We’re often a minority in our community since we are a military family. Many people we know don’t understand our lifestyle, our benefits, the occasional drawbacks, the stress.
How to handle the stress of military life when no one seems to understand…and suggestions to help a military family.
This is all that matters. This makes it all worth it. We count it all a privilege.
As a military daughter, at least I knew what I was getting into when I married my husband. My grandfather was retired Navy and my dad is retired Army (hooah!), and I’ve never known a time I couldn’t pass the gates of a military installation or shop at a BX/PX or commissary. Service members in uniform are normal for me. Acronyms were regular vocabulary in my house when I was growing up. It was a normal lifestyle for me. Vacations centered around visiting battlefields and history museums. I don’t regret any of it.
My husband is a lab officer in the Air Force. It’s not much different for me than when I grew up with my dad being a Chief Warrant Officer in the Army. Being an officer’s wife has its ups and downs. I think too many wives wear their husband’s rank. They think they deserve the same privileges their husbands earned. So sad. I’ve had to separate myself a lot from base life and focus on my family. Perhaps at some point, I can feel it’s appropriate to participate in spouse groups or PWOC, but it’s not a priority right now.
There’s a lot of stress in military life.
Some don’t realize the strict (and often arbitrary) weight and physical fitness requirements in the military. My father was forced into early retirement over it. Both my dad and my husband are big guys. The military doesn’t take into account body type. A skinny ectomorph has the same standards to meet as a stocky endomorph. My husband stresses over the PT tests…diet and exercise haven’t always come naturally to him. Recently, he changed his lifestyle to embrace Whole30 and he lost 30 pounds in a couple months! He goes to the gym at least four mornings a week, so he’s in bed by 9 PM. We’re continuing as a family to embrace a whole and clean foods diet and we use essential oils for health and well-being. We’re on no medications at all anymore! Aaron still stresses over excelling in his run, sit-ups, and push-ups, but it’s easier now. And he looks so much better and more professional in his uniform now. I’m so proud of him!
Of course, there’s the whole issue of moving around. We PCS or move to a different base every 2-4 years. We’ve gotten the feeling that some folks don’t want to make an effort to be friends since they know we’ll leave in a while. Moving is a hard time on the kids and cats especially. The packers come and the movers take our stuff. We travel to our new location and wait for our stuff. We cite a claim for the broken or missing items. We’re anxious about our move next year, not knowing where we might go and knowing we will miss our friends here so terribly much. We’ve never felt so much a part of community as we have in our current location. We could come back here for sure! Each location is an adventure. We trust God for all the details.
We’ve been lucky in that my husband has only experienced one deployment in his career so far. He served in Afghanistan two years ago. As a medical officer, he saw some horrible things, but he was probably safer in the hospital than most out in the field. We are proud to help our world be a safer place in this way. We gladly sacrifice our comforts and time together to help others have a home where they can feel safe too
The kids did surprisingly well during the seven long months of having Daddy away on the other side of the world. We at least got to email and Skype frequently. We sent occasional care packages with the items he requested – peanut butter, hot sauce, spices, and a few toiletries. Tori had the hardest time and didn’t want to go to bed. Often, it was easier to let her sleep with me than fight it. There was the constant worry hanging in the air and I did my best to comfort, pray with each child, encourage, distract. The kids were granted pillows with Dad’s picture from an organization on base. They slept with it at night. It was a cold comfort.
The hardest part of deployment for me was that, because we homeschool, I had no break from the house or kids – for seven months, seven days a week. The few people who offered to help didn’t really ask me what I needed, but offered to shovel my snowy driveway, or wanted to come to my house and watch my kids so I could go out (and I had nowhere to go). I would have preferred they offer to take my kids to the park for an hour or out for ice cream so they had a break from me.
Liz was a strong big sister who helped me so much when I was tired or overwhelmed.
Some people say they don’t know how I do it. They say they couldn’t. I say: it’s our life. We chose this. We live it. It’s everyday for us. We’re thankful. We’re grateful for the opportunities our family experiences. It makes us stronger. It shows us we need God, to rely on Him for our strength in times of stress.
We get to teach our kids a greater respect for our country and to pray for our leaders, our government, our military, others around the world…it is our honor and privilege.
My house is moving more and more toward a state of absolute chaos.
It takes extra effort to handle stress during a military move.
We move out of the country next month. My husband works for the United States Air Force and we get to PCS (Permanent Change of Station) again. We’re all both excited and nervous to be moving to a foreign country.
My canisters that held flour, sugar, and cornmeal are washed and sitting on my kitchen desk, amidst art supplies and empty canning jars. One side of our garage is being used to store items for our garage sale next week. Our music room holds stacks of books, china, and keepsakes that we’re putting into storage. The playroom is no more as the toys are delegated to bedrooms for packing.
Our schoolroom has a pile for our yard sale and a pile for storage. I struggle to reign in the children as they scatter items and confuse my piles! My desk is a mess – with papers, books, reviews, and checklists that must be completed by this date or that.
I dread going through the cellar and sorting holiday items and my husband’s military stuff.
My son is most upset by the schedule disruptions, selling our truck, organizing, preparation for our yard sale, and all the various preparations we make every time we move. He was only a couple months old last time, so he has nothing to base this on. He doesn’t know what moving is. He cries that he simply cannot part with this boardbook or that toy.
I’m trying to homeschool as much as I can to keep a sense of normality to our schedules. The girls are finishing up curriculum.
I’m just. so. tired – ready to be done with the whole process this year. Ready for change. Ready to fast-forward and have all the stress done and be in Germany, ready to begin a new life.
Every few years, we start over.
New base, new town, new church, new schedule, new rhythm. While it’s very exciting, it can be a little disconcerting for introverts. It takes me longer than some to get comfortable, to grow to know people well. I joke with my husband that by the end of a tour, I’m finally reaching a comfort zone and then we’re wrenched away before it’s actually within my grasp.
Isn’t God like that? He seems to like to keep us out of our comfort zones. He wants us to fully depend on Him.
We’ve learned so much about what it is to fully rely on God during our moves all over the country and now out of the USA.
This time, we’ve actively prayed as a family for our PCS process from the very beginning this year, from little bitty things to the bigger things. God cares about it all! So far, it’s gone amazingly smoothly and it’s drawn us closer to each other and to God. All the people who process our information and paperwork have been kind and helpful. Dates work out well. Travel plans are convenient.
But there’s still stress. I feel so much is out of my control and it pains me. I try to maintain our meal plans, especially with clearing the freezer and pantry! I use essential oils to stay balanced. We take supplements and exercise to help us stay healthy and it helps when life’s ups and downs cause excess stress.
I can reduce clutter. Stress is still there if I don’t pray through this transition.
I know God is in control.
Evenings are spent discussing Germany, learning the language on apps, and imagining all the yummy food we’ll try and fun places we’ll see.