Tag Archives: military spouses

Alone for Thanksgiving? Think Again!

My husband left to a remote location for an entire year. I knew this was going to be extremely hard for me; I was all alone, with two children, in a place that was not home to me. To top it all off, the holidays were coming. I had never really been alone for the holidays. Money was tight and we even welcomed a baby just a couple of weeks earlier. I had to decide if I really wanted to stay where I was, or go home for the holidays.

This place, I called it, this miserable and awful place.  I was lonely, depressed, and downright stressed out. Let’s not forget exhausted! Don’t get me wrong, the military base where we were stationed was nice, and the military families were very friendly, but it still didn’t feel like home. I hoped my family would fly out and rescue me but no one could make it–not my mom or my in-laws.

I guess I was staying there for Thanksgiving. My kids wouldn’t know it was a holiday, right? What do they know about Thanksgiving, anyway? I thought to myself, “I will just make a TV dinner and call it a day.” Wrong! My four year old asked, “Mommy, when are we getting the turkey?” I responded with, “Not this year, sweetie.”

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The look on his face was like I killed his puppy. So, I had to change that answer with, “First thing tomorrow morning!” Great, so now I have to buy a turkey, cook it and eat the turkey! I wondered how a four year old knew anything about Thanksgiving. But it was clear: he learned from school, and the TV. In his preschool, they made a turkey out of construction paper. When he watched television, they constantly advertised about Thanksgiving. My four year old won and I would be making a turkey that he would probably barely eat.

The next day, I am in the commissary shopping for the turkey, and I see my neighbor. I quickly say hello and continue shopping. “So, what are you guys doing for the holidays?” she asked, all chipper.

Do I lie, and pretend I have plans?

“I am doing nothing,” I said.

Wait…is she giving me the face? You know, the I-feel-sorry-for-you face. Before, I could tell her not to feel bad for me, she came really close, leaned in and whispered, “I’m alone, my husband is gone, and I’m stuck doing absolutely nothing, too.”

Now, I’m giving her the face, right back. We just started laughing, and after a minute, she said to me, “Hey! Why don’t we have dinner together?”

Now that sounds like a great plan.

We invited more military spouses, who were spending Thanksgiving alone, too. Everyone made their own side dish and I cooked the turkey, of course. As we sat down and ate, I thought, to myself, “My husband isn’t here, but I do have my military family.”

If you are feeling alone for the holidays, talk to your fellow military spouses. You never know, you could be buying and cooking the turkey this year, after all!

Do you have a memorable holiday spent with fellow military families? Share it with us!

Posted by LaTanya Roldan, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse, Mountain Home, Idaho

From Corporate to Cul de Sac: Transitioning from an In-Office Job to Working from Home

Three years ago I left my first post-grad job to move to Fort Hood, Texas. After working a retail job for a few months, I found a job at the corporate headquarters of a global technology company. I spent the first few months of the job commuting an hour to and from our home and then, with a deployment looming, we moved closer to my job. The next two years I worked every day in the corporate office, networking, building relationships and getting to know the city.

Then we got the PCS news. Unfortunately for me, my job is not traditionally a remote role. There are very few exceptions made for employees that “need” or “want” to work remotely, and the most recent requests had been denied. I had to make sure my remote request was timed perfectly.

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I set out my objectives and planned. I needed to:

  1. Get my manager/leadership on board to advocate on my behalf for remote work. Every military spouse with career aspirations should have an advocate and mentor within their current job, as well as in their network, to provide career advice.
  2. Write a detailed business case. I referenced Joining Forces, which my company is a part of, as well as the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, DoD rules regarding “Geo-bachelor” moves, and blogs written by my own company giving accolades to the benefits of remote work. These resources helped bring the importance of military spouse employment into the forefront.
  3. Research work from home jobs on FlexJobs.com as well as jobs local to our new location as a back-up plan. Military spouses registered with NMFA get 70% off a one-year subscription to FlexJobs!
  4. Decide if working from home is the best option for me and my career.

