Military wives share many ties that bind. Our mentalities are so similar, because no one understands the highs and lows of our complicated lifestyle better than each other. But when the patch chart says it is our turn to face a deployment, I have noticed that one big decision tends to split us right down the middle.
Should I stay at our current duty station in a military community that understands how it feels to live a deployment? Or should I temporarily relocate back to my childhood home with the support of family?
All military wives, even if just for a moment, contemplate this dilemma. But I do think those of us running the circus of parenthood now with one ringleader rather than two tend to wrestle with it harder and longer. There are are a handful of pros and cons to each option, and my head spun trying to navigate them all when it was my turn. There is no better way to sort through it than to hear first-hand experiences. I hope this collection of real life reflections will help guide those currently sitting at the scary beginning of one of the biggest challenges we face as military moms.
TO STAY"My husband deployed and three weeks later I found out I was pregnant with our first baby. I had a full time job and was going to school, so I had already planned on staying at our current duty station for the length of my husband's deployment. When I found out I was pregnant, my parents wanted me to move back home (California), but my home was in Arizona, and I had a job and friends to help with anything I needed. I decided to stay home, work, and finish school. Our son was due around the same time my husband was to redeploy, so the plan was for my parents to drive to Arizona the second I went into labor and be here for me until my husband came home. Our son was born the day my husband landed, but he missed the birth by like 18 hours. The pros to staying home was I was in the home I made with my husband and our dog. We lived on post so I felt completely safe. I loved my job and school which helped keep me busy and my mind off missing my husband. Minus my husband missing the birth of our first child, I would not do things differently the next time. I have learned that people back home don't always understand the military community and often don't know how to support family members going through a deployment."
-Breanna, Fort Gordon, Georgia
"My husband deployed when our son was 18 months old and returned when he was 27 months old. I decided to stay where we were because we had a great support system. I had a ton of friends and generally loved where we were in terms of our life there. I also wanted the consistency for our son. The biggest reason I chose to stay is because I wanted to still be close to the resources the Army provides when spouses are deployed and to be near our Army family. The biggest positive for me was avoiding the hassle of moving and then moving back, and I was able to be really connected to and involved with the FRG. The biggest negative was that we were not near family at all. But, while being closer to our families would have been great, we weren't lacking in support from our Army family. You really learn how to make the people around you your family. If I had to do it again, I'd absolutely make the same choice. In a way, I already kind of did. I'm 30 weeks pregnant with our second, and my husband is at Ranger school. The next graduation date he would qualify for is 5 days after my due date. I decided to stay here at Fort Benning for many of the same reasons I decided to stay in Kansas. Our Army family takes care of us because everyone knows that you'd do the same for them. Even though I'll most likely deliver our second without my husband, I wouldn't change the decision to stay. Being near our families would be great, but our son and I don't want for anything. All I have to do is ask and someone will help. So, I guess I stay because I want to be able to pay it forward to our Army family when the time comes."
-Jessica, Fort Benning, Georgia
"Our view is wherever we live is 'home'. He and I are from completely different parts of the country. I chose to stay in our military community when my husband deployed for a few reasons. Our daughter was about 4 months old, we have a large dog, and I work full time, so moving to where my parents live would have been a major event in and of itself. We also had been at that post for about a year and had a decent network of friends. Not to say it was easy, I had to find childcare on my own so I could go back to work, but I think that it was the best solution for us. I met some incredible people who became surrogate family. I really feel like the stability was best for our daughter, even though she was so young. She had the same room, same crib, and same routine the entire time he was gone, and I really think it made homecoming that much easier. He was able to give her a bath, bottle, and read to her (he had recorded videos before) the night he got home. To be honest, I am pretty certain I will stay wherever we are living if/when we have the same situation again. I feel like the stability is better for all of us."
"When we found out my husband was going to deploy I was quick to decide that I was going to stay put in our house in Georgia. In the almost six years he's been in the Army we've moved five times, so the last thing I wanted to do was have to move yet again. Instead, I have planned trips to visit home, my in-laws in Houston, and a few Army friends that are scattered throughout the US. To me, my hometown and my parents houses don't feel like 'home' anymore. It always feels as though I'm just visiting. Besides that, my friends at home, although I'm still close with them (and love them dearly) are in a completely different chapter of life than I am. With being a stay at home parent, I have found a community at our current duty station of other stay at home parents who we stay busy with. In New Jersey, all of my friends and family work, so in my eyes it wouldn't provide me the support during the day I would like. I want people to keep us busy, which is much easier in our military community. I think the positives are a military community who understand what you're going through and having your own space. My son is currently one and a half and will be a little over two when my husband gets back. I don't think he even realizes daddy is gone so I think this is a good time for him to be deployed. As for if I would do it this way again, I'll get back to you about that in January, but I don't think I would change anything. Three months down, nine to go."
