. Just like being a mom!
9. There is strong ... and then there is
7. Hurry Up and Wait. I learned the expression "Hurry Up and Wait" in the Army. This is when you rush-rush-rush to get somewhere, for example, the medical center. Then you wait. And wait. And wait. And eventually you get some vaccines that you wish you didn't need. If you substitute "medical center" for "pediatrician's office," you'll see how this applies to mommyness.
6. Going AWOL is not okay. Also, excuses are the "wrong answer." One of the worst things you can do as a soldier or a mom, is go Absent Without Leave. It just isn't acceptable. Yes, you need a break, but you'll have to schedule that and make sure that someone trained and capable is there to cover for you. And if you foul something up, suck it up and fix it. In the Army, if you screw up and try to weasel out of punishment with an excuse, a sergeant or officer is likely to look you levelly in the eye and flatly state, "wrong answer, High Speed." ("High Speed, Low Drag" usually describes a soldier who is ass-kickingly good. Unless you suck. In that case, it's sarcasm. This is kind of like how I describe Dina Lohan as "Mother of the Year.")
5. It isn't pretty. It is possible to be attractive in the Army, but it's almost impossible to be pretty in Basic Training. Pretty is not one's natural state when you're wearing Army-issued eyewear called BCG's, or Birth Control Glasses. Basically, they make you so seriously unattractive that no one would want to have sex with you. I don't mean that as a mom you're not beautiful. You are. You're stunning, you're gorgeous. Is that new lipstick you're wearing? But going through a humiliating period of being really fugly does kind of help you learn to set priorities. It also helps you suck it up when you're three months postpartum and still wearing your maternity jeans.
3. SNAFU. Snafu is originally a military term. It stands for Situation Normal: All F**ked Up. I don't think I need to explain the connection to mommyhood.
2. Field Training Exercise (FTX). Basic Training FTX involves living outside in the dirt for days on end. You have to dig your own foxhole and stay in it for a long time. If your Basic Training is done in Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, the means you will be sitting in a hole of non-draining red clay. If it rains, you will have your own personal Shrek bathtub. And, yes, you will sit there in your slimy foxhole with the water rising because do you think there are umbrellas on the battlefield, Private? Also, you have to do this with greasepaint on your face which ensures your skin will look like a "before" picture in a Proactiv commercial. Ultimately, FTX prepares you to go days without a shower, or sleep, while eating high-calorie meals at odd hours. Sound familiar?
1. It's the toughest job you'll ever love. These are not jobs you do for the money. You don't even do it for the glory, because for every person who thanks you for serving / parenting, there's another person protesting / whining. U.S. Army Soldier and Mom are both jobs you do because they're important and you believe in what you're doing.