There are some military cliches you here about that are actually pretty true: we are good at moving, our kids switch schools multiple times throughout their education, and our laundry piles are bigger than most civilian households. But then there are some stigmas that only ring true for some of us, like the fact that some of us enjoy moving while a few never experience “the itch.” Here are 10 military mindsets I’ve heard tossed around, but that never sat well with me. This post is entirely opinion, so feel free to disagree with me.
1. Don’t Buy Nice Things Until You Leave the Military
I definitely have trust issues when I see the movers snatch up my wedding dress and it gets sealed into a faceless generic box, mixed with all my others on a big moving truck that may or may not have a second shipment on it. But I don’t let the concept of moving every few years keep me from decorating the way I want to, or owning things I want. Granted, I think being a military family requires a dosage of detachment from material things. And at the end of the day, moving will always come with a small price to pay (bye, bye, dryer machine foot, you were good to me).
But by in large, you can own beautiful things and decorate as audaciously as you want. Because life is definitely too short to be living in decorating limbo for years and years. It’s okay to hold off from buying a glass table or a ridiculously expensive and large vase. But don’t condemn yourself to plasticware only, or the same sofa you’ve owned since college. It’s okay to buy new things. Even if the Army breaks a few of them. It’s still worth it, to me.
2. Don’t Have Kids Until You Leave the Military
I hear this one all. the. time. And I never ask people to tell me why they aren’t having kids–I don’t think it’s any of my business! But since countless people have looked me in the eyes and told me (while I’m holding my own baby) why they think the military is an unsuitable lifestyle for a family, I think it’s fair for me to say why I have found it extremely suitable.
First off, it’s a myth that the “dad” is never home. True, he deploys and other dads don’t. But he gets a LOT of compensation time off that civilian dads don’t get. And the thing about how kids are too expensive to afford on a military salary? Our babies are free. (Like the actual birth part). And from there on out, they get 100% free healthcare. There is on-post childcare, and some of it is tailored to the family’s income. And obviously free we have free schools. Not to mention, you make plenty of money in the military to support a family. It’s called dependent pay for a reason! Kids aren’t more expensive in a military family, bottom line.
Yes, living in a military family may come with sacrifices (unique stress, frequent relocating, etc) but it also comes with amazing benefits (experiencing all of the USA instead of just one hometown, bonding with siblings as you move, appreciating the presence of your parents, etc.) I think the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. So to any childless critic who thinks that military families can’t survive– try it out and you’ll see how wonderful it actually is. That’s coming from someone who actually has kids!
3. Don’t Live On-Post
I’ve lived off-post and I’ve lived on-post. They definitely both have their benefits. And while I do recognize and appreciate the benefits of living off-post, I prefer being on-post. I don’t share the mindset that you’re selling your soul to the military if you live on-post. Sure, your neighbors are often your co-workers. And you bump into the same people frequently around base. But I don’t agree with the stigma of on post housing being “dumpy” and “dated.” Some are old. Some are dumpy. But many aren’t.
Many are wonderful, and I’ve had friends tell me their on-post house is much nicer than the one they could afford when they were civilian. And while you might be able find a better deal off-post, you can also spend WAY more than your BAH off post if you’re not careful. I think some people are afraid that if they live on-post, they have somehow surrendered themselves to the military completely, and no longer will have a “normal” life. Well, unfortunately normal went out the window the day your soldier went to Basic! haha So living far away from post still won’t change anything. I’ve found that embracing the lifestyle is better than running away from it.
4. I’m Totally Independent
“They can call me a ‘dependent’ but I’m actually super independent and have a life outside the Army.” You’d be surprised how many people not only live by this creed, but take immense pride in not being “one of us.” I definitely don’t think there is anything wrong with having a professional career, making a great salary, taking care of a family, staying home with the kids, or having an extremely busy volunteer schedule while married to a soldier. But the truth is–you can’t reverse the fact that you are the military dependent. That’s what you legally are. You are provided for like you’re a dependent. The military support networks wants to be there for you. Your soldier gets different considerations/pay simply because of your presence. No matter how many different ways you try to beat the system or not look like you’re a part of it, at the end of the day you’re a dependent. Luckily for me, I don’t mind!
5. Be the Tough Cookie of the Family
It’s true, you have to know who to vent to, and when. For instance, venting to your spouse in a letter during his first week of Basic Training is a bad idea. And telling your unsupportive relative that you miss him and are having a hard time coping without him is probably an invitation to a fight. But, I think a lot of spouses feel the need to bury everything and be the strong one. But shutting down your feelings when you’re around your soldier for the sake of “protecting him” only builds walls as the years go by.
