Monday, September 23, 2013

Military Family Planning

Today I get to put on my big sister hat. A role I only get to play a couple times a year when my lil sis decides to clear her schedule and pick up the phone.

See...see what I did there. Total big sister move. Throw the younger one under the bus. And run like the wind! Just kidding. Love my sister. Poor girl gets a lot of unsolicited advice. A Lot! But as the older sister you get the trump card. It's called age and experience. I guess that makes two cards. Trump cardzzz.

On this Military Monday, Ashley from Eights On The Move, asked for advice on family planning in the military. I wasn't quite sure how to approach the topic. I am by no means an expert in family planning! However, I am an expert in non-family planning. I have a pretty good success rate. So, I can definitely educate you on what happens when you don't use strategy when having babies.

To preface this post, I should really point out my target audience. The military is made up of all ages and stages of life. What was a typical career move for a young adult is now a viable choice for anyone under the age cutoff. What is it? 32? 33? Obviously my advice is directed more towards couples who are young and beginning the military life together. Those couples who have the bulk of 20 years ahead of them. Older couples and those who are marrying more senior ranks don't have to consider how an entire military career will impact their children. You all are on your own!

Here is a quick family history. My husband joined the military. My daughter was born 18 months later. Our son was born three years after. And our other son 18 months after that. As I have written before, my daughter will only know life as a military child. My husband will retire around the time the boys enter high school. Of all my worries about being a military family; having to uproot my child during high school would be top 3. I pray we never!

Our kids were born early on in my husband's career. Our first when my husband was a Lance Corporal. We made the conscious decision to not have more children until he was a Sergeant. Zac was born then. Derrick was born when my husband was a Staff Sergeant. Based on our personal experience, I suggest Do not have a child when your spouse is a junior rank, enlisted or officer. #1 reason is money. Self explanatory. #2 is job related. Everyone knows junior enlisted ranks are the peons. They have no freedom and have to ask permission to do anything which includes prenatal appointments with the wife. By the time you've picked up a few ranks, you can talk to people as your equal and balance the workload to allow you to attend a couple appointments without having to deal with a crabby egotistical superior who never had the "luxury" of going to baby appointments.

My second bit of sound advice is Never tempt the deployment "gods". With our second, we knew my husband would be deploying in the new year. We had given ourselves a cut off date. If it didn't happen by a certain month, then we would stop trying. Without success, we decided to just let things happen if it was "meant" to be. Chances are it hadn't happened yet so it probably wouldn't happen. Our second child was born three days before my husband returned home from deployment. I honestly wouldn't recommend having a baby if your husband is on sea duty or in a continuous deployment cycle. Having a baby during deployment sucks. No way around it. It sucks. And the second time around isn't any better. I got to learn that lesson too.

Retrospectively, if I had chosen when to have babies, I would have waited until my husband was 4 to 6 years into his military career. By the time my kids were high school age, we would be settled in our forever home.  But, life doesn't work that way. No crystal balls or time machines. We just have to trust God that everything works out exactly as it should. One lesson all military families learn quickly is to be flexible. Your well intended plans always seem to get derailed by the military's master one. If we would have waited to have kids, then our time in Japan would have been about raising preschoolers and toddlers. We wouldn't have been able to explore our host country for three years toting 3 littles around. And if we tried, the kids wouldn't remember it anyways.

Man, I ran circles today. The family planning question is a toughie! The only real answer is to Be Flexible. Have those babies when you are absolutely ready to be a parent. In fact, wait a few months longer than that. Just to make sure. Parenting is a tough gig. Military family or not. Being ready to be a parent sets you up for success way more than perfect timing.

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  1. We tried planning them. My husband was gone 320 days a year in the beginning, but we knew we wanted babies sooner rather than later. 18 months later of trying, we gave up and let God decide. We headed to Oklahoma for three months of C-17 instructor pilot training, and found out while we were there that we were going to be moving (yeah, there's $250K wasted) so that the husband could be a T-6 instructor pilot. This assignment wasn't even ON our dream sheet, much less very high, and leaving the C-17 wasn't something Ryan ever wanted to do, so needless to say, we weren't happy. Moving to the middle of nowhere, having zero options for anything, and the OBs being questionable at best... Not cool. Five days later, we found out we were pregnant with our miracle baby, who would be born an hour from my parents and sisters in my home state. If that wasn't God smacking us and saying "I got this," I don't know what is! Ryan has been home every night for the 7 1/2 months of Matthew's life, gotten to help me, see me, and actually bond with his baby, all things that wouldn't have happened if we hadn't moved (a full year and a half before we were supposed to)!



    1. Caitlin, thats such a crazy (and typical military) story! You should link up!! :)

  2. Love love love this post! Thank you so much for sharing the ups & downs - its so great to read from someone who has their family established already!! Please be sure to add your link to the Military Monday post so everyone else can find it :) Thanks so much!! :)

  3. Thanks for all of your advice Nicole! I was born 5 (or more like 6, can't remember exactly) into my dad's 21 year military career, so by the time I was a senior in high school, he was out. Although, we did have a scare that I would have been uprooted as I was started high school. That was when my parents made the huge decision to do a long distance marriage. My mom and I stayed in Texas, while my dad lived in DC. He would come home once a month for two years. It was tough....

    Anyway, my husband is now into his 6th year in the service and we aren't planning to have children for a couple of years and that's a big reason. As a teen, I was totally resentful that the military was going to take me away from the life I was used too (yay to teenage angst!). Now, it just sounds silly, but that's how I felt at the time.

    I really appreciate your advice and will definitely take it to heart!

  4. I love all the advice! I didn't even bother to link up this week (Sorry, Ashley) because I am so confused about this whole baby and military thing! We have no idea when would be a good time to start and not to mention... being pregnant scares me to death! (I want a link-up on that - anyone else terrified!?!) Haha, but I appreciate your honesty, I know if and when it happens that Chris will definitely miss out on parts of the baby's life... that's just part of it. But it does suck! I also like what you said about having older children who can appreciate where you are stationed... I've thought a lot about that too. Having babies and toddlers and being in some great overseas location sounds like it could be hard. Too many decisions!

  5. Loved your perspective and advice. Thank you so much for sharing :)


  6. That first picture of them is so adorable!! Flexibility is key!! I can't imagine having a baby with my husband away. There would be no one for me to curse and yell at! Haha! (:

  7. Was lucky enough to have my first with hubby here. I'm really hoping we'll get a school next so that he'll be guaranteed home for a year or two and we can have our second. Having him gone for the birth is my biggest fear!!! Now that my little guy is 6 weeks old, it makes it even harder to imagine if Ben were missing this!

  8. Great advice. We had our son when my husband was an E-3 and it was tough!

  9. What cute kiddos! I love their blue eyes!

  10. We fail at family planning here! The first and the last arrived at "bad" times for us and we still made it. What is it? That telling God yours plans is a good way to make Him laugh! :)

  11. I love your honesty, I really do! Hindsight being 20/20- I'm so thankful we weren't raising a child on E3 pay. We would have made it, but things would have been tight. Really tight.

  12. I love all your photos of your kids! I don't know a lot about this topic, but I love how honest you are. I also nominated you for a fun award, here's the link if you want to check it out!

  13. As a military-life outsider, I so enjoy the window you give into that world!