And Now For Something Completely Different

Have you ever had an idea about something you think you might like to do with your life, but the circumstances just are never quite right? You keep coming back to it, spinning in circles around it, feeling out your options, but never make the final decision to do it.

For a lot of people I think this idea is going back to school, or maybe starting their own business or opening a restaurant, or a home daycare, or moving across the country or overseas, or quitting work to stay at home with their kids. It’s the thing you’d choose to do in a heartbeat if you were another, less-practical version of yourself.

For me, that idea is joining the Army to work as a military dentist.

There are a lot of reasons I want to do it. It’s a great way to travel, experience new places, develop leadership skills, practice dentistry without worrying about any of the business aspects, and of course the benefits and bonuses are unbelievable and include student loan repayment. As a dentist I would be direct-commissioned as a captain, and would have some degree of authority and choice over where I was stationed. It would allow me to start over in a brand new place with an already-built-in community. And if I’m ever going to do it, now would be the time– before I’m involved with a private practice, before Caroline is old enough to be in school, and while I am free and single and unattached.

So? Here goes nothing. I’m gonna do it. I’m joining up.

If you’re going to make a major change in your life, I firmly believe you should make the choice that you keep coming back to when you are really and truly on your own, when your own happiness doesn’t depend on another person. This is that choice for me. Maybe it would be better for my daughter if I stayed here forever, near people she knows and kept her in the daycare she is used to. I am also running the very real risk of deployment and leaving her behind (though it would be only for a few months). But she needs a happy mama, too, and change is a part of life. Stability for her does not have to equal stagnancy for me.

Sometimes, being a good mother doesn’t mean playing it safe. It means making choices for yourself, that keep you going, that keep you alive and passionate and engaged in your life and in what you do. As long as those decisions aren’t actually irresponsible or detrimental to your child’s well-being, I firmly believe that stepping outside the box can make you be a better parent. For me, my divorce was one of those choices. This is another.

Maybe I will hate it. I’m a hippie and a liberal and I’ve never touched a gun. Maybe the time spent away from my daughter to go to boot camp will prove to be too much for me and for her. Maybe this is a completely crazy decision and I’m being a total lunatic. I won’t know until I’m in it and there’s no going back. But all I know is, the idea makes me feel alive in a way that no other career option does for me right now. I applied unenthusiastically for several jobs in private practices here in Connecticut and never answered any of the replies, because my heart just wasn’t in it.

My heart is in this.

And if I don’t do it, I will always wonder, and wish that I had done it.

I called one of my friends and told her about my plan, and she said nothing for a moment. Then she sighed through the phone and said, “Jules, you are a crazy person. Totally and completely insane. But you’ve got more balls than any dude I know.” (I’m sure it’s a measure of my craziness that I was nothing but flattered by that assessment.)

So bring it on: the next big adventure in my life, and Caroline’s. Sure, there are downsides and there are risks. But overall, it’s an incredible opportunity for both of us… And I’m gonna reach out and take it.

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  1. by Karen

    On January 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    WOW! That’s amazing!

  2. by Amy S.

    On January 12, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    As a military wife, i will say welcome to the exciting world we are a part of! You will love being an Army med. Just dont hold too much value in getting to pick where you are stationed… most people in medical fields i know end up getting like number 20 on their list. it is all up to the needs of the army at the time. But that being said I love military life! congrats!

  3. by Erinn

    On January 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Congratulations!!!!

  4. by Jen

    On January 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    wow, congratulations and good for you! i admire your adventurous spirit! good luck! :-)

  5. by Valerie B.

    On January 12, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Good for you! Congratulations on going for your dream! You’ll be setting an amazing example for your daughter, as well (as an added bonus).

  6. by Haydee

    On January 12, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Wow! You do have some balls!! Congrats, as an ex military wife,I have to say you and Caro are in for one of the greatest adventures of your life. I think it’s a great choice, and I respect you for having the will and determination to join the Army, as a single mom!! Good luck!! BTW, thank you for choosing to serve our country! Hooah!!!!

  7. by Sarah

    On January 12, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    My husband is a direct-commission officer in the Army. I’m not sure about your field, but for him the first few months were harder for him than his peers who were not DC. They were leaps and bounds ahead of him in terms of military knowledge and such but he’s a quick learner and caught up very quickly.

    It will be an awesome adventure. Officer’s don’t move as much as enlisted soldier, so you and Caroline will have more stability than most in the long run.

    You never know, you might find that you enjoy Army life. It’s a culture unto it’s own! Active Duty wasn’t 100% for us so DH is now a reservist. I do miss it sometimes though.

