Give Me a Break: The Case for Hourly Care


When I was pregnant with my first child, I went to the gym every day. I participated in exercise classes for pregnant women, I used the cardio equipment and weights, and I felt great. That was six years ago and I have not been to the gym since my son was born. He’s in first grade now, but I have a toddler daughter at home. It turns out that finding quality, affordable part time child care on military bases is incredibly difficult, which means that my trips to the gym have become a thing of the past.

I also work part-time from home as a writer. Well, I did. I haven’t taken on any projects in two years because I found that in order to complete my work on deadline, I often had to work through the night. Working was impossible while also caring for my kids, so the only time I had to write was while they were asleep. Needless to say, this was terrible for me and my family. If part-time or hourly care were available on the installation where I live, I could go back to work. I could also volunteer with local organizations. Heck, I might even be able to use the bathroom by myself once in a while! Like most installations, the base where I live has a Child Development Center, but also like most CDCs it offers limited to no options for hourly or part-time care. Current base policies in many locations require that there be no wait list for full-time care before any part time care may be offered.   Priority for enrollment is given to dual-military families, single parents, and families with spouses employed or enrolled in school full-time. The CDC enrollment package at our current base states, “Employment and status as a student with current enrollment are taken under consideration when determining the need for childcare. Due to the many families requiring care in order to work or continue their education, an unemployed spouse is required to gain employment of 30 hours per week or more or show proof of registration as a full-time student in order to remain eligible for care.”

It’s true that our family requires fewer hours of care each week than a family with two parents working full time. That does not make our need for care any less urgent. Part-time work, volunteer work, and part-time university enrollment are all situations that create a need for childcare. These are all valid pursuits. Volunteering or working part time are worthwhile activities for anyone, but without safe, reliable, and affordable child care available, they are impossible. Child care is also critical to help maintain physical and emotional well-being. Military spouses are strong and capable. We usually live far from extended family members, often in remote locations. Many of us live on a small salary in an area with a high cost of living. Add a couple of small children, send the service member on deployment, and you have a recipe for major stress. I once took a stress management workshop on base (before I had children), and the recommendations included: meditation, exercise, volunteering to connect with your community, caring for your health, etc.  At the time I thought they were good suggestions. Now I think they are hilarious because, of course, all of this is next to impossible with small children in the home while the service member is working long hours or deployed.

Quality child care choices off base are often incredibly expensive or impossible to find. At our current duty station for example, preschool costs $1000 per month! Some organizations offer child care reimbursement for volunteers, but most do not offer the going rate for an in-home sitter, which can be $10-15/hour or more, depending on the location of the duty station. That adds up quickly!  You might be able to trade child care with a friend once or twice a week, but the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days per week. Of course, that total doesn’t include the time required to drive to the gym, change clothing, shower, etc. So that’s at least an hour a day, five days a week. That’s really asking a lot of a friend. We are already asking our friends to help out when we need to mow the lawn or do other vital household tasks that aren’t child-friendly.

I know I am not alone in my need for quality part-time care. Our military and family service providers need to understand why hourly and part-time care is so important to our military families. It would be a welcome tool to keep our families on track and running smoothly.


10 Things Your Child Must Know Before Kindergarten

Starting kindergarten is a major milestone for both child and parent, exciting on the one hand, fraught with potentially worrisome unknowns on the other. Even military kids, who are great little adapters to new situations can struggle. The key to successfully launching students on this first step of their academic journeys is making sure they’re prepared. Most educators agree children need to master a number of basic skills before entering kindergarten.


