By Sunshine Burgess
“There is a difference between giving up and knowing when you have had enough.”
One would hope that after several years as a military spouse and quite a few of those spent alone that I would not be quick to judge what people can and should handle. However, I do it. We all do it. As a collective group we are a judgmental group because we have the “been there, done that” attitude and we think that if we are capable of handling the piles upon piles of obstacles that the military throws at us then all spouses should be able to with the same sort of vigor, right?
Often times we are lead to believe that being resilient is about never letting them see you sweat and not getting stressed about situations but that is so far from the truth. Resilience is about doing what you have to do to get through to the other side. Sometimes, getting to the other side means leaving when the active duty member leaves.
Before you get all upset, I don’t mean leaving like walking out on the marriage and filing divorce papers. I mean, leaving as in going “back home” for the deployment. I personally have never done this, but I won’t say I never will. However, if you are considering loading up the wagons and heading West (or whatever direction you may be from), PLEASE, I beg you, please weigh the pros and cons. In fact, I am going to help you do just that!
- Finances. Moves for your convenience and sanity are not paid for by the government. Will you be living with family? Renting a place near family? Will you need to store your household goods? Will you be allowed to keep your home at the installation? If you do, you will still pay rent. If not, you may or may not be given a new home immediately upon your return, if you are returning. If you are planning to live with family, will they expect you to contribute in some way? Pay rent? Groceries?
- Work. Do you have a job? Will you be needing a job when you move home? What is the job market like? Are jobs easy to come by? If you work in retail or the like, you may find it easier to find a job, but if you are more specialized like physical therapy, there may or may not be an opening for you. Is leaving your current job for 3-6 months a good idea or is it worth it to stay to keep the job?
- School. Are you in school? Easy to move if online, but not so easy if you are attending brick and mortar. Bigger question is kids’ school. If you homeschool or if they aren’t school aged, it is much less complicated, but if you have kids in public school it has to be a major factor. Military kids attend on average six different schools in the course of the member’s career, so is adding in one more move/school a good idea?
- Why are you leaving? Are you looking for a support system? Will your parents provide that? Will they provide childcare? Have you considered going from your own home with your own rules back to your parents’ house with their rules? Do you have friends at your installation? Are there programs for deployed families?
- Military Benefits. Is there a military installation near “home”? Will you have access to Tricare approved medical facilities? How far would you have to travel for medical care? If you need an ID renewed, will you have access to an MPF? What if you have an overseas follow-on to a one year remote tour, how will you process PCS paperwork such as medical clearances and government passports?
This is by far not a complete list of the things that should be considered, but most of the high points. I weathered two, one year remotes; one without kids and one with kids. I did not load up and head home. For me, each time had similar and very different reasons. Both occasions, I was happy being on my own. I could not imagine returning home and falling into what would likely be a routine from my childhood. I was a grown woman with my own ideas and I had no desire to conform back to my parents. Benefits played heavily in my decision to stay too. My parents lived an area without easy access to Tricare physicians and 3 hours to the nearest base. With the tour without kids, I had a job I liked in a town I loved. With the one with the kids, I just didn’t want to turn their life upside down one more time. They had school and friends and a house where they were comfortable. Both times, I knew my support system would be stronger staying at the base. I don’t come from a military family, so I spend so much time explaining things to them. With my military friends, I didn’t have to explain things like frustration with the MPF not cutting our orders so I could schedule TMO or giving me the runaround even though I had a POA. They got it and they got it with all the acronyms! Military installations make it a point to take care of their deployed families and offer VIP deals and activities. My kids got to enjoy many fun activities which didn’t take the place of Daddy being gone, but they got a chance to laugh instead of cry.
Everyone has their own reasons for making the decision to stay or go. Each deployment situation is different and next time I could very easily say, I am going home. However, since I struggled through separation so many times before, I can still have the “been there, done that” attitude, the difference would be that the pro/con balance would have changed.