    I wish you the best of luck on your new adventure.

  8. by Candy

    On January 12, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    This is awesome!!!! How exciting!! As far as the dental thing, I am a dental assistant and see how much time, money and effort goes into private practice….very overwhelming (not that it can’t be done). And I have a good friend that is raising a “navy brat” family and she has two of the nicest, most well rounded kids I’ve met. So I say congratulations to you!! Looking forward to hearing army dental stories!

  9. by YJin1

    On January 13, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Congratulations Julia! Great parent and great adventure!

  10. by Tracy

    On January 13, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Hi, I’ve been following your blog for a while now. I really like your honesty. I served in the military for 11 years and had a family. It’s tough with kids but it’s something that I will never regret and will always be proud of. The benefits are great and you won’t find a better group of people. People in the military look out for one another.

    The only thing I would say is that you may not always get stationed where you like. As someone commented before, the needs of the military come first. However, you may get lucky and this might not be an issue but you should be aware that it isn’t a guarantee but then nothing in life ever is.

    Best of luck!

  11. by Samantha

    On January 13, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Congratulations on an excellent choice. I just want to reiterate what others have said about choice in assignments. Also, the benefits- both tangible and intangible of being in the military are great- but the lifestyle should not be adopted purely for the benefits. It is a life of sacrifice that one should only embark on if they are passionate about the work they will be doing and the service they will give to the country. Your post made it sound like your only motivation for joining was the adventure and the benefits (I would guess that is not the guess). But to be sure I think you should know that in order to endure and thrive in the environment you will be placed in, you must also really care about the role you will assume as an officer serving in the United States Army. I wish you all the best with it!

  12. by Lori

    On January 14, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    First, I wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed your blog. You certainly have made difficult decisions and should applaud yourself for continuously trying to make your life and Caroline’s life better. I know quite a few colleagues in the health care professions who were commissioned as Captains in the army. Most are no longer in the military but still work with soldiers as civilians in their respective profession. I think the primary reason for their departures were related to family and long deployments. I was just wondering who will Caroline stay with when you are deployed overseas? I wish you the best on your latest endeavors!

  13. by Gloria

    On January 15, 2012 at 7:55 am

    That is fantastic! I’m a long-time reader of your blog, and I just wanted to applaud you for this choice. I think that it sounds like an incredible adventure. Do you have to complete the same boot camp as everyone else? See, that’s the part I couldn’t do! :)

  14. by Sarah

    On February 4, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Good for you! I truly believe that being a good mother means that sometimes you do what’s best for you (as long as your child is not neglected in any way, and obviously yours is not). I think that it’s wonderful to see so many moms making active decisions in the direction of their lives. Sometimes, the status quo is not enough, and you are doing something about that.

  15. by Christine McDaniel

    On February 8, 2012 at 10:36 am

    Congratulations! As the wife of a military dentist who recently deployed, I can say that it was hardest on my hubby because he had a lot of downtime. Keeping busy is key. The kids and I were okay. Skype was a real life saver. When he returned it was easy for him to pick up where he left off, even with our one year old. I know it is a fear for you but kids do not forget their mamas. Separation is hard but it is very doable and, for our family, made us closer and more grateful for each other.

    Also, in talking to my husband, deployments for dentists are way down. Since they have closed down Iraq and are winding down in Afghanistan, career Army dentists are scrambling to deploy (if you want to stay in the Army until retirement then deployments look GREAT on your record and afford more opportunities down the road). So you may not deploy, its a real possibility.

    The Army has many benefits for us as opposed to private practice. We are well taken care of financially, hubby gets lots of time off, he gets to do what dental work needs to be done without being compromised by “the bottom line”. He really enjoys his work and his patients, for the most part, are tip top. He is getting excellent training (but you have to ask and push for it). He will be an endo resident starting next year. Now things aren’t all peachy. There are going to be rules and regulations and officers that will drive you nuts, but we have been very happy with our choice.

  16. by Jennifer

    On February 8, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Just a thought from an Air Force girl, here. Have you ever thought about joining the Air Force instead of the Army? Our deployments are generally shorter (not all the time) than the other services and after many joint service assignments, I can tell you there is a distinction with how we’re treated over how the Army treats their soldiers. Of course, we’re one team at the end of it all and I love my fellow services but maybe something to look into if you haven’t already! :) Go team blue! lol Also, welcome to an incredible family…no matter what service you choose. The military is certainly a way of life and one that I love (I’m an enlisted radio/television broadcaster with 12 years in)and you’ll never find a better (or bigger) family to support you. Welcome! :)

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