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I’m a Military Spouse, I Don’t Have Kids…And That’s Okay!

Recently, while sitting at a table during a unit party, someone asked me if I had a family.

I really hoped my incredulous look wasn’t too transparent. What a weird question. I think she meant to ask me if I had children. But is that what defines a family? How do you put a label on “family” nowadays with same sex marriage, blended families, kids or no kids, cat-people vs. dog-people (you’re one or the other, let’s be honest)?

Maybe I’m just sensitive to the question. I chose to exercise some self-restraint by replying, “My family is me, my husband, and my dog.” I smiled and chuckled for half a second.

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I’m what some folks like to call a Millennial. Yes, I was born in the ‘80s, I’m focused on my career, social media savvy, and drink green kale smoothies (wait, not everyone my age does that?). I also am choosing not to procreate quite yet.

It’s totally me, I get it.

I’ll try to be less awkward when people ask. It’s all in my head and I’m being overly sensitive, but I think this example just goes to show how the times are changing, even for military families.

I would love children and hope to have some in the future, just not this second. I’m 31 (gasp), which sometimes feel ancient in the military community (when did everyone become younger than me?!), especially because we don’t have kids yet. To someone who does eventually want kids and constantly feels her biological clock ticking away, this gives me minor anxiety. In case you couldn’t tell.

Is it just me or does the average military family have four children? Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but it shocks me when I see someone who looks 21 and has four kids. What, how, when?! Fun fact: where I live, approximately 100 babies are born to military families each month at one Naval hospital. That’s how you compete with China right there!

To any of you out there who might feel a tad similar, these are a few things I’ve learned–and am still learning–as well as a few mantras to say to yourself anytime you are feeling the least bit sad, uncomfortable, anxious, etc. about waiting to have children or choosing to not have them at all.

Stop freaking out!
You want kids or you don’t want kids, who cares?! Not everyone at the table is judging you. You’re your own worst critic. Stop being so hard on yourself.

There’s never a right time.
Hmm, maybe I should work on getting that job with excellent maternity leave first. Or, we’re due to PCS in one year so if we don’t get pregnant ASAP, we’ll just have to wait another year. News flash: life still happens and we should know by now that planning rarely works out in our favor, am I right, MilFams?

There ARE other childless military spouses!
So go ahead, put yourself out there. For the first four months at our new duty station, I thought I’d never find friends who were like me. Everyone I met seemed engrossed in their husbands’ careers, didn’t care about having a job, and/or were solely concerned about their children. I’ve learned that people you meet might have different priorities than you, but you’ll find that many moms and dads who would love a kid-free lunch (babysitters exist for a reason), and many people are taking a sabbatical of sorts due to PCS moves.

Just breath.
Exercise helps too.

Basically, you do you. I say this to my friends back home all the time. Do what you want, when you want, how you want. It’s your life after all, so you choose how to live it each and every day. Some days are easier than others to deal with the hand you’ve been dealt. But I’m naturally optimistic. So today, I’ll choose happiness and let go of my anxieties. As a military spouse, you know we’ve got plenty of them.

What advice would you give other childfree military spouses?

Posted by Nicole Russell, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

Military Money Matters: 5 Simple Financial Goals for the New Year

Ringing in the New Year is a great time to set financial goals and reflect on how you managed your money last year. It’s not always a “fun” task, but it’s a vital one. This year, relax and have a “financial readiness” date night to focus on a few specific goals for 2017. Here are a few to get you started:

Spend Less: We all have essential monthly expenses we focus on, like rent, mortgages, car payments, groceries, child care, and others. But, how much are we spending on these items? If your budget requires more than 50% spending in this category, it’s time to set a goal to reduce these expenses. How do we make that happen when some of these expenses are “fixed?” Clip more grocery coupons, turn your thermostat down a few degrees to lower the bill, ask for discounts on cell phone plans, and bring your lunch to work. These small changes add up, and over time, can bring these regular expenses below that 50% mark!