Here are a few of those, ten things your child must know before that first day of school:

  1. How to be independent
    Students should be comfortable apart from their parents, be able to function independently, and know how to control themselves without constant guidance.
  2. His/her vital statistics
    Children entering kindergarten must be able to spell and write their first and last names—legibly. (Nobody expects perfection.) They should also be able to recite their addresses and know family contact numbers.
  3. Basic self-care
    Can your child tie his/her shoes? Work buttons and zippers? Before entering kindergarten, a child should be able to do all those things, as well as eat with utensils, bounce a ball and manage bathroom breaks.
  4. Social skills
    Being able to speak understandably and form sentences of at least five or six words is a critical skill for children entering kindergarten. Children must also have at least a basic understanding of the need to share and cooperate with others.
  5. kindergarten-must-knowsClassroom etiquette
    Classroom etiquette includes the abilities to sit still and listen without interrupting. Children must also be able to recognize authority, obey rules and focus their attention—for brief periods, at least—on guided tasks. Finally, they should understand their actions have both causes and consequences (good or bad).
  6. Manual skills
    Children should know how to correctly hold (and use) a pencil, crayons and scissors. They must be able to trace or cut out basic shapes.
  7. The alphabet 
    Students should know the alphabet in order and be able to recognize letters randomly, in both upper and lower case. They should be able to relate each letter to its sound.
  8. Word basics
    Children should be able to recognize a few sight words—e.g., stop, she, said, my, have, here, been, was—and understand how a book works (front to back, story in letters versus pictures, etc.). They should also be able to identify some beginning sounds of words and rhyming sounds.
  9. Numbers
    Before entering kindergarten, children should know how to count from 1—10, and be able to recognize written numerals 1—10 in random order. They should also be able to differentiate between groups of objects by how many objects are in each group—one, two, three, and so on.
  10. Colors and shapes
    Children entering kindergarten should be able to recognize and name primary colors—red, green, yellow, blue, etc.—as well as basic geometric shapes like circles, squares and triangles. They should be able to sort objects according to color, size and shape.

If your child attends preschool, chances are he/she will master most, if not all, of these skills before entering kindergarten. If your child hasn’t attended preschool, you can easily work on these must-knows at home.

Do you have any tips for parents preparing their kids for kindergarten? Share them in the comments!

Aubrey Moulton, military kid, and writer for, a leading provider in safe, secure and fun Preschool for children in Utah County

Network Your Way to a New Job!

Did you catch our Facebook party a few weeks ago? Our #MoreThanASpouse campaign was all about education, careers, networking, and empowerment for military spouses!


Over 1,200 military spouses hopped on to network in our Facebook party, and more than 4,000 were there live to watch the madness go down! It was clear that networking, even digitally, was one of the most important takeaways from the party. And rightfully so; networking can play a huge part in finding your next job, volunteer opportunity, or meeting new people.

So how do you leverage your network in the most powerful way?

Start with LinkedIn.
Create a profile, add your experience, whether it’s a job, volunteer position, or internship–LinkedIn is a great place to show everything you’ve done and gives potential employers a great snapshot of what you’re capable of!

Haven’t had a job in a while? No worries! Volunteer experience can be just as impressive when it comes to finding a job.

During our More Than A Spouse Facebook party, one military spouse shared, “VOLUNTEER! If there is one piece of advice I could give to any ‪#‎milspouse looking to advance your career, show your diversity in your resume through your volunteer work!”

linkedin volunteer sectin

Once you have updated any volunteer experience on your LinkedIn profile, take some time to also do the following:

  • Add any training/certifications. Even if they aren’t directly related to the job you are applying for.
  • Add any skills you have. They don’t have to be strictly work related, either! Do you have 4 kids whose schedules you manage? That, my friend, is time management in its finest form. Think outside of the box when it comes to your skills!
  • Make connections. Sometimes your friends and family may have a connection that neither of you thought could be helpful. Try to connect with as many people as possible.
  • Ask for recommendations. You can request recommendations from old work contacts, volunteer coordinators, or friends. Adding recommendations to your profile can increase credibility.
  • Join Groups! LinkedIn has groups for almost every interest, so you are bound to find a group that will be full of great connections. Once you are in the groups, add to the conversation, find new people to connect with, and ask questions.