-Alli, Fort Gordon, Georgia
TO GO"My boys were almost two years and six months old when my husband first deployed. I wasn't working at the time, so we went to Wisconsin. Most of my family is up there and it was a great opportunity for them to spend some time with the boys and the boys to get to know their family. My husband will be deploying again in a short while. The boys are now three and a year and a half with a baby due in August. He will be gone until winter and will miss the birth. I would love to be able to stay at Fort Bragg the entire deployment, but I am not comfortable with my birthing options. We had our second baby in Wisconsin and had an amazing experience. My parents live five minutes from our small town hospital and I was able to have a water birth with a wonderful midwife. Even if my husband was here for the birth, we'd still have the baby in Wisconsin. This deployment we will head to Wisconsin in June and head back to Fort Bragg in September. I'm always ready to go back to my own home after a few months. For me, the negatives of leaving include missing the comfort of my own home during a stressful life transition with a new baby (there is something about your own bed, kitchen, bathroom, and house in general that can't be replicated), missing my friends, packing up everything for three kids and traveling 19 hours with two 100 pound dogs and then traveling back with a new baby, transferring medical providers for me and the kids, having to get someone to watch the house and mow the lawn, and figuring out daycare (either pay to keep their spots or risk losing them). I'm more than happy with our decisions thus far, but as far as going home again for an entire deployment, I don't think I'd ever do that just because it's so much easier to keep everyone happy with a routine."
-Addie, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
"Brian went to Korea for a year straight out of West Point. We got married five days after he came home, and then two weeks later he moved to Fort Lewis. Unfortunately, he joined a unit that was already deployed, so after spending two months at home he deployed to Afghanistan for six months. We had no kids yet, and I was unhappy in my grad school program in Florida, so I ended up leaving the program and moving out to Washington to spend three weeks with him before he left. I didn't know a soul, but I felt like it was important for me to go out there and be 'initiated' (for lack of a better term) as an Army wife. It was my first experience with a deployment, and I felt like it was important to be surrounded by those in a similar situation, to make fast friends with those I could relate to, and to seek comfort in being surrounded by camouflage. I also thought it was an important growing experience for me as a person. I basically have a ton of self confidence now in knowing I can move to a place where I literally know no one and find friends and happiness. It was definitely the right decision for me at the time. My second deployment experience was eight months after Mikey was born. We had just gotten to his new unit at Fort Sill when Brian was selected to replace one of three casualties for the remaining eight months of a deployment. We had 13 days notice, so it was a whirlwind. I hated Fort Sill, had no support network, and the unit lacked communication so I knew immediately that I would move home. It worked out that we had a friend move into our house and paid all the bills and rent. This was the best decision ever. I didn't care that I wasn't surrounded by military, I was with my family in a place that I loved. I had help with Mikey, and I stayed busy. It was a very positive experience and I would do it again in a heart beat. I gave Mikey and my mom a rare opportunity for military families. They bonded so strongly, and I'm thankful they had that chance. It was just great all around."
-Marianna, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
"I'll start off by saying that we chose for me to go home. However, this decision was not easily reached. There were many nights that my husband and I discussed what I would lose and gain from each decision. I have always been very close to my family and my husband's family. So spending time with them while my husband was away seemed like the perfect fit. On the flip side, I had developed really great friendships on post, and I felt guilty to leave them. In a short time, they had become my family, too. I knew that I had an OBGYN back home that I wanted to deliver my baby. I had developed a really great relationship with her, and it seemed like any other doctor fell short of what she could provide for my pregnancy. These two factors played a huge role in our decision. To be honest, my husband and I did not agree on my placement during his deployment at first. There are so many benefits to living on post during a deployment that are not easily accessible when you're living at home. The bond within the Army community is unshakable. My husband wanted me to be a part of that, but as time passed, the need for me to go home became more clear. The only negative that I faced going home was a lack of understanding at times. I always had my family's support, but until you experience the Army lifestyle, it is hard to relate to what a family faces during a deployment. Things may seem okay on the outside, but there's a constant strain on your mind about if your husband is doing okay. I will admit that living under my parents roof again was challenging, but that's expected with any situation. The positives for going home far outweigh the negatives, especially in my situation. I was not well during my pregnancy and having my family's help each day was huge. Things felt right. I was back home with my family, friends, OBGYN, and church. Ultimately, I do not regret my decision to go home. Some days would have been easier if I were on post, but I've grown so much since I've been back home and I've become even closer to my family. I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat."
