One of the things I hear the most from civilian moms when they learn that I’m a military wife is, “I don’t know how you do it.” I always smile and laugh. There’s so much about being a military family that is fantastic, but that’s obviously not the story that makes the rounds.
Sure, there are things that suck about having an active duty spouse. There’s no overtime pay when your soldier works more than 40 hours in a week, and there are only a few weeks when he won’t work at least that much. The hours are insane—6am to 8pm was my husband’s average day for about 2 years, not to mention the overnight shifts. And of course, deployments can be soul-sucking and depressingly long (understatement, anyone?).
But at at the end of the day, I absolutely love being a military spouse. For our family, the good far outweighs the bad. Here’s why.
1. Moving. Yes, you read that right. My husband and I love to move. In the past 11 years, we have lived in Texas, Virginia, Germany, New Orleans, and Washington DC. PCSing (that’s a permanent change of station) carries its weight in stress, but it’s exciting, too. New places means new friends and new adventures and new experiences. Without the military moving us as often as they do, our lives wouldn’t be half as rich as they are now.
2. Healthcare. The Tricare system has its flaws, but it also has loads upon loads of benefits. Clinic visits without a copay, free prescriptions, hospital stays that don’t come with a bill that resembles your mortgage. I’ve had everything from seasonal allergies to surgeries to babies (even one birth overseas). While not everything was perfect, I appreciate that my family has access to healthcare that is broad and universal.
3. Job stability. For years my husband and I discussed whether or not he was in for the long haul—20 years—or if he was getting out at the next opportunity. Every time that opportunity arose, we just couldn’t seem to justify it. The civilian job market is a terrifying unknown compared to the sure thing of the military. Add in the healthcare, the housing benefits, the retirement… none of those were things we’d recoup in the civilian world.
4. Military discounts. Haha, yes, I know. That seems like such a minor thing. But really? Most major retailers provide some sort of military discount, from restaurants to tourist attractions to car sales. It’s a part of our lifestyle that civilians don’t consider most of the time, but which military families greatly appreciate. Those discounts let our families do things that otherwise we could never afford to do.
5. Military friends. All of that moving has had the impressive side effect of increasing my friends circle exponentially. I’ve met some of my best friends through the military, and even a celebrity or two (some day I’ll share the über-humiliating tale of the day I met Gary Sinise). And as the saying goes, the military is a small world. Every new place brings both new faces and familiar ones. No matter where we go, I’m never without a friend or two. Now who wouldn’t love that?
Not everyone is cut out for the military life. But my family loves it, and we’re here to stay.
Related post: 10 Things That Happen When Your Husband Deploys