There are obvious benefits  to remaining gainfully employed every time you PCS, like the financial benefits. But there are downsides, too. Because my job isn’t traditionally remote, promotions would be difficult and moving from an in office role to a remote role, I would lose a lot of that valuable face time necessary to grow my career. I talked to people in my office who had done a work from home “pilot” program, and the reviews were mixed. Some thought working remotely was saying goodbye to any career growth. Others thought there was no way people could be productive while working remotely. And some thought it would be great and knew their productivity would surge if they could work from home.

Two weeks after we moved, I was still working in the corporate office to finish out the quarter. My manager and director called me in to let me know that I was approved to work from home based on my performance, and they set the guidelines and expectations for working remotely.

I decided to take the work from home opportunity and continue developing myself at my company. I have been working from home for 3 months and overall I am happy with my decision. My productivity has increased tremendously, my day is still structured like a regular work day, and I attend meetings virtually. Thankfully, I had over 2 years to form relationships with my teammates and build my network. Sometimes I do feel isolated being at home all day so I would encourage anyone considering work from home opportunities to get out and get involved in the community, as well as build a network at your new duty station.

Have you ever gone from a corporate office to the cul-de-sac to work remotely? What are the pros and cons you experienced?

Posted by Lesley Boatright, NMFA Volunteer and Army spouse, Fort Benning, GA

When Waiting Gets Old

It’s no secret that military family life involves a whole lot of hurry-up-and-wait. Quickly: pack up, prepare, make decisions, fill out paperwork, unpack…then, wait.

Oh, how many things there are to wait for!

Maybe you’re waiting on orders; it’s so easy to wonder why receiving PCS orders can take so long. We think, “If we could just get that Request For Orders, then I can start researching housing and schools and preschool ballet classes and whether the PX is any good.” Until then, you can only wonder, “Are we going overseas or staying in the US? Should I stock up on warm winter clothes for the kids because we might go to Alaska, or should I invest in lots of shorts because we’re moving to Florida?”

Or maybe you are so very tired of waiting for the delivery of your household goods in the middle of a move. Paper plates and creative adaptations of take-out are just not cutting it anymore. It’s been weeks since you slept in your own bed. You need some flatware, picture frames, and the calm of knowing every important box made it to the next location.

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Even after you’ve settled into a new community, you might still be living life in limbo, waiting for a return to normalcy. Maybe you are tired of waiting for that perfect job to come available near your new home. Or, perhaps you find yourself waiting to make the group of friends that you’ve hoped for. You’ve hung up that “Welcome Home” sign, but it just doesn’t feel like home yet. So you wait.

Watching the clock tick day after day is almost never as annoying and stressful as when waiting for a deployed spouse to come home. Homecoming feels so far away sometimes. During deployment we find ourselves waiting for the chance to relax again, breathe again, sleep well at night again, and feel whole again…which only happens when they finally make it home.

It’s easy to be discouraged when waiting gets old. It’s exhausting and frustrating. So much of our lives as military spouses are outside our own control.

It is the waiting that often connects the seasons of our lives, drawing bridges between what was, what is now, and what will be. One thing I know for sure: though waiting is uncomfortable, it somehow has the capacity to make us stronger, and more resilient. It can be irritating, but it can also be challenging. And waiting can help fuel anticipation for new chapters of our lives.

To the military spouses who are waiting for something, know this: waiting is itself a season, and seasons change. Hang in there. That RFO, your household goods, great new friends, and the day that you call a new place, “home,” are just around the corner!

How do you get through the waiting seasons? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

teresa-bannerPosted by Teresa Banner, military spouse and NMFA Volunteer

Survive and Thrive: Scott Air Force Base

Scott Air Force Base (SAFB) is located in Illinois, just 30 minutes outside St. Louis with access to all the perks that come with a big city. A plethora of restaurants and retail stores can be found both in the heart of St. Louis, as well as the surrounding cities. Eureka, a city neighboring St. Louis, offers a Six Flags theme park. There’s historical attractions, including museums and attractions dedicated to the Arch as well as Lewis and Clark’s expedition that went through St. Louis.

