Depression, isolation, loneliness and loss of purpose are common struggles among those transitioning from military to civilian life. Many also face challenges with applying for a civilian job for the first time or reentering the workforce.
However, women Veterans may also encounter gender pay gaps, bias against mothers, financial instability, gender-related health concerns, stereotypes about female soldiers, and stress caused by military sexual trauma. Add to these obstacles the frequent lack of a trusted peer network, and one thing is clear: Transitioning to life outside the military can be particularly hard for women Veterans.
“I lost a part of myself when I left the military. I expected motherhood to fill the mission and purpose I had felt while in the military,” said Air Force Veteran and military spouse Amanda Huffman. “But instead, I found it challenging and that I wasn’t doing enough. Part of it was the challenge of being a new mom. But I also needed something for me besides raising my kids.”
Huffman served for six years as a civil engineer, including a deployment to Afghanistan. Like many female Veterans, she struggled with transitioning from purpose-driven military service to finding where and how she belonged as a civilian. This led to frustration, anxiety and disappointment in the lack of resources tailored to women like her.
“I felt so alone when I was transitioning,” Huffman said. “I thought my experience was so different from everyone else’s (getting out to be a stay-at-home mom) that I did not have anyone to talk to. I felt that I wouldn’t be able to relate to other Veterans because my situation was so different.”
Whether a woman transitions into parenting, a civilian career or both, it is common to feel confused, left behind and disconnected. Huffman eventually found a new purpose and sense of community by creating some of the very resources she lacked during her own transition. However, she didn’t stop there — Huffman also created resources for those joining and currently serving in the armed forces.
Here are a few ways Huffman strives to help women who serve or have served in the military:
The Airman to Mom blog
The Airman to Mom blog shares details about Huffman’s experiences in the military, leading a dual military life and eventually transitioning to civilian living and motherhood. The blog also provides links to many of Huffman’s other free resources, including a deployment guide, a PCS moving guide and transition resources.
The Women of the Military podcast
Huffman’s Women of the Military podcast shares interviews and stories about women who have served in the military over the last several decades. By offering an in-depth look at what other military women have experienced, the podcast aims to provide inspiration and community to current and former female soldiers. Likewise, the podcast offers advice for women as they face challenges during and after service.
“What I have found through talking to Veterans is that even if our path after the military is different, many of the emotional challenges are the same. It is through the Veteran community that I realized I wasn’t so different after all.”
The Women of the Military eBook
The Women of the Military eBook features 28 stories about military women. The interviews in Huffman’s book illustrate how women have journeyed over the years from more traditionally female jobs like nursing to serving in combat positions.
“I did not know about all the things women were doing in the military until I started interviewing them,” Huffman said. “And even today, with over 200 interviews completed, I still learn more about women and their history in the military.”
Girl’s Guide to the Military
Huffman’s Girl’s Guide to the Military offers both insight and advice for women who are entering the military or currently serving. Huffman also plans to publish an expanded edition of the guide in September 2022.
“I have expanded that guide into a book A Girl’s Guide to Military Service, publishing September 13th,” she said. “It is meant to answer all the questions, starting with, is the military right for me to what branch, career field, etc., along with topics like military sexual trauma, deployment, relationships, motherhood and more. I want to ensure girls joining the military have as much information as possible to help them make informed choices.”
The Women of the Military Mentorship Program
Determined to do the best she can for the women she aims to help, Huffman created the Women of the Military Mentorship Program. Her goal is to provide one-on-one connections for women interested in joining the military, women who are currently serving and female Vets. The mentorship program aims to connect women with others who have shared similar experiences and challenges, offering valuable support and guidance.
Finding support and fellowship can be key to fulfillment during military service and eventually a successful return to civilian living.