83 – INTERVIEW “If I didn’t try something then, I would never do it.” – Hannah Anderson

Meghan Q Barrett  0:05 
Hey Mama. This is Mama’s Daily Dose. I’m Meghan Q Barrett of allyoumama.com. And welcome to this special interview show where we bring you guests to add value and connection to your mama life. Today’s guest is a dear friend of mine, Hannah Anderson, and she is a mom or Mum, as she likes to say of two boys, and also an officer in the Australian Army, hence, the mum part. And she is really just an all around fun person. Honestly, probably one of the most fun people I’ve ever met in my life. She lets us in on her emotions and feelings as a working mom and having to choose which priority reigned supreme in different situations: her career, her children, her family. She took a big life dream leap and joined the Australi,an Army because she knew that if she didn’t do it now, she never would. And although it takes her away from her husband and her kids, she knows that her career choice is the best for her and her family. And she lets us know exactly why. So without further ado, let’s get moving before we get interrupted.

Hello, Hannah, and welcome to Mama’s Daily Dose – The Interviews! I am so excited to have you here today. And I just want you to know that you are also our first international guest coming to us!

Hannah Anderson  1:44 
That sounds impressive!

Meghan Q Barrett  1:45 
That is that is super impressive! Coming to us from Australia. So thank you for taking the time to meet with me and I am excited to get to talk to you.

Hannah Anderson  1:56 
Really, really happy to be here. We’ve been friends for a long time. So it’s great to share this with you.

Meghan Q Barrett  2:02 
I know we have been… so if you don’t know how… I studied abroad in Australia, geez, I don’t even know it’s like 13 years ago now because we’re old. And and that’s where we met. And Hannah’s come over to the US. And I’ve gone back to Australia. And we’ve kept in touch. And we both have two little boys. And Hannah is also an officer in the Australian Army. So I just wanted to pick your brain and get your experiences your thoughts and your feelings on being a career mom, as well as, you know, being in the army and being away from your family too.

Hannah Anderson  2:41 
Yeah, initially, I didn’t start off as a career Mum, I did, the first four or so years at home and then transitioned to then being the worker, I suppose, of the family.

Meghan Q Barrett  2:57 
Yeah. So what what drew you to go into the army to enlist in the army? And you know, be like, “Okay, I’m going to be the career mom now. And I did the stay at home mom thing and now I’m ready to do this.”

Hannah Anderson  3:11 
Yeah, so to be honest, it was always something that I’d wanted to do, from you know, high school years and just never did it. Did other things, really enjoyed what I did do. And then yeah, had those stay at home mom years, which were tough. They were, they were really tough, isolating, I enjoyed being with the kids. And I was happy that I didn’t have to work and I had the opportunity to spend those years with them. But I’d had enough and I thought if I you know, I was getting to those early 30s years, and if I didn’t try something that I’d wanted to do, then; then I would never do it.

Meghan Q Barrett  3:45 
What drew you to being in the army even just when you’re in high school? Like what what made you be like, “that’s what I want to do. That’s it.”

Hannah Anderson  3:54 
Look, to be honest, the the military in Australia is really different to the US. It’s not as big, it’s certainly doesn’t have the same, I suppose; patriotism as it does in the States. But having said that, but as you know, I’m a proud Australian and always… just, I suppose wanted to do something of service. And I just thought this was the right thing for me – a bit of adventure and, you know, now I get to lead people.

Meghan Q Barrett  4:32 
There are some differences between the American and the Australian Armies. But one similarity is that they are still very much male dominated. When I looked it up. I think in 2018, women made up less than 18% of the Australian Army and then in positions of ranking, it was even less so. What is it like for you being, I would say not only a woman in the Army, but being a mom in the Army too?

Hannah Anderson  5:01 
Yeah, good question, being a female in the Army, you know, you’re outnumbered. But it’s the 21st century and there are breakthroughs with gender equality in rank and different arms of service than there was, you know, even 5, 10, 15 years ago. So I don’t feel I suppose outnumbered. The males that I work with, as well as the females that I work with are really inclusive. Being a mother, I suppose, is a little different in that, you know, it’s the sort of thing where it’s, it’s sort of the service before yourself. So you can’t, you can’t always say no to doing something. You get told to do something and you do it, whether that means that you have to be away from your family, or what… you do feel like you don’t want to use your kids as an excuse. Do you know what I mean? But, you know, it’s family comes first job comes second, you know, that’s, that’s how you have to be as a mom.