There are lots of great housing options available in St. Louis, as well as the cities and towns on the outskirts. Some of the great neighboring towns that are within a ten minute drive are: Lebanon, Mascoutah, Swansea,  Summerfield, Belleville and many more depending on the commute preferred.

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Endless options of churches and organizations to get involved in

For the service members and family who desire a church home there are hundreds within a few short miles of base, as well as a chapel located on Scott. There are also multiple organizations you can join to make you feel connected.

There are excellent school systems with many extra curricular activities. For the families that homeschool–there any many homeschool co-ops. Illinois also happens to be one of the more homeschool-friendly states and has very few laws to restrict families from doing so. For the military spouses there are fantastic women’s groups on base, as well as MOPS groups, too!

Great for families or single service members

The single service members will have plenty to keep them busy. There are museums, theaters, clubs, and bars. There are also major sports leagues for the avid sports fan including soccer, hockey and baseball.

Appealing to both the families and single service members, there are many farmers markets and public farms to enjoy, as well as large flea markets in the nearby towns.

St. Louis and other nearby cities have endless opportunities for the family. With a jump zone getting ready to open in Fairview Heights and one located a little farther over the Mississippi River. The St. Louis Zoo is a free exhibit and was recently voted as the top free attraction in the U.S. The children’s museum and science museum are located within a few miles of each other, and there will also be an aquarium opening inside the St. Louis Union Station soon.

So, what about the base?

SAFB is a decent size installation with many comforts and amenities. There are a few restaurants located right on base including McCalisters, which just opened. It also features a nice size BX and Commissary. It has a dog park, airman’s attic, thrift store, and library. The base also includes a community outdoor pool and bowling alley. On-base housing has a few different neighborhoods and schools for families to call home while stationed there.

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Scenic places nearby

While Scott may not have mountains or beaches, it does have some scenic places within a few hours that are worth visiting. From amazing hiking trails like Pere Marquette and beautiful lakes such as Carlyle Lake, the outdoor person will have plenty to do, but will have to drive an hour or two to enjoy them.

The downsides

There are some things that we don’t love so much about being stationed at Scott. One of which is the lack of outdoor things to enjoy–nearby mountains, beaches, and other beautiful things just aren’t there. Since Scott is not next to any major bodies of water, there seems to be little explanation for the constant and sometimes overwhelming humidity. But the largest and most common complaint people have with SAFB is the medical group. Many have reported that they are slow and unorganized. Those who live on base often complain the housing isn’t as nice, or as durable as other housing they have lived in, and sometimes dealing with maintenance can be a challenge.

Final Grade

Many families enjoy living at Scott. While it’s often not their favorite installation, it isn’t the worst. Many retirees enjoy SAFB so much they come back here to stay. There is much to enjoy in St. Louis as well as neighboring towns and on Scott. Just keep expectations reasonable when dealing with the medical group and this Air Force installation will feel like home in no time.

Has your family ever been stationed at Scott Air Force Base? What would you add to this list?

mandi-verlanderPosted by Mandi Verlander, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse

When Separating From the Military Unexpectedly Becomes Your Reality

When a service member separates from, or even considers a life outside of the military, it affects the entire family. Regardless if it is by choice, or because of the “up or out” policies of the military, it still can take a major toll on everyone involved.

Just a few months ago our family was anxiously awaiting the results of the most recent promotion boards. My husband has always planned on making the Air Force his first career, and I was anxiously awaiting my first opportunity to “pin on” his next rank (the last time he promoted was during a deployment). Then the day finally came when the promotion list was released.

My husband’s name was not on the list. The military had thrown us another curve ball and I found myself flooded with a range of emotions.

I felt angry, frustrated, and confused. My husband and I both knew there was a chance he wouldn’t make the next rank due to an incident that happened nearly eight years prior. But I had convinced myself that him being worried about not making it was just his normal way of underestimating himself. I never once thought he wouldn’t be on the promotion list.

