Over my time with the military I have met many spouses who struggle with the choice to follow their husband (or wife) to the next duty station. Some even question whether to move closer to family during a long deployment. It is never an easy decision to make and I believe there really never is the right choice; there will always be a sacrifice of some kind. It ranges from pulling children from a school they love and have lots of friends to staying put and being separated from your spouse to braving the baby times alone because after all it’s only nine months. I can’t give you tips on when to stay or when to go, that decision to entirely to personal and everyone’s situation is different. I will, however, give you tips to help you come closer to making that decision.
1. List the pros and cons! When you are sitting down as a couple to write this list consider topics like military benefits, command support, how separation will effect the family dynamic and living near family. Talk about this list of pros and cons with your children if they are old enough to understand. Ask them for a list, too. Children often see life very differently from adults.
2. Talk with other spouses about the choices they made. What was it like for them? The good and the bad! So many times the grass looks greener but then we get there and it isn’t. Talking with other people who were faced with the same challenging decision can help give you perspective you may not have thought about.
3. Seek counseling at FFSC or the Chaplain (or other trusted religious leader). It can be really hard to be separated from your spouse and sometimes this has to happen. Counseling will help you both come to peace with this fact or maybe it will show you a different path that suits you better. Lots of emotions are at play when you are faced with either staying or going and talking to a unbiased person can help take the emotion out of the decision.
4. Have a family meeting! As the parent staying behind during a 15 month deployment you may be thinking there is no way I am staying here alone but your children may be heart broken to leave their friends, school and home. Or, you may not want to pull or child from their current school but your GEO BAT spouse may be devastated at thought of living for three years without his/her family. It is important that everyone’s voice is heard. Even if you have to tell your child that you in fact will leave for that time but not to worry you will be back when daddy comes home.
5. See a financial counselor or Command Financial Specialist. Your youngest has one more year till graduation and you want to stay because it’s only one year. Then you figure out the finances and realize you will be paying for a mortgage plus an apartment and all the bills on both. YIKES! Those bills can pretty overwhelming but it may be possible so sit down with an expert and figure it out before you kiss your hubby good-bye.
At this point in time I will always follow my husband because my feeling for myself is that I didn’t get married to be a single parent. However, that feeling isn’t always so cut and dry and we haven’t been faced with a possible transfer when our youngest is close to high school graduation. I would also never move back home during a deployment. For me and my children I find staying in a consistent routine more important and just visiting my family frequently. Again, this isn’t the best choice for everyone. As parents we must always assess our families and their needs and make the decision based on that. We are all different and will react differently to the same situation. And then of course no matter how unhappy you are with the decision ultimately made, you will put on your big girl (or boy ) pants and follow or stay and take it one day at a time realizing that we can do it, because let’s face it, military spouses wear suits of armor and can handle any battle the military sends us into!