Between Zero and One: An Infinite Number of Moments

I’m so happy to introduce fantastic guest blogger Kimberly Zook, here to discuss managing the dual identities of mother and creative within U.S. military culture. Kimberly is a military wife, mother of three daughters, a scientist, and a writer. She earned an MS in Biology and an MA in Secondary Education before returning to her childhood dream of being a full-time writer. She is the author of two award-winning short stories and writes young adult novels that delve into science and history. Check out her website at http://kimzook.com/.

 

Between Zero and One: An Infinite Number of Moments

By Kimberly Zook

 

Road trips aren’t long enough to count from zero to one. Yet by the time my daughters get to 0.00000399, I’m ready to yell ONE! And most likely, they will counter with “Are we there yet?” And I’m shouting “Look at those cows!” but their eyes are already hypnotized by their iPads. And so it goes on repeat.

All of us wish to get from Point A to Point B as soon as possible. Marriage to children. Toothfairy to braces. Swimming lessons to college scholarship. And along the way, it’s easy to let all those in-between moments vanish into forgotten memories. The ones that we later miss the most when we see a mother cuddling her newborn or hear a child giggling from a father’s tickles.

Sometimes it’s all we can do to remember the big points in our life.

The biggest zero to one moment in my life was going from being single to becoming a two—my husband and me, the first extension of my heart beating outside my body.

I’d been living in a tropical rainforest. Alone, in a hut with no indoor plumbing or electricity for a couple of years. I had roommates of a kind: scorpions, tarantulas, snakes, army ants, rats, and whatever else cared to crawl into my hut each night. It was, by far, the absolute best place I’ve ever lived. There I discovered what it’s like to live with a sixth sense while surrounded by nature. Such a brief moment in my life that has felt infinite ever since.

Then I met my husband, an officer in the U.S. Navy. In one big leap, I went from pursuing a doctorate in biology and living in the rainforest to waving good-bye to his ship and residing in a high-rise outside of Tokyo, Japan. I no longer had to step into the rainforest when ‘nature called.’ Our toilet seat in our Japanese apartment heated up! Before, I woke to the grunts of howler monkeys, milked cows, cooked on a wood-burning stove and spent the day searching for medicinal plants. Suddenly I was surrounded by a dazzle of lights and noises, cars parked on Ferris wheels inside buildings, and riding bullet trains to Buddhist temples. I was a Mrs., a military dependent, that person waving to the ship. An infinite amount of numbers between my zero and one.

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Why Did I Agree to This? Unique opportunities, and challenges of being a spouse and a mom in a military culture

Today I’m thrilled to introduce our first guest author, Susan Silverman, kicking off a series of articles on some of the particular challenges of combining parent, careering and military service . A highly educated and well-traveled individual (not to mention a friend from my American University days), Susan served for a decade as a U.S. Department of Defense consultant before taking time off in support of her family. (For a longer bio, check out our bios page.) Now she’s learning the balance between being a spouse, mother, and individual, all the while residing in the United Kingdom and touring Europe, binging on the latest “X-Files” episodes, and figuring out her future adventures. Despite 10 years working as a civilian for the DoD, her immersion into U.S. military culture as what that institution still terms a ‘dependent spouse’ has contained some real surprises, which she shares with us in this article that gives a glimpse into the perspective of someone peeking into the establishment from the outside.

–Thea

 

Why Did I Agree to This? Unique opportunities, and challenges of being a spouse and a mom in a military culture

by Susan Silverman

Since university, I have been set on being a career woman in the international affairs world. Sure, the path has not been straight—whose has—but my career has always been at the center of my personal dartboard. Being a wife and mother were not impossible roles but not ones I conscientiously dreamed of.

That said, I made it a goal to be professionally and financially secure before I married or had a child. During my pregnancy, my husband received a fantastic offer to work for the U.S. military at a base in the United Kingdom. We could not turn this three-year opportunity down. Because every child needs to be exposed to the Beatles, the royal establishment, and socialized medicine.

At that time, I agreed to be a stay-at-home-mum (SAHM) with the hope of working remotely. I had this whole vision of getting the best of both worlds: balancing feedings, nappy changes, and the early days of my daughter with the satisfaction of meeting the daily needs of my clients. Unfortunately, it turned out I could not take the job with me. Nevertheless, we believed this opportunity would allow us to tour Europe and have more time to be a family together. Our daughter, LB, would get experiences and our—both my husband’s and my—time, two things experts say are the most important things for children.

Before I continue I need to state that I agreed to this life for our family. I could not allow such a wonderful professional opportunity to pass my husband by. I loved my career as a Department of Defense consultant; I felt I was making a difference that mattered for those in the military and had colleagues that I truly respected. But we had the ability for me to forego working and raise our daughter for three years without feeling financial constrained—a blessing that very few families in the United States, especially Washington, DC, have—so I chose this path for my family.

We moved to the UK in September 2016. Quickly, I realized I was a foreigner in two ways: to the overseas U.S. military culture and to the British child rearing ways (the latter I will not address in this posting). And from that day on, I was a nobody. The identity I have had for so long evaporated. I was only thought of as my “husbands’s wife” or “LB’s mother”—nothing more. I became part of a no-man’s land of professional women: those successful professional women trying to balance work and motherhood, who ultimately have to sacrifice their vision of one to survive. In my case, I gave up my professional identity.

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