Meghan Q Barrett  6:17 
Yeah, it’s like that internal drive of being a mom, that it’s the family and your kids are always going to come first. You did mention that, to sometimes put the job before your family. And sometimes, that’s not necessarily a choice for you. And I know, in the past two and a half years, you said you’ve been away from your kids a little over 10 months. And that’s kind of due to your career, as well as a little bit of COVID thrown in there and COVID restrictions. Can you just explain to listeners how that feels, and the emotions that you go through as a mom being away from your kids?

Hannah Anderson  6:58 
Yeah, so within that, sort of 10 months, being away of the last two and a half years, the most time away was four months. And I suppose the hardest thing is that the kids are so small that they don’t understand how long that is. So I can say to them, you know, I’ll see you in a week, or I’ll see you in a month, I’ll see you in four months, and they don’t know the difference. So that means that they’re expecting me to come home, and I’m not coming home, you know, it’s it’s all well and good to…to chat to them on the phone, but without turning up at the front door or meeting them at an airport or something… That’s tough. Having said that, I guess even in a short time, they used to it, we prepare them early, you know, if I’m going away, yeah, there are milestones that you miss out on. But as a family were prepared for that. We’re prepared to deal with that. Young kids are adaptable.

Meghan Q Barrett  7:59 
And so how do you personally deal with the emotions around that as a mom?

Hannah Anderson  8:04 
I have to focus on the bigger picture. So I have to focus on, you know why I’m doing it. And yet, a lot of it, you know, I’m doing for myself and my own, because it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. But of course, I’m doing it as well to have stability, you know, for my family. Look, it was a obviously great decision during COVID. There’s been a lot of unemployment. I’ve had a job the entire time. So you know, that sort of thing. I have to just look at the bigger picture. Yeah, it’s the only way you get through it.

Meghan Q Barrett  8:34 
And as far as the bigger picture, what lessons or what experiences do you want to impart on your kids? Like, what do you hope that they are getting out of their experience in this and your experience?

Hannah Anderson  8:47 
First and foremost, I think resilience, you know, you’re moving around to a different place every two years. You know, we’re all forced to make friends. We’re all uprooting. So resilience is a big one. I think, that obviously hard work whilst I strive for, you know, work life balance. I want the kids to know that, I’m working hard for them, and that those values will be imparted to them.  I think definitely, the resilience piece is the biggest thing.

Meghan Q Barrett  9:23 
And why do you think resilience is so important to teach your kids? I think different people have different values that they really want to impart on their kids, so why do you feel that resilience is so important?

Hannah Anderson  9:34 
Well, the world’s rough! Not everything goes your way. Although you know, when you’re a kid you can kick and scream and tantrum about it. As adults, we know that, things don’t go your way. And so, in order to deal with change, deal with, you know, things that that you might wish for that you don’t get. Resilience is I think a quality that just being strong enough to be able to get back up when you’ve fallen, to be able to deal with change, deal with consequence.

Meghan Q Barrett  10:08 
I mean, we all go through that every day of our lives. Alright, so to switch subjects a little bit…because I talk a lot about with moms, getting the help and the support systems that you need in place. So what kind of help and support systems do you and your partner have not only like when you’re gone, but also when you’re around, because we all need help, even when you have two parents.

Hannah Anderson  10:10 
For starters, my biggest support system is my husband, I wouldn’t be able to do this without him wouldn’t be able to, follow this career and pick up and leave the kids and that sort of thing. So that’s the biggest one. At the moment, we are the other end of the country from from family. So the last couple of years, that was a big one. So my mom was another great support system. Obviously, you know, border closures are still in place in Australia at the moment. So none of my family is able to get into my state. So that’s been tricky in our unit. When people from our units at work, deploy or are away for a significant period of time, duty officers, people check in with families, to make sure they’re okay that they’re tracking, okay, where they need anything. People from the unit will come and mow lawns, etc. Yeah, that’s a big one. And then I suppose the Department of Defense also have a 24 hour hotline, which is family and community based, which can be used. Yeah, it’s tricky. You need to, make friends and stuff. New friends; all the time. It’s hard, the support base is probably thinner over the last six to 12 months than it was prior to that. But yeah, it’ll grow.

Meghan Q Barrett  12:04 
Yeah, I feel like a lot of people’s support base over the last, I don’t even know… COVID is like, what 18 months now; have slimmed down quite a bit. And so when you move around, do you make it a point for both for you, your husband and your kids to really get out there and meet the people in your community, your new neighbors, and the new people in your unit? Is that a high priority on your list?

