advice from active duty military wives - long — The Bump
Military Families

advice from active duty military wives - long

Before I start, I'm not really looking for advice on the decision at hand, I know it is one that only DH and I can make. I'm more just looking for different people's experiences in the active duty military lifestyle.
DH is currently in the Army National Guard and has been for over 7 years. A couple years ago when he reenlisted (shortly after we got engaged) he wanted to go active duty but, admittedly for my own selfish reasons, I asked him not to so he stayed NG. While those reasons all still exist (increased chances of being deployed, possibly being stationed far away from all of our friends and family, and having to move every few years), with the recent birth of our son, I'm wondering if maybe he should try to go active now (not the easiest process in the world but possible).
When our son was born we decided that child care of any kind (daycare, nanny, etc) was just not a good option for us for various reasons so I became a SAHM. I was a nanny before DS was born but I was no longer needed with that family and have not been able to find another family willing to let me bring DS with me to babysit. DH works for a company that installs Comcast and he makes good money with it but unfortunately, there is not always work available and if the company has no jobs to give him, he doesn't work for the day which can put a major damper on his paycheck. We're kinda stuck in that area where we make too much money to qualify for much government help but not enough to cover all of our expenses, despite doing everything we can to keep them down. I'm worried that if we keep going this way, we could end up losing our house or car or both. So, for financial reasons (and because I know it's what DH really wants) I'm thinking of discussing the possibility of him going active duty. I don't want to have to struggle to take care of our son. As any mother would, I want to make sure my son has everything he needs and I simply can't come up with any other options right now.
However, I know very little about the active duty lifestyle, which is where my question for advice comes in. DH spent most of the first year of our marriage in Afghanistan so I have experienced a deployment and know its difficulties. But what has it been like for you being stationed away from friends and family? I'm worried about not knowing anyone and just being alone all the time. What about moving every few years? How difficult is that? And how about the lifestyle's effect on your children? DS is only 2 months old so it won't mean anything to him now but I'm worried that once he's in school, it'll become more difficult. Do you live on or off base? Which is easier for you? How do you discuss deployments with your children? Especially when they're younger and can't quite understand why Daddy is gone.
I know the experience is different for everyone but I'm the kind of person that doesn't like to make a major decision without being fully informed so I'm just looking for some insight on the lifestyle so I can know more about it. TIA for sharing.

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Re: advice from active duty military wives - long

  • I'm not going to lie, the Military life is HARD. I am prior AD and DH is currently AD. We just PCSed from CA to FL and we were VERY lucky with this pcs because we have family and friends here. But that's not always the case. You make the best out of the situation you're in and the base you're at. You're husband will more than likely be deployed, depending on the branch, it could be up to a year at a time...yes he will be deployed more than once. I would go with your DH to a recruiter and discuss everything that will happen if he does go AD. They can answer a lot of questions for you.
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  • If you've dealt with deployment then you've had a taste of the life. I mean, it isn't glamorous but it isn't the worst and definitely not impossible!

    I'm fairly friendly and outgoing so being away from family isn't a big deal for me. It gets a little lonely but they are only an 8 hour drive away so I do get to go home to visit. We live off post and like it because, depending on the area you're in, we can pocket some of our BAH. I can't tell you about having a child since I'm expecting my first in January but I have plenty of army wife friends who do just fine with their kids and their husband being deployed. My one friend has 3 children under 5 and they know about deployments and that "Daddy is working" and they Skype with him and the like. They miss him of course but they haven't had any issues or anything.

    It would take some getting used to but it's not impossible! If you're feeling alone when you get to your new home you can always reach out to the other military wives and get involved in the community. 

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  • Many will disagree with me but I don't believe being a military family is all that tough. We have our unique challenges but so does everyone else. We take things as they come and look for the best in all situations. I fully believe it is all about what you make of it.

    Deployments are tough especially when away from your support system but you have opportunities to grow and nurture new types of support systems.

    I enjoy the seemingly unsettled life. I know that wherever we end up next I have new opportunities and a fresh start. Making friends is tough but not impossible. You just have to find your niche and exploit it.

    We have lived both on and off post. There are factors that we weigh each time we move when we decide whether we'll live on or off post. It's about what is important to you in a home, schools, etc. It's different for every post so look into things and visit before making a decision.