-Anonymous, Fort Riley, Kansas
"I don't want to leave this brand new beautiful house we have built, but I know I can't sanely survive out here with two babies by myself after another c-section. For me, it's about staying busy and positive. There are several pros to moving home. First of all, both sets of grandparents are there. That gives me a ton of helping hands. Our current home is about 25 minutes away from the nearest urgent care or hospital, so it scares me to think about what I would do in an emergency by myself. What if something happened to me even? Who would know? It would just give me a sense of security having family around. Before we moved to Oklahoma I was very involved with lacrosse. Coaching fills this huge void in my heart. I was also dedicated to cross fit. That community was my family and a huge support system for me as well. They are so encouraging and motivating and I need that physically and emotionally over the nine months Clay will be gone. It's easy to be sad especially when you're alone, so I plan to fill my life with positive people during that time. I felt like going home would be selfish for a lot of reasons, especially after building this new house with my husband, but I've prayed about it a lot and I think in this case it's okay to be selfish. As wives we always put our husbands and our family first, and we can get lost in the routine of things. I have to feel like I have a purpose outside of my home too in order to be happy, so I am going back to a place where I know I have a purpose. I may get home and feel like I've out grown everything from my past, but I'm going to at least try. Home is where our husbands are, and when your husband is gone you have to do what you need to do to keep home a happy environment. Everyone's way of doing that is uniquely different!"
-Brooke, Fort Sill, Oklahoma
- HOME | We moved into a beautiful house off post in January of 2014. It is truly the perfect home for us right now, and I could not imagine packing up at 30 weeks pregnant to leave the place where I and my beloved dog and two cats felt best. Plus our neighborhood is so quiet and safe. My neighbors always have eyes on our house and cared for us during deployment through small acts of big kindness (mowing the lawn, cooking meals, shoveling the driveway, recycling our Christmas tree, etc.). Given all of this, uprooting us from an ideally secure and happy living situation seemed senseless. There is something to be said about sleeping in your own bed and cooking in your own kitchen, especially during the messy transition of bringing your first baby home.
- WORK | I started a great nursing job at Vanderbilt working with breast cancer clinical trial patients in March of 2014. Although the brutal combination of new baby, lengthy commute, and deployed husband did bring me to leave my position eventually, having solid roots I was proud of in my career played a big role in defining which home felt right for me. My boss, coworkers, and patients were and still are incredible sources of support and encouragement.
- SOCIAL | I had already formed a close knit group of girlfriends by the time deployment orders were written. Through mutual friends, I knew of four wives, who would later become family, whose husbands would be deploying with mine. Before the day for goodbyes had even arrived, our first girls night was already on the calendar. We carried each other through our worst days. Don't get me wrong, my friends who are not military affiliated were great sources of strength for me and counting down to their visits kept my chin held high. But in my opinion, there is no replacement for spending time with friends who just get it.
- FAMILY | The glue that sealed the decision for me was my family. I am fortunate to have parents who will drop nearly anything to lend their support. My mom was in the delivery room with me and lived with us for the first six weeks of Eloise's life while my dad ran their busy restaurant solo back in Michigan. He and my in-laws made weekend trips down to provide much needed respite too. I know not everyone can be afforded this kind of support, and my decision would have certainly been more difficult to make if I had been entirely alone. I spent many days after my mom left functioning independently, but I always had a countdown going to the arrival of a chance for me to catch my breath.
Brad has now been home for almost exactly as long as he was gone, and our deployment baby has grown into a beautiful 16-month-old little girl. Looking back, I 100% believe I made the right decision for all six of us (fur friends included). There was priceless comfort in knowing I could avoid the look of pity and disgust when someone heart me say my husband was not there for his daughter's birth and would miss the first half of her life. That horrible look from just about everyone outside of our military community was enough to sour a perfectly good day for me. You just don't have to deal with it when you are amongst people who have been there themselves. I also think Brad was proud of us for embracing the military community during a deployment rather than running from it. It eased his mind, too, to picture us in the home we had built together for our growing family.
For me, the decision ultimately came down to the length of time we had at our duty station prior to deployment and the roots we had been able to plant. My home, work, social, and family life were all settled enough to serve as a solid foundation. There is no right or wrong decision when it comes to defining home during a deployment, and I hope these courageous ladies' stories have shed light on exactly that. You have to do what will make your heart the most happy and your daily life the least chaotic.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
- Network of support and friendships
- Proximity of quality healthcare
- Availability of desired birth plan components
- Safety of neighborhood and home
- Commitment to career or education
- Meeting the needs of pets
- Home security and lawn maintenance if vacant
- Availability of childcare and school needs
- Involvement in hobbies and fun
- Ability to plan visits or host guests
- Building bonds with extended family
- Comfort of personal space and belongings
- Consistency and routine for kids
- Involvement with deployed unit's FRG
If this helped even just one confused reader with a deployment looming, mission accomplished. And if nothing else, I hope you have enjoyed reading the wise words of eight superhero military wives as much as I did. Thank you all! Each of your unique stories and strength left me in awe (as always) of military wives and mothers.
What helped you decide where home was during deployment?