It didn’t take long for those first emotions to take a back burner to fear. I found myself worried about everything. When people would ask how my husband was holding up after the news, I always said, “You know him, just getting his ducks in a row and giving work 110 percent like always.”

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I tried to play it off like this setback was no big deal. Then a close friend asked how I was feeling about all of it. I tried to act like it didn’t really effect me–since it was happening to my husband, not me. But my friend saw right through it. She pointed out that if he did separate, it would impact all of us.

When I left my job to put my husband’s career first, I put faith in the notion that my husband’s career could support our growing family. But now with his career in question, I was suddenly overwhelmed with feelings of what comes next? And you know the worst part? I didn’t want to share my fears with my husband, because I didn’t want to make him feel any worse than he already did.

I know if he does separate in the near future he will find a job he loves, he will find a new way to serve the military and our family will keep moving forward. We’ll adjust, like we always do, but that doesn’t make it any less scary.

In fact, it’s actually had the opposite effect. How are we supposed to know what to do next with our lives? We always figured we wouldn’t have much say in our path until my husband reached that magical number of 20 years, so when we talked about having a “normal” life, it always seem so far away.

Even as I say it, the idea of a normal non-active duty military lifestyle sounds terrifying. You would think I would love the idea of no more TDYs, or last minute PCSs. I would embrace the fact that our last deployment could very well be our last deployment.

But instead of being excited about these prospects, I find myself a little lost and confused. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have my husband around and out of war zones, but I know how much he loves to serve. And I would never wish for that to no longer be an option.

In the last couple of months, my husband and I have began working together to tackle all the emotions and concerns that come along with the idea of possibly separating from the military. We’ve made list after list of places we could live, ways he could still serve (i.e. Guard or Reserves), civilian jobs he might be interested in. We’ve researched and discussed each option in depth about what it would mean for both his career and our family. And even though we might not know what will come next, we are a lot more prepared than we’ve ever been in the past.

For all you spouses that find yourself in a similar situation, I have just a few words of advice. Don’t pretend it isn’t affecting you, don’t say you’re okay if you aren’t. Talk openly with your spouse. The first couple of conversations may be tough, but opening the lines of communication will save you many sleepless nights.

Has your service member ever separated unexpectedly from the military? How did your family handle the change?

Posted by Tara O’Meara, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse

Military Mom’s Gym Bag: 4 Excuse-Busting Ways to Get Your Workout Done

As a military wife and stay at home mom, I’ve had to get creative with my workouts over the past few years. With the help of amazing resources on our post, I have been able to get my workouts in and not make excuses. Before parenthood, I would go to the gym whenever I wanted, but now it is a little harder. I have a deep appreciation and love for exercise, because I feel absolutely amazing after a workout. Are you in the same boat? Here are some resources which might be available to help you get your workout in!

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Strollers and Mommy: This is an exercise class where moms come together with their kids in their stroller. I have not personally done this; however, the one on post is taught by a personal trainer. In my location, the first class is free. What a great opportunity to see if it can work for you and your baby! Check out what options are available in your area, and if there aren’t any, consider starting a group!

Community Center Gym: Do you live on post? Well, if you do, you might be able to take advantage of the housing office community center gym. I have used the gyms in my housing community on Fort Hood and Fort Leavenworth. The housing office offers a small gym which has a play area for the kids (though all might not). It’s been a true blessing for this mommy, for sure! I can exercise and watch my kid Monday-Sunday from 5am-10pm. If I want to go when the housing office is closed, I have a key card which allows me to enter. Remember, this is usually a smaller gym, but it should be equipped with cardio and weight training. Thanks to this resource, I am not paying for a gym membership, daycare, and/or extra fees.