Save More: Once we’ve reviewed our expenses, the next step is to set a goal to save more. Often times, we look at saving money in a pretty unorganized way–like simply committing to put an extra $50 in the bank here and there. But this often yields unorganized results. So, take a look at your budget and commit to a monthly or bi-monthly savings goal that works for you and your family. Don’t set a goal that’s too strict or large to stick to, simply focus on one that works within your budget and schedule regular automatic transfers from your checking account into the retirement or savings account you select. If you don’t see it, you’re much less likely to spend it!

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Pay Down Debt: Most of us have a variety of debt, like student loans, car loans and credit-card balances. Don’t get overwhelmed as you make your monthly payments on these, and commit to a new debt payment goal for 2017. Simply start with the debt payment with the highest interest rate first. Attacking that will pay dividends because it will save you precious dollars in interest each month!

Set Aside Money for Emergencies: This goal sounds straight forward, but many of us fail to plan for flat tires, broken water heaters, and larger, unplanned emergencies. Commit to setting aside money for emergencies each month and aim for a cash reserve that covers three to six months of expenses. It sounds like a large chunk of change now, but if you chip away at it by saving money each paycheck, it will add up quickly!

Create a Budget and Stick to it: Navigating your finances without a budget is like finding your way to a new duty station without a GPS. Prevent a series of financial wrong turns by creating a financial roadmap that works for you. Analyzing every penny isn’t necessary, so just focus on essential spending (housing, groceries, etc.), savings, and debt reduction. That’ll give you a great start and over the course of the year you’ll build some confidence in your budgeting savvy too!

No matter where 2017 takes you, your financial goals should come along, so taking the time to create ones that work for you is truly priceless!

Are you planning to tackle your finances in 2017? What tips do you use?

meredithPosted by Meredith M. Lozar MHR, AFC, Youth Initiatives Director

 

Throwback Thursday: Halloween Style!

Our Association has been dedicated to supporting and advocating for military families for 45 years…we’re also extremely dedicated to office contests, and Halloween is no exception! Some departments are already brainstorming and getting their winning costume together for the 2014 contest. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see what we come up with!

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In this throwback from 2010, our departments went all out to win best costume. Who do you think was the winner? The Glee cast? The Three Blind Mice and the Farmer? Or was it the crew of pirates?

 What will your military family be for Halloween? Let us know in the comments!

Losing sleep over your home loan?

Military families: losing sleep over your home loan?Over the past few months, my husband and I have been working with Housing Urban Development (HUD) housing counselors to modify our home loan and learn more about our mortgage options. It has been overwhelming to dig into the nitty-gritty details of the various government programs available to homeowners and to comprehend the fine print of our current mortgage.

Our situation is not unique and I know I’m not the only one losing sleep because of my home loan.

The National Military Family Association has heard from military homeowners across the Nation regarding their struggles with selling a home when they have orders to relocate. When PCS orders arrive, military families too often find their home is worth less than what they owe. In many cases, a LOT less.

While some families find renters, others struggle to maintain two house payments and make ends meets, or are forced to sell at a loss.

To help military families avoid foreclosure, the Treasury Department updated guidance to its Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) Program that may help in some circumstances. HAFA pays incentives for a short sale or a Deed-in-Lieu (DIL) of foreclosure used to avoid foreclosure when a borrower is financially unable to continue to pay their mortgage. Under the guidance, service members who cite a PCS order as the basis for their financial hardship when asking for help under HAFA will now be eligible even if their income has not decreased.

Our Association is continuing to work with policymakers to create better solutions for military homeowners. If you’re a homeowner losing sleep over your home loan, seek help (888-995-HOPE) and learn more about your options. Your sleepless nights might become a thing of the past.

What are your concerns as a military homeowner – could  the HAFA program help you?

hannahPosted by Hannah Pike, Communications Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association