    One of the biggest pieces of advice I would give is to be knowledgeable in your rights and opportunities as a military spouse. Often people complain about this or that because they are quick to complain but not to advocate and research their options. It's far easier to complain than doing a little work, right?

    Now, I will caveat all that and say that I was also active duty so my opinions and experiences may be biased. I love the lifestyle the military has afforded us but it does take hard work from all involved. We all make sacrifices in certain ways to live the way we do but I wouldn't change a thing about it.
  • Military life is definitely not for everyone, and it is hard, but it can be very enjoyable.  To answer your questions, being stationed away from friends and family can be a bummer.  I miss seeing them, but I don't feel that I can't function without being in the same town.  That's different for everyone though.  Some people need to be with their family.  But it's pretty easy to make friends.  I'm very good friends with a few wives whose husbands work with mine.  And I got involved in the spouses group and a MOMS club in town.  And Skype is great to keep in touch with family and friends (and deployed spouses whenever possible).  

    I actually enjoy moving.  We moved three times in one year (due to training, that's not the norm), and I loved it.  I thrive on change though, so again, it will be different for everyone.  Having the military move you instead of doing it yourself is something that I definitely suggest.  It makes moving around a lot much easier.  I think I would be much more opposed to it if I had to pack up every single time.

     I can't say much on the efffect on my son.  He's only 17 months, so it's hard to tell.  I think it can definitely be hard on children, but I don't think it's detrimental.  My FIL was military as well, so MH grew up moving around from base to base.  He loved it; again, that will differ from person to person.

    I prefer living on base; I love it.  I love that my neighbors all understand my lifestyle, and I feel that there is an instant comeraderie with them without having even met most of them.   We have lived off base too, and it's not bad either.  Personal preference.  If you choose to live off base though, I suggest living near the base, as you'll want to be close to the commissary and hospital (if you're Prime).  

     Whenever MH has to deploy, I plan to tell my son that Daddy has to go work in another country, but that he'll be home soon.  He'll probably be too young to understand at all for the first deployment, and I imagine it'll be harder with the second.

     Good luck with your decision making.  As I mentioned a lot (haha), it's really different for everyone.  Some people can't handle the lifestyle and some can.  But if you're independent and willing to give something new a try, you can make it work and find it enjoyable.   

  • We are in the same husband just went AD and we have a 17 month old daughter.  I have been working and he has been staying home with her but it is not enough money to live off of really and I want to be able to stay home with our daughter and future children.  I am not looking forward to the deployments but I cant wait to see new places and live somewhere besides where we are now.  I will miss family but I talk to them on the phone more than see them and I will fly to see them often.  Good luck with whatever decision you do make! 
    Working army spouse and mom to beautiful Aly!
  • My husband was AD Air Force when we met & were dating. It was quite literally the only thing he had ever wanted to do with his life. He told me flat out he was career military & I would have to accept that if I wanted to be with him. One of the realities of that is that the JOB will always come first. You don't get to choose deployments, TDYs, locations you want to live, etc. 

    I had ZERO experience with military life & had to think long & hard before I agreed to marry him. Like you, I wasn't sure I could cope being away from family, being alone for deployments, etc. I had a great job making nearly as much money as he did & knew I'd have to give it was a tough decision, but oh has it been a wonderful 8 years!!

    Two months after we married, we got sent to Germany. Hard to get much further away from our family in Texas than that. :) Turned out to be an amazing like others in this thread, I really like being a military wife. Yes, it's hard. Yes, DH has deployed 3 times (6-7 months each time) since DD1 was born - and she's only 4 now. We use skype & plan trips to see family each time he's gone. I've just had DD2, so we'll have to see how things change.  DD1 adjusts fairly well while he's gone - she'll act out for a few weeks right after he leaves & after he gets back, but that's pretty normal. 

    We live off base and always have. DH likes to get away from work at the end of the day and refuses to even consider living on base. That's fine with me - I like having our own home (we rent at this location, but own property at a previous base that we rent out).  I'm very outgoing and don't have trouble making new friends - MOPS, MOMs clubs, church, Squadron Wives clubs are all great resources for meeting other women to connect with. You just have to have a good attitude & being willing to try new things.

    Hope this helps! :)   

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