MWR Gym:  At this point in my life, I don’t use the MWR gyms as much as I did in the past. However, I do get over there from time to time when my husband can watch my little one, or if she is in preschool. These gyms are much bigger and offer many more machines and activities. Free weights, cardio, weight machines, classes, basketball, and much more all under one roof. Another great reason I use this gym is the sauna and shower. I can work out, use the sauna, shower, dress, and go home. This is a great option, so I can get home and spend more time with the family.

Child Development Centers (CDC) Hourly Care: Once you have been through registration at the CDC, you can reserve spots for your child in hourly care. For a few dollars an hour, your child is looked after. I have used hourly care on several occasions for my three-year-old, and it is a true blessing. There are days when I want to go running or not stop every five minutes with weight training. CDC hourly care is another great option. Plus, it is usually a few streets away from the gym.

Working out takes dedication, even for those without children, but with a little extra effort and resourcefulness, you won’t miss out!

What tips do you have for other military spouses trying to balance parenting and exercise? Share it with us!

Posted by Jessica Richardson, National Military Family Association Volunteer, Fort Leavenworth, KS

Advice For New Moms: Just Kidding, We Know You’re Sick of It

Even on baby #3, it still feels like I can’t get it “right.” Part of that is because every baby is so different. But also, what’s “right” is a moving target. Those books you read 10 years ago? Toss ‘em. That advice your doctor gave you after baby #2? That’s no longer the case either. And every mom you meet is full of advice from their own personal experience.

“Oh he’s not sleeping? Have you tried keeping him up later?”

“You should put him down to sleep earlier.”

“Stop nursing him at night.”

“Definitely nurse him at night. You don’t want your breastfeeding supply to dwindle!”

I have to remind myself the breastfeeders and the formula feeders, the co-sleepers and the never-co-sleepers all want the same thing… happy, healthy babies.

October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month. If you’re a mom, you know about SIDS. It’s our worst fear. Once we finally get over the fear of losing our baby in utero, we move on to this next phase that keeps us up at night (along with the crying newborn).

In honor of SIDS Awareness Month, let’s try something different. I’m not going to tell you to how to take care of your baby or how to create a safe sleep environment. We get enough of that, right? Instead, let’s narrow down the whole conversation to two important points.

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  1. Babies need to breathe.

Mary Adkins, a member of the National Action Partnership to Promote Safe Sleep (NAPPSS) steering committee, agrees that moms get bombarded with enough advice.

“Parents are so tired of everyone telling them what to do and making them feel like a bad parent,” she said. “That just doesn’t work.”

Preach, sister. We are tired of it. I’ve read it all; I have a (sleep-deprived) brain; I can make my own informed decisions.

Keyword: informed.

“If you think about how tiny that nose and mouth really is and how very little it takes to obstruct that. If you can get that visual and always keep the air around your baby’s nose and mouth uncompromised, the other recommendations follow logically,” Adkins said.

  1. Babies will exhaust you in a way you never thought imaginable.

My one year old woke up EVERY HOUR for the first 7 months of his life. Even now, he’s up once a night. The toll this takes on your body and mind is no joke. You make decisions you wouldn’t normally make—letting your baby sleep on your chest while you sleep in a recliner, for example. No judgement, I’ve done it. Is it safe, though? Absolutely not.

“Parents, especially first time parents are pretty stunned about what that baby requires,” Adkins said. “They are not prepared for how different the sleep cycle of an infant is from their own.”

Unfortunately, there’s not a national program to help military spouses with newborn sleep, but there are programs like Mission Sleep taking steps to make a difference.

And here’s something I wish somebody had told me: you’re not going crazy. This is what babies do, and it won’t last forever.

Most importantly—ask for help and accept it when it’s offered.

Military spouses often find themselves in a particularly vulnerable situation: alone with a new baby while their spouse is deployed and their families are across the country.

If you find yourself in this position, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor or your FRG leader about support groups. Take advantage of the military spouse tribe near you.

If you’re like me and you’re still not getting it “right,” don’t worry. That’s what ice cream is for.

What kept you sane during those rough, sleepless nights with your newborn? Share your encouragement in the comments!

besa_2016Posted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director