A friend of mine recently became engaged to her own serviceman (many congratulations to her) and it got me thinking about what I encountered as a new military wife. What did I have to get used to? What did I have to learn? What would I tell someone about to embark on this adventure? Now this is by no means everything. There are plenty of books for those wanting a more thorough introduction to the life of a military spouse. These are just my own thoughts, trying to hit some of the important stuff, some of the practical stuff, and still keep it short and sweet.
Be flexible. The life of a military wife is all about flexibility and adapting to whatever situation is being thrown at you. Things can and will change at the last minute. Deployments will be canceled, moves will change schedule or destination, etc. Just roll with it, do what needs to be done, and if you can do it with a smile, so much the better.
Accept the expectation that the mission comes first. This will mean your husband is sometimes going to work early or staying late. There will be missed dinners, birthdays, anniversaries. This is just a fact of military life. This also means that part of your job is to support your husband by keeping things running smoothly in your home life so he can focus on his job and the mission. Now this doesn’t mean you have to become a housewife, but it does mean you should expect to handle more matters on the home front than you may if you were in civilian life.
Be self-sufficient. You should be able to handle every aspect of your life (both yours individually and as a couple) on your own. You need to be capable of handling finances, housing issues, medical situations, etc., without your husband. More likely than not, there will be some point where he goes on a deployment or a temporary duty assignment and you are left to take care of everything at home whether you like it or not. A caveat to this however, is that when the deployment or temporary assignment is over, especially if it’s been a long one, it is important to make sure your husband knows you still need him. Just because you can handle everything when he’s gone, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to when he comes home.
Be involved. For me, staying busy helps separations go by easier. Join a spouses’ group, volunteer or have a job, be involved in a church if you are so inclined. If you have children, find a playgroup or be involved at your kids’ school. You’ll have something to keep you busy, and, hopefully, also gain a support system. There are times you will feel like it’s all too much and you can’t do it, and when that happens, having people to talk to and some understanding ears can be invaluable. Of course, being involved doesn’t just apply to when your husband is gone. Being involved wherever you are, regardless of your husbands deployment status, lets you meet people and have opportunities to do things just for you. Trust me, you will more than deserve them.
Every base is different. While some things will be the same from one base to another, every base will have its own “flavor” so to speak. You will like some bases more than others. Also, you could find many good friends at one base, and then move to a new one where you have casual friends and people to socialize with, but not bff’s. Just keep in mind that while you’re a military wife any living situation is temporary. If you don’t like one base, you’ll probably be moving to a new one in a few years.
Get organized. Life comes with plenty of paperwork, military life only adds to that and constant moves make being organized a requirement. Have multiple copies of important documents such as medical records, birth certificates, your marriage license, etc., and store them in various places. Have a set kept with you, but consider having copies kept with a trusted family member, just in case. NEVER let important papers get packed in move. Boxes get lost or damaged. I have an expandable file folder that can fit in a backpack for our important papers, and during a move it stays with my person at all times. Note, backpack size = airplane carry-on size.
You will learn to speak acronym. PCS, FRG, DitY, LES… The military loves its acronyms. At first you may feel like you’ve fallen into a bowl of alphabet soup, but you’ll get the hang of it. If you get confused, ask your husband, another spouse, or just Google it. Soon you’ll be speaking acronym with the best of them.*
Don’t go to the commissary on payday. This may seem trivial, but trust me, do whatever you can to avoid going to the commissary (your on-base grocery store) on payday. There is no such thing as a “quick grocery run” on payday. This is one of those things that is pretty consistent from base to base. I know there will be times where you have no choice but to go on a payday, however try to avoid it as much as possible. Your sanity and goodwill towards your fellow man will thank you.
*PCS – Permanent Change of Station, FRG – Family Readiness Group, DitY – Do it Yourself (in reference to a move), LES – Leave and Earnings Statement. See, you’re already learning. : )