When your spouse joins the military, one of the things you have to be okay with is raising your children away from family. You won’t always be stationed close to home. You might be across the country, or even the ocean from everything you have ever known. This can be hard to adjust to and even harder to accept.
The reality of raising children away from family can feel so upsetting sometimes. If you have an idea in your head of what type of role your family has when you have your own children, there can be a lot of disappointment. The truth is, you never really know how this will make you feel and sometimes it doesn’t feel good.
I have always wanted to get away from home. About two months after high school graduation, I moved about nine hours away to go to college. This wasn’t because I hated my family, but I wanted to get out and explore. I wanted to experience life in different places. I wanted to “see the world” as much as I could.
Before my husband re-joined the Army, we moved from California to Kentucky with a six-month-old. Back then, I didn’t think much about what this meant as far as raising children away from family. I didn’t think about how difficult that would sometimes be or what we would be giving up by moving away.
Once my husband joined the army, we didn’t have as much of choice. We ended up in Germany and then Fort Campbell. These days, the Army can’t keep us. My husband is in the National Guard and technically could switch to a different state. However, there are a lot of reasons why moving back near family simply isn’t possible for us right now.
We are the part of the family that lives far away.
We are the ones the others don’t see too often. We are the ones that miss the birthday parties, the get-togethers, and the day to day lives of our family members. This is something so many military families can relate to as well.
When you are raising children away from family, you know that the people that are most special to you will miss out on certain parts of their childhood. You know that there are always pictures and video, but they can never replace being there in person. You try your best to keep everyone involved, but even through doing that, it isn’t the same as being there.
When you are raising children away from family, you must depend on friends and pay babysitters vs asking family to help watch your kids.
In the midst of solo parenting, this becomes a bigger challenge. What if you just need someone to watch your kids so you can breathe? Is that really something you can ask a friend to do? To pay a sitter to do? This part of being away from family can be difficult, and I envy my friends who have family nearby who can be there to step in for childcare needs.
When you are raising children away from family, the distance can make it difficult for your kids to know all of your family members the way you would want them to. Connecting across the miles isn’t always easy. Everyone is living busy lives and unless you take the time to schedule out calls and video chats on a regular basis, years can go by without talking.
While staying connected to grandma might be easy, staying connected to other family members is a lot more difficult. Your kids don’t get to have regular get-togethers and times with these people. Unless you can travel home often, too much time can go by without seeing one another.
There is hope though. Just because you are a military family doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye forever.
For one thing, there is always the chance that you will be stationed near your family. There are plenty of military families that live within a couple of hours from home. They travel there on long weekends, every holiday, and the divide isn’t so great.
If you are stationed overseas, or across the country from your family, this can give them a reason to visit you. You can play tourist and show them around. You can make memories you otherwise wouldn’t have made had you never left home.
When you live far away from family, you gain some independence you wouldn’t otherwise have. Friends become like family, and you learn how to have quiet holidays without a lot of the stress. There is something to be said for this type of life.
You can visit, as much as you can.
And although visiting will never be the same as living close, seeing your family on a regular basis can be an excellent way to bridge that divide. And if you can’t visit often right now, that could change as the years go by.
When you are raising children away from family, there are so many times you are going to feel left out. That you are going to feel that your kids are missing out. That you are going to wonder if you made the right decision to leave, even if that decision was made because of the military.
The best thing to do is look at everything you have and everything your kids have gained since you left. Focus on the positives of living away from home instead of the negatives.
Think about how your children have been to castles in Europe and have seen the Roman Colosseum. Think about the friends who became like family, that will always be in your life. Think about the quiet moments that have bonded you all together, that might not have happened as often had you stayed.
And remember, life can change as life often does. The way you are living your life right now can be completely different in a few years. If you want to be close to home again, see if your spouse can be stationed in your home state. Invite family to visit. Take more trips. And always make sure to connect over the miles, even if life seems too busy to do so.