Military wife feels extra pressure to have children

Today I am passing the microphone to Kam, who wrote about a topic we have not discussed here at Childless by Marriage: the pressure for military wives to have children. If you can relate, I’d love to hear what you have to say about this.
Kam said…
What a great site and I am thrilled to bits to have stumbled upon you. I’m soon to be 37 and my 39 year old husband is closing in on the last four years of his 20-year military career. We are also childfree by marriage. I was always kind of ambivalent, he changed his mind after we married 7 years ago. Yikes. Let me say that the military is not just defense machine but also a baby-making machine. Trust me, we are freaking unicorns around these parts.

The topic of married and childfree in the military is rarely discussed. I have plowed through your blog hungry for a salve for all that I’ve experienced being a lifetime military brat and now spouse. There are babies left and right. I’ve lost most friends to babies except a few rare jewels. I’ve been told to keep my opinions to myself because “we don’t need to hear from a woman without kids.” The list is long and seems to be ramping up with my shriveling fertility. What we do have are three dogs and that has become our couple identity. Well, they don’t have kids, but they have dogs. Huh? I’ve found I am constantly defending myself. I am still a MOTHER. I am a woman, maternal and I am a daughter and have a mother. Seems like I’ve got some qualification to speak but I am reminded daily, I don’t. Weird.

Sometimes it’s been a bumpy road to navigate. I’ve literally given up my religion (converted from Jew to Catholic), job security, stability and now children to be with a man who is without a doubt, the love of my life. That doesn’t mean that it’s always easy for me or us. As a man, he gets high fives for dodging the baby bullet and I get a button jar assortment of judgments. The sacrifices have been and continue to be huge with no real dangling carrot. Martyr? Sadist? Who knows? The psychology here is a bunch of clowns in a tiny car for sure.

I wish I knew where more of us military spouse types without children were getting our coffee at. I’d love to sit at that table sometime.

So there is a topic that could use a spotlight if you can make sense of my ramblings.

Kam posted an additional comment:
Thanks Sue. It can be so isolating and lonely. It also seems to make the whole Pinterest mommy/milspouse/woman cattiness go into overdrive if that makes sense. Motherhood is also another tool to harm in some cases–another weapon to wield against other women. It’s the weirdest thing to watch. I’d like to say I’m above it all, but I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I armchair parent after a night out with friends with kids.

My blessing is that I am Aunty KA to a few of my friends’ kids and I love that, but . . . it’s not my own cute, fat, little pudge of a baby. It’s a hard decision to accept. I go back and forth. My husband goes back and forth. So, WE end up going nowhere. We feel the pressure, but he really doesn’t want or like kids. He loves dogs.

While I would not have minded having kids, I am a back seat driver. I’m a limp handshake on the topic and that hurts as well. Why don’t I have the baby burn? What is wrong with me? I’ve never felt it as much as I do now. The military lifestyle is so tough, too. People like to say, well you knew what you were getting into. It’s so much more than you can imagine. I see a lot of unhappy families and moms that feel so stressed out. Some of them are really stressed out. I have a young, fit friend who is my age, a mother of 4 and she just had a heart attack! Because we move every 2-3 years, we are isolated from our own families, suffer career-wise, and it seems that having kids is just the filler for that (not all of them, but some). I’ve tried to carve out a different life, but finding civilian friends can be tough too. I wonder if any of your readers are military childfree or know of any sites out there that tackle this topic? Thanks for posting my comments!
Thank you, Kam. God bless you for sharing this. Stay safe.

6 thoughts on “Military wife feels extra pressure to have children

  1. It strikes me that part of the OPs situation is about to change in that hubby is coming to the end of his military career. As her main difficulty seems to be that there is no role for military wives other than to have children – then life is about to get rosier in that she soon won't be a military wife. I think she is actually childless by choice so will soon be better placed to build her life as she would like it to be?


  2. I think the military has relational dynamics that are far more complicated than my brain can fathom. My dad retired after 20 years usaf and I was three years old. I got just enough exposure growing up to see a level of complexity that didn't occur in non-military situations. I'm not going to be much help to Kam other than to say………Kam you need to write a regular column or blog. Your writing style & use of metaphors was supreme. Your sense of humor, as well as your sensitivity, will touch many hearts as it did mine.


  3. Kam, thank you to you and your husband for both of your service to our beloved country. All of the descriptions of your emotional state and deliberations sound very similar to mine in my late 30s, although I do not share the military context. Being childfree/less became an identity, and somehow, because it was mine, I felt I could not change, or rather abandon, it. Mothers assault nonmothers with their higher social position; I know that sounds harsh, especially because it is more subtle than that, but it is true. It's like they are the pretty girls in the room and know it. I worked in a male-dominated field and felt a similar social jockeying and sense of self-importance from fathers. These hostile undertones (whether real or imagined) caused me to feel that I had to defend my childfree/less identity, and so it became more “mine” and thus harder to abandon. Now, at 43, I wish I had shaken that identity, made that leap of faith when I could. But I could not imagine assuming the identity of mother when those women were so different from me and on the other side of my battle. It did not help that, until a year ago, my pilot husband was gone 3 or 4 nights a week. Becoming a mother seemed unimaginable.
    You have the gift of knowing your life will be different in 4 years. For that, I envy you, but I also empathize with your struggle. If I can give advice, imagine and decide how you want your life to be in 4 years, in 10 years, in 20 years, whether that is with or without children of your own. Will you want travel, adventure, freedom, or that dream forever house in the place you've always wanted to live? Once you have a vision of that life that speaks to you, take whatever steps NOW needed to have those things in place for the future. If you are still unsure about kids, get your AMH and FSH levels tested to get a sense of how much time you might have left to be undecided. I wish you well.


  4. I have been lurking and not posting because I am no longer childless, but I wanted to comment on this post because I experienced the same thing during my first marriage. At the time I felt like a pariah. When I read this post I felt validated and relieved that my feelings at the time weren’t unusual.

    I was only twenty years old and a newlywed facing my ex’s first deployment. He would be away from October through January, so I was going to be alone for the entire holiday season. Both sets of families lived out of state, and for financial and personal reasons traveling to visit was out of the question.

    We were not trying to conceive, and neither of us had any fertility problems. We hadn’t really discussed having kids because we were so young, although I felt like I wanted some in the future. He was lower-ranking enlisted and I was unemployed so we definitely weren’t well-off, but in the military it is common to have kids in that situation. Basically the picture was that I didn’t have baby-fever and my husband would probably have had kids with me had I wanted them at the time, so I can understand how someone who really wants them and can’t would feel even worse than I was made to feel.

    Well, there was a spouse deployment support meeting that was held right before the deployment. I went to it, hoping to meet some of the wives and possibly make some friends, since I was only going to have my dog with me during the holidays. Needless to say, it was all about the kids and the mommies. One of the wives was the organizer/facilitator in the front of the room, and at one point I raised my hand and asked a question or made a comment (I can’t remember exactly what it was, since it was over twenty years ago). She immediately asked how many kids I had. When I replied “none,” she replied that I didn’t need help and didn’t need to be there, or something to that effect; it has been a long time so I can’t remember her exact words but I remember feeling taken aback at her rudeness in front of a hundred people and also like an outcast. I was a spouse too, and was invited to attend an event that purported to give emotional support to spouses during a difficult time and got the exact opposite. I never went to another function again.

    That whole situation with being alone on Christmas with just my dog actually gave me a sense of urgency to have kids that hadn’t been there before. It is not a pleasant feeling.


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