By Jeaniel Image, volunteer

This Mother’s Day I will be in my third trimester with my fourth child, who will be born while I am still serving in the reserves. In the 17 years I have served, the policy for pregnant women has changed dramatically for the better, though the demands of being a mother in the military was probably the greatest challenge I have faced.

The 9-month transformation to make and have a baby, combined with the physical challenge to get back on track right after giving birth can be truly daunting. There is also an emotional and mental toll. I have missed many firsts with my older children due to military duty, and I will never be able to get those back. My biggest challenge is forgiving myself as a mother for missing these once-in-a-lifetime moments with my children.

I find myself measuring my motherhood against other mothers who are always there for their children, I often condemn myself for not being there when my children needed me.

Not being able to connect with them is also a challenge I experience myself and see other military families struggle with as well. I cannot treat them like I do my junior sailors and just bring them “up to speed.”

But I do think there are some good lessons from the military I can pass down to my children. Joining the military has allowed me the opportunity to be exposed to so many different cultures nationalities and subcultures. And The Mission Continues gives me this same diversity, resiliency, inspiration, compassion, and understanding of cultures, races, and religions that I get from the military. This melting pot of individuals who have a common goal to accomplish. Not for the sake of themselves but for the sake of the community they serve.

In the arc of motherhood, bringing my family to The Mission Continues service events gives my children the opportunity to see a glimpse into what it means to serve others. My children don’t get to see what I do when I am working abroad in another country with the military. Through participating in service within the military community, they can begin to understand why it is that I would leave them for so long.

I hope to teach my children that building a legacy for themselves does not always involve being the most popular, or having the most likes or friends on social media. It starts with making an impact on someone else’s life, making a difference for others, inspiring hope and faith for the future.If was shown the example that the military and The Mission Continues has shown me, I would have the same desire and goal to serve others for the betterment of all in the community.