Hannah Anderson  12:35 
Yeah, definitely. We’ll throw our hands up to go to anything, get the kids straight into sport. Facebook’s a wonderful thing. There’s a lot of defense groups that, for each area, if you’re posting in, you just say, “hey, I’ve just posted in, you know, don’t know anyone got two young boys, what’s the hangout sort of thing?” So it’s such that weird like mom dating vibe, you know? And when you’re going back to one of your earlier questions, the male/female, equation on my husband’s side has been somewhat of a challenge as well, because you go to the things with the kids or the after school things, or the playgroups and it’s mum’s talking mum talk, which he doesn’t want to do. So, it’s the same on both sides that yeah, it’s tricky.

Meghan Q Barrett  13:28 
Yeah, I can imagine that being trickier on his side. I remember I had joined a moms’ group it was like more one of like, the organized ones that they have in the US and there was a dad that wanted to join and they had to do a vote on if they were okay with the dad joining. And some women were like, “I don’t think my husband would be okay with me going over to his house.” I’m like, you are going there with his kids. Like this guy is just trying to find people to talk to and have his kids play with and I think that, for your husband, I can only imagine that is difficult. And then, having to do it over and over and over again when you guys are moving. He’s definitely showing your kids the resilience as well. Alright, so I really wanted to ask this question. And where do you see yourself in about 10 years and when I say this, your kids will be about 16 and 14 years old and I feel like when we put it in our kids ages, it becomes more like “okay, that’s crazy.” So where Where do you see yourself in about 10 years – you got two teenagers?

Hannah Anderson  14:41 
Well, at the bar with you!

Meghan Q Barrett  14:45 
I think we’ll need it.

Hannah Anderson  14:50 
Look, all going well, I hope I’m I’m still able to serve in the Army and providing that that’s what’s best for my family at that time. I see myself as wanting more stability by then, which is possible. As years go on, in Defense, I would love an international posting. So who knows, you know, in in 10 years time I’d be sitting at Major hopefully… posting at the UN or something, it’d be lovely.

Meghan Q Barrett  15:21 
Nice. Yeah. All right. So we’re wrapping up here. This is the question I ask all of my guests. What is one piece of advice that you’ve received that changed you or your life?

Hannah Anderson  15:35 
Huge? Mine’s really simple. The best piece of advice that I’ve received, I suppose, particularly on mom stuff, and work stuff is prioritize, sometimes, I might not be able to get to a kid’s soccer game, or something else is happening at work. Prioritize. Is this better for my kid that I go to this? Or is it better for me that I go to do something else? I think we say yes to too much. And sometimes, that can be detrimental to ourselves. And yeah, so just prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.

Meghan Q Barrett  16:21 
Yes. I love that I just did a podcast on giving hard “NOs”. Because it’s not only just like the saying yes to it, and going through with it. It’s like the energy that you expend being like, “why did I say yes to this? Should I really do it? Should I not do it? Oh, I’m gonna let this person down. Now if I say I can’t do it…now I have to do it.” So now you’re using all this energy and headspace on these things? I should have just said no in the beginning.

Hannah Anderson  16:51 
Yeah. 100%.

Meghan Q Barrett  16:53 
Awesome. I love that. And then, you know, as a mom, it’s like, sometimes it’s prioritizing yourself. And sometimes it’s prioritizing the kids. And really the only person that can decide what is ideal at that time is you.

Hannah Anderson  17:12 
Yeah, 100%. Awesome.

Meghan Q Barrett  17:14 
Well, this was such an amazing conversation. I love catching up with you. Next time. I really hope it’s over a drink. And I hope you have a fabulous day. Thank you so much for coming on.

Hannah Anderson  17:29 
Thanks, man. I really appreciate what you’re doing. I think you’re doing awesome work. The moms in the States and internationally now. Yeah, they should really value  what you’ve got to say. And I think, yeah, keep it up, dude, you’re doing well!

Meghan Q Barrett  17:42 
Thank you. I really, really appreciate that.

In 10 years, I certainly hope that Hannah and I are at a bar somewhere drinking. And I do hope we get that meetup drink before the next 10 years as well. One of my biggest takeaways from that was just Hannah took that leap. And she knew it was a lifelong dream that she wanted to be in the Australian Army. And she knew that if she didn’t do it, now, she was never going to do it. There is no time better than now. You don’t need to wait until your kids are older, wait until you have more knowledge or experience or whatever it is that you’re looking to have. Now is the best time. It’s scary to take a leap of faith and do something that you’ve never done. And it’s even scarier when it affects more than just you and it affects your kids and your family too. But there’s also a lot of positive things that can come out of it too. So in order to take that leap, you have to focus on the positive and that positive drive has to be more than the fear. So what are all the positive outcomes that can be for you and your family when you do the things that you want to do? And if you don’t already follow me on Instagram, please head on over and give me a follow @MeghanQBarrett and that’s Meghan with an H. And have a great day free of mama guilt because you deserve it.

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