Now it’s time for coffee.
One of the last things I want to mention is the benefit of coffee-dates, even virtual ones! Don’t be afraid to ask the new connection you made on LinkedIn for a chat session! Try Google hangouts, Facebook Messenger, or on the phone. Sometimes talking to someone for 15 minutes can create a great new connection, and also spark an idea for a job you had never even thought of!

LinkedIn may be one of my favorite tools, but there are a ton of other places for you to make connections, or find a job. We’ve compiled a list of some other great resources in our More Than A Spouse LinkedIn group, just request to join, check out the resources, and use some of these awesome tips to network your way to success!

What are your tips for networking online? Share them with us below! Happy Networking!

Jordan-BarrishPosted by Jordan Barrish, Public Relations Manager


Mastering the Art of the Empty Nest!

I thought I had this Empty-Nester thing figured out; I spent over 20 years raising children and preparing them for all life has to offer. And, last month, when I drove off to take my youngest daughter to college, I was excited for my new future. The possibilities seemed endless!


The 1200 mile road trip to drop her off was fun–she and I are two peas in a pod. We’re like the Gilmore Girls: she’s basically my best friend (I know what they say: you shouldn’t be “friends” with your children – you should be their parent). But she is special, she’s an old soul. I felt like I was losing my best friend.

The good-bye was actually easier than I anticipated. I was confident her father and I had prepared her for pretty much anything. She was ready to fly the coop.

Upon returning home, things felt weird. My husband went TDY, and for the first time since 1992, I was HOME ALONE. What should I do first?! I could do anything I wanted. My responsibilities had dramatically decreased, so I could sleep all day, lie around watching old movies, or spend the entire day at the gym. Instead, I went to the grocery store. And I didn’t bother with the commissary this time. Heck, it was only my husband and I now, and we don’t eat that much, so I could afford the name brand stores this time! I wandered around aimlessly in a daze, and walked out with a loaf of bread, a six pack of beer, and a rotisserie chicken (and I don’t even eat meat!).

Was this how my new life was going to be? Wasting time wandering around and accomplishing nothing? I felt like I needed a plan. For over two decades I’ve always had a regimented plan and schedules to follow. I’m not used to down time…I need to be productive.

I allowed myself the full weekend to be a big mess of confusion. Then I decided it was time to get myself together and figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my life. It was only three weeks into Empty Nest Life, but I still wasn’t sure what that is. For 25 years, I’ve been focused on everyone else. A few months after marrying my spouse, we PCS’d for the first time. I had to quit the big job I got right out of college, and put my career on the back burner so we could pursue his together. Then I had babies.

For years and years, I raised those kids and supported my husband through many PCS moves, deployments, and TDY assignments. I got whatever job fit my schedule. Fortunately, I’ve always been able to find work that allowed me to see my kids off to school, and be there when they returned home. It was never about me and always about them.

How does one go about deciding what she wants and needs, when for most of her life, she’s always been what everyone else wanted and needed?

The possibilities are, indeed, endless. I can finally pursue my group fitness instruction again. My evenings are free to teach classes, since there are no more softball games to attend, no more back-to-school nights, no more homework to help with (let’s be honest: my kids quit needing my help with that years ago). Maybe I can go back to work full-time. My day can now start and end when I want it to. Maybe I can do both?!

Maybe I need to cut myself a break and give myself a little bit of time figure it all out. For 25 years, I did what had to be done. And now it’s only been a month…

In the meantime, I will continue my projects around the house, and continue walking the dogs twice a day (they’re very confused by all of this, and although they enjoy the walks, they are a little tired from all the attention!).

Do I miss my kids? You bet I do. Am I sad to be an Empty-Nester? Nope. I’m excited. And I’m pretty sure I will master this Empty-Nester thing after all.

Are you an Empty-Nester? How did you navigate your new “free time?”

cindyPosted by Cindy Jackson, Finance Manager

Take Our Survey and Win $50!


At NMFA, we pride ourselves in developing programs and resources that directly meet needs of military families, like yours. Through surveys like this one, we get valuable information about how you use resources, like our mobile app, MyMilitaryLife, and how we can make them better fit your military life. Would you take a minute and tell us what you think? Whether you use the app regularly, or you’re hearing about it for the very first time – we welcome your feedback!