Of course you don’t want to be that spouse that begs him to get out of the Army every few months. And you don’t want to throw a stink when it’s time to move, even though you finally made a group of friends. But still, realize that as a human you are entitled to emotions and in a marriage, it’s fundamentally important to share those with your spouse. There is no award in the military for “least emotional spouse.” So yes, while excerising prudence is all part of the military sacrifice, don’t “grin and bear it” for 10+ years or you might be creating an interior bitterness that will only snowball down the road. Be tough, but don’t take it upon yourself to have “that role” for your family in all situations, for all reasons, for all times. Sometimes cookies crumble too. It’s okay.
6. It’s Us vs. Them
I know this is literally the most delicate topic in the military, so I won’t go too into detail here. I will simply say that I have been on both sides of the fence (my husband served as an enlisted soldier and now as an officer) and I have been treated well and shunned by both sides when I was on the opposite. However, more importantly, I have been extremely accepted and befriended by women whose husbands were different ranks than mine.
Unfortunately, some wives have a bad experience with another spouse and rank ends up playing an unnecessary role in the blame-game. And both walk away with a bias against the other “type” of spouse. But it’s wrong. And it’s definitely not everywhere. It is 100% possible to stick with military traditions (observing rank in a work setting, etc.) while still being completely neighborly, professional, and female. Please don’t let someone’s bad attitude make you distrust an entire “type” of spouse, whether it’s enlisted or officer. Yes, they have different “roles” in the family team building environment because their husbands have different roles in the workplace. But treat each spouse you encounter as a new experience–don’t let someone else’s mistakes ruin another’s innocence! I don’t think the real Army family sees it as Us vs. Them, just certain individuals who don’t want to be part of the family at the end of the day.
7. I Didn’t Sign Up for This, He Did
Yes, he did! But we did too. For better or for worse– that really describes the military in a nutshell! haha True, at the end of the day, he wears the rank and you definitely don’t. (see above) But there is no “washing your hands clean” of the military once he joins. Remember “normal” going out the window? There are things expected of you (like spousal positions in the military family team building world). When he deploys, you go through every. single. day. of. it. The money you share goes towards new boots, as well as your new heels. To quote the 15th Cavalry Regiment– All for One, One for all!
8. Wardrobe Sharing is Okay
Not so fast. This is definitely an opinion thing on my part, and totally a pet peeve thing. I completely understand the attraction to wearing “his clothes” and feeling cute. But military uniforms aren’t high school football jerseys. And while it isn’t likely for a soldier to wear his PTs in combat–it’s still part of “the uniform.” A uniform that men and women have been buried in. That have died in. That died and were buried in that uniform for you. Please don’t play dress up and wear his clothes. I can’t think of anything more embarrassing then being out in public like that and to have a mourning veteran ask you to change. Unless you serve in it, don’t wear it.
9. The Healthcare Stinks
I don’t think I’ve ever, in my entire life, heard of someone complain about the cost of our healthcare. 🙂 You can’t get much better than free! haha But I have heard people rail on our options, especially our military hospitals, and say how horrible it is to be chained to this kind of healthcare. Maybe I’m just brainwashed since I’ve only been “off” of military healthcare for 2 months of my life. But really–it’s not that bad.
I’ve delivered babies in military hospitals, gone to the emergency room, received vaccines, etc. There is nothing inferior about our hospitals or options. If there is some kind of proceeding needing to be done that can’t be done at our hospitals, we simply receive a referral to go off-post for that issue. Like, really– military hospitals are great. I can’t speak for every doctor, and certainly not every staff member (because yes I have met horrible ones)…but that kind of variety of poor to absolutely excellent exists in any large hospital. In short, our healthcare doesn’t stink.
10. Our Families are Strict, Punctual, and Disciplined
Let me put it to you this way– a toddler is a toddler. Army brat toddlers aren’t any better at speaking softly or not breaking things than their civilian counterparts. They certainly don’t listen better, inherently. I think the stigma comes from the fact that adults with military bearing often expect the same thing from their children. And that can be true in lots of families. I’ve definitely seen “squared away families.” But it’s not always the case. I remember my college friends being shocked that I was always “the late one” even though I was the Army brat. Some of my fellow military friends “discipline” their children with gentle reminders and soft voices. Even if we wish we were punctual and on top of things, some military families just aren’t. My husband is the soldier, we are his happy dependents, and my toddler is still a toddler. She still colors on walls…it’s just that her crayon is Army Green. 🙂
*Read next: 10 Things I Learned During Our First “Real” PCS*