Meet December’s Mom of the Month, Melissa Whittenberger! Melissa has one of those one-in-a-million, magnetic spirits; when she walks into a room, she completely captivates it. She is graceful and patient, beautiful and kind, and we admire and appreciate her wise soul so very much…which is why we just had to have you meet her!
Melissa and her husband, Kris, met in Germany. Melissa was an elementary school teacher in Wiesbaden, where Kris was stationed with the U.S. Army. They eventually relocated back to the States together and after some hopping, have settled in Clarksville, Tennessee. They have two adorable little gentlemen sons, Grayson and Hamilton (Hammy), ages 4 and 2.
As a Captain in the Army, Kris has been deployed to Iraq three times; his last tour returned him home just in time for Thanksgiving. We know life looks a little different for the families that are on the front lines at home for the brave Soldiers on our nation’s front lines abroad. We know that your entire family makes incredible sacrifices; to you, it comes with the service. To us, you are ALL heroes, and from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you. We are beyond honored to introduce you to Melissa, and are excited to share this sneak peek into her world and heart.
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In a few words, what’s it like to be a military wife?
It makes me bring my A-game every day (and I love that).
How do you tackle life with two littles when your husband is deployed?
Sleep, food, consistent routines, and clear expectations are the keys to the kingdom. It’s such a boring and practical answer, but as long as my boys are well rested with full bellies, we hum right along. I never leave the house without apple slices and cheese sticks. Every day, no matter what, we’re home at 1:00 for naps and quiet time. Bedtime is 7:00, no budging. I’m a slave to this schedule, which I guess can sound stifling, but I find it freeing. Auto-pilot routines don’t require thought, and I appreciate having the mind space to dedicate to other things.
How do your boys respond to his absence? (Do they act out, are they angry, are they proud?)
Grayson, my four year old, takes it in stride. He trusts that he is loved and missed. It helps too that we live in an Army community where his friends also have deployed parents. It’s his normal. Hammy, my two year old, gave my husband the cold shoulder during his last deployment. Every FaceTime conversation started and ended with Hammy saying, “I no talk papa.” It broke my husband’s heart, but it was an earnest and understandable two year old’s response.
You’ve bounced around to a few different cities, states, even countries! Of those locations, which was your favorite, and why?
My husband’s hometown of Columbus, OH was my favorite by far. I loved living in an urban neighborhood (most Army posts are FAR from cities, so this was a treat), and having a built-in network of family and friends cannot be overvalued.
Summarize your mama-mantra in 3-5 words.
Discipline means to teach, not to punish.
What woman in your life inspires you?
Can I name three I’ve never met?? The research of Brené Brown, Carol Dweck and Dr. Maria Montessori fundamentally changed the way I approached relationships, learning, teaching, and parenting.
What was your recharge before kids, and what is it now?
Alone time and sleep have always kept me afloat. Even though Grayson no longer takes an afternoon nap, 1:00-3:00 remains quiet independent playtime – I’m off duty. Self-care is critical, and I want my boys to grow up understanding if they want to love and support others, they have to be kind to themselves first.
Before becoming a mother, what aspect of parenting were you most confident about? And, were you right?
I wasn’t confident about anything! However, as an elementary teacher, I learned that children will be as generous, helpful, resilient, independent, fill-in-the-blank, as you expect them to be. That’s definitely informed my parenting. Children believe what you tell them.
What’s your best mom-cheat?
Whispering. Shouting instructions from the kitchen – “It’s time to put on your shoes!!” always results in more shouting. If I meet them where they are – playing in their room or outside – and whisper, it’s magic. It’s better for all our ears, and they’re always more likely to comply with a softly spoken request than a down the hall shout.
If there is one piece of advice you can share with new mamas, what would it be?
Watch the documentary, Babies. It follows the birth process and life of a newborn in four parts of the world: Namibia, Mongolia, Tokyo, and San Francisco. As you can imagine, there are substantial differences. It brought me such peace. Women have been giving birth since the beginning of time. Billions of women and babies have come before me. Regardless of where they are born, newborns are hearty, resilient, adaptable creatures. If that Mongolian mama can get on a motorcycle with her hours old baby swaddled to her chest and ride home across the grasslands, my newborn and I can make it to our minivan.