By giving 5 minutes of your time, you’ll enter yourself to win one of four $50 gift cards!

Take our survey and give us your opinion!

Military Life, Work, Motherhood, and Grad School? Yes! You Can Do It All!

If you asked me to describe my graduate school journey and “life” a few weeks ago, I would say I was doing what anyone else would do: I work. I have two small children. My husband was active duty when I started grad school, and had three sets of deployment orders, then ended up going through a medical board and was granted honorable separation from the military. Did I mention I had our daughter during grad school, too?


I’ve held the titles of working professional, military spouse, mom, single parent, expecting mom, and graduate student. And for short periods of time during my three year pursuit to a Masters degree, I held all of those titles concurrently.

Parenting, work, and grad school is hard.

How did I do it?

First, rally the troops. By this I mean, let your work-life, family, and friends network know you are attending grad school (or whatever you’re pursuing). There will be days where you’ll need extra support and understanding after pulling an all-nighter with a fussy infant and finalizing a research report. You may appreciate the latte a co-worker picks up, or a freezer meal you stashed in your refrigerator for a gotta-feed-the-kids-but-I-can’t-keep-my-eyes-open-to-cook night.

Keep an eye out for child care. If you are working and going to school, you’ll need child care. In fact, you’ll probably need more than one child care option for your working hours and your school hours. I had multiple child care arrangements; I swapped play dates with friends when I had to have quiet, dedicated time to write and research without the distraction of kids; I utilized on-base resources, neighbors, local child care providers, my parents, and a series of teenage babysitters. Your college may even have child care resources available. Call a Military OneSource consultant, ask for child care resources through your college, and ask your nearest installation to help you access local child care resources. You may even quality for a fee assistance program.

Befriend an academic advisor. Set yourself up for success by exploring all of the resources your college provides. Even if you are attending school online, you should have a point of contact to help you navigate online and in-person resources, such as access to your library, career services, tutoring support, networking opportunities, and more. Instead of jumping into an academic program, explore the support services the college provides before you need them.

For example, I had a good relationship with my advisor and in my first semester realized full time graduate school with full time work and parenting wasn’t going to work for me. I was able to reduce my course load to a part-time schedule during times when my life was very busy. The flexibility to change my course load really helped me during those unpredictable life changes. It is important to understand the length of time you have to complete a degree program, the withdraw dates, and the downfalls for changing your academic plan or program completion pace. While I was able to keep up my course work and stay enrolled in school while I had our second child, I do know other classmates who decided to take a semester leave of absence. Life will happen while you are in school – plan for the unpredictable by befriending an academic advisor.

Be kind to yourself. As a military spouse, you are capable of juggling many competing priorities, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Be kind to yourself. There may be some activities you have to give up while pursuing your academic program. I had to reduce my volunteer hours and social activities. I often missed weekend events because I was working on school work. I had to learn to say “no” and prioritize what must get done, and what could wait.

Keep your eye on the prize. Imagine what it feels like to complete your degree program. How will your new degree enhance your skills set or propel you into a new career? When life gets busy you may have to remind yourself why you are going to school. It’s not an easy task to balance being a military spouse, mom, working professional, AND student – but I know you can do it!

Have you had multiple things to juggle in your military life to finish school? Share your story with us in the comments!

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information Manager

In Their Words: September 11th Through MilKids’ Eyes

Fourteen years have passed since the sunny Tuesday morning that would change our nation forever. As we reflect each year on the lives lost that day, and the years following in our nation’s longest war, there are some who haven’t seen the history unfold for themselves.

Many military kids weren’t alive when September 11, 2001 happened, though many of their parents joined the military as a result of the attacks. Many have seen their parent deploy, miss birthdays, even miss the birth of other children.

Some military kids may not have lived through our nation’s darkest day, but they’re left to grow up in it’s wake.

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Content Development Manager