Journey Through the Year: Reflections of a Military Spouse

Written by Susannah Wruk

As we say goodbye to 2023 and welcome a new chapter, I find myself looking back at the past twelve months. My most cherished memory of the year was our first road trip as a family. Picture us driving down the interstate in the middle of nowhere, in our packed-out minivan, kids asleep in the back, my husband and I sharing heartfelt conversations about the last few years of our lives, plans for the future, and more.

The beginning of the year is a great time to make new plans, whether it’s starting a new fitness routine, pursuing education, or other areas of self-improvement. But it is also a great time to reflect on the previous year and all that it entailed. Here, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on the past year:


Overcoming Challenges

2023 was wild — full of surprises and new challenges. Perhaps my biggest challenge this past year has been adapting to life as a mom of two. My second son was born in January at the beginning of the year. This addition has blessed our little family so much, but it was not always smooth sailing. From sleepless nights to the struggles of solo parenting as my husband was frequently away with work, there were plenty of times when I found myself feeling inadequate, unprepared, and overwhelmed with my life as a mother.

However, one of the beautiful things about life is we often grow in places of discomfort. Even when things were tough, I was able to make it through and grow as a parent. This year was challenging at times, but it came with plenty of adventure and growth to make up for it.

Memorable Moments

One of my favorite parts of this year was embarking on our first major road trip as a family. We traveled from our home in San Diego, California to Denver, Colorado to attend my younger brother’s wedding. It was a really special time of celebrating new beginnings and family, but also just taking time with my husband and kids to slow down and enjoy each other.

We took time on our drive back to stop and see some of the national parks, rented a little Airbnb in the middle of nowhere, and just took things at a slower pace for a couple of weeks. It made me realize just how few and far between moments like this have been for my little family. The crazy pace of military life can make it hard to find dedicated time to invest in just spending time together. Time spent with family is precious and, if you don’t prioritize it, it is easy to miss out on.


Growth and Personal Development

When I reflected on my personal growth this year, I initially felt that it had been a stagnant period. As a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t experience major career changes or achievements, win any awards, or earn new degrees. However, upon further reflection, I realized this year was not without growth. I grew as a mother; learning how to balance my time between two children, while still ensuring that they get all the love, nurture, and instruction that they need to thrive.

I also made strides in my role as a wife. I challenged myself to avoid complacency in my relationship with my husband, and I worked diligently to love him well this year. I read books, listened to podcasts, engaged in deeper conversations with him, and more, all in the pursuit of becoming a better partner.

So while my growth this year may not have been dramatic or exciting, it remains significant and valuable. Your personal growth and accomplishments don’t have to fit a specific mold; growth in all forms is valid.


Community and Relationships

One aspect that I have worked hard on this year and intend to continue is nurturing relationships and establishing connections with my community. I am an extreme introvert. I often joke that I don’t make friends, I just am occasionally lucky to be “adopted” by an extrovert.

Unfortunately, being a military spouse can sometimes result in my extroverted friends having to relocate due to a PCS (Permanent Change of Station). This happened to me at the beginning of the year when my two closest friends here in San Diego each moved within two months. I found myself frustrated, sad, and lonely for a long time. I struggled with not knowing how or where to find new friends.

However, over time, I did manage to make new friends. Some were old acquaintances who coincidentally moved to San Diego, others were new fresh connections I encountered in our neighborhood or through spouse support groups.

Looking back, I wish I had just put myself out there sooner. It is never easy to start over with making new friends. It is always awkward and uncomfortable at first, but not having friends is uncomfortable as well. Building community is so vital as a military spouse because, so frequently, we are far from our families. Having friends that you can depend on and lean on in hard times makes life a little easier. I know that I will have to start all over when we PCS next year, but I plan on getting connected to my new community sooner this time.


Adapting to Change

The past year has been full of change. My husband was in and out of our home with frequent underway periods and culminated the year with a deployment, totaling approximately 160 days away from home. With all that coming and going, I felt like our relationship dynamic was always changing. There were times when things were good and times when things were a little more strained, making communication more challenging.

Additionally, both our kids are very young (each under 4 years old) and they are constantly changing, growing, and developing. Any parent of very young children will tell you that you have to change, grow, and adapt your parenting methods daily to keep up with your kiddos.

With all this change, it was easy to feel a little overwhelmed this year. There were times when I wished life would just slow down a little. However, one thing that this year has taught me is that change brings resiliency. It is not always easy to embrace change, but it is worth it.


Lessons Learned

As the year draws to a close, I often reflect on the lessons I’ve learned, and two particular insights stand out for me. The first is that the grass is greener where you water it. I’ve discovered that when I feel sad about being stationed far away from family, frustrated with my kids, disappointed in my relationship with my husband, etc. usually there’s something I could be doing to nurture those aspects of my life. It is easy to feel lonely and sad about being stationed far from home, but it isn’t so bad when you take the time to explore and delight in your new surroundings.

Kids can be challenging, but I’ve noticed that when I invest more time and focused attention into them, they respond and are more in tune with me. Similarly, when it comes to my relationship with my husband, I’ve found that the more effort I put into doing thoughtful things for him and ensuring he feels loved, the more our relationship flourishes. In all of these situations, the extra effort spent on“watering the grass” is so worth the outcome of having a growing, flourishing life.

Another major lesson for me this year has been to not wait to live life. I frequently catch myself falling into the trap of waiting for the “perfect” moment to do things. Waiting for the next duty station, until my husband is home from deployment, until the weather warms up, and so on. I’ve come to realize that I end up wasting so much time and missing out on many opportunities just waiting and waiting. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to embrace spontaneity and be more open to trying new things regardless of whether the timing seems ideal or not.


Gratitude and Acknowledgements

This year was incredible and I have so many amazing people in my life to be thankful for. First and foremost, I am thankful for my husband who loves me with all that he is, works tirelessly to provide for our family, and is willing to sacrifice so much to serve his country. I am and always will be in awe of the amazing man that he is.

I am also grateful for my family who supports me through everything. From my mom and dad whom I call every day when my husband is away, to my siblings whose doors are always open, I am blessed beyond measure to call them my family.

I am also so thankful for my friends, mostly fellow military spouses who are always willing to help or be present in the good times and the hard times. They say it takes a village to raise children, and I am so blessed to have found mine.

Finally, I am grateful to the ASYMCA for all that it does for military families including my own. The Military Spouse Writing Program that I am a part of has been such an amazing opportunity for me to grow as a writer and to do something beyond just being a stay-at-home mom. I also have been blessed to be able to take part in some of the services that the ASYMCA offers such as the food distribution program. This year has been tough financially and there have been times when we struggled to make ends meet. The ASYMCA helped to fill in some of those financial gaps and made hard times a little easier.


Embracing Growth

If I had to describe 2023 in one word, it would be growth. I have gained so many new experiences and learned a lot this year. I hope that 2024 can be equally amazing and I plan to continue in my journey of growth and celebrating life.

I’d like to take a moment to encourage you to learn, grow, and try new things this year. I know many of our readers are military service members or spouses, and I would like to wish you a happy and fruitful year of enjoying where life takes you. Don’t be afraid to get connected to your local community and find support if necessary.


Find Support with the ASYMCA

The ASYMCA is here to help with many programs and services designed to support service members and their families through the challenges of military life. Take some time today to learn more about what your local ASYMCA branch has to offer.


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