Tuesday, September 16, 2014

More thoughts on Being an Air Force Family

Yay!  Thanks all for supporting the Gals in Blue blog relaunch!  Here is part two of my advice on raising a family when both parents are on active duty...

Looking back I realize that we benefited from some plain old dumb luck.  I got pregnant with my daughter when I was at in a staff job and my husband flew in a training squadron.  Very regular hours.  He left from there for school, but he talked me into buying a plane so he flew home every other weekend until my daughter and I left for our next assignment (USAFE).  I got pregnant with my son while we were there and we were both in staff assignments.  My husband got deployed while I was pregnant to – get this – another base in USAFE.  He volunteered because it counted as an AEF and he was a 3 hour drive away, and didn’t miss my son’s arrival.  I left early for school (our timing was such that we couldn’t go at the same time) which kind of sucked but since his DEROS and my grad date were the same, follow on assignments were easier to line up.  Believe it or not he kept the kids and I took the dog to school!  Our third and last extended separation was when I deployed for a year to Iraq.  At the time he was running a flight training organization – so flew mostly locals – and then we lined up one of our relatives to come for a week at least once a month to help out and so he could take some over night TDYs.  Being away that long from the kids and from my husband was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – but I LOVED my job – and being a commander for only a year and totally away from home was quite frankly easier.  

I am a list person, so here are my dual-mil-with-kids lessons learned:

  •       You and your spouse need to be on the same page and need to be partners when it comes to kid duties.  I had an awesome boss tell me “Your family is forever, the AF best case is 30 years.”  That doesn’t mean that one or both of you have to leave behind cool assignments…just be vigilant with your timing, keep your mind open to non-traditional assignments, and get all your squares filled so that people want to hire you.  Can you both go remote and be command sponsored? Can you both stay after IDE and teach? Are there nearby bases that work? Hurlburt/Eglin, Andrews/Pentagon, Lackland/Randolph? If you are the #1 candidate for the job then people are more likely to work with you on timing and other family issues.  If you both are work-a-holics than have an honest discussion on how to divide and conquer.
  •         You need help – no couple can do it alone.  We have bought a lot of airline tickets for family and have paid a ginormous amount of money for day care.  I have bought extra airline tickets to take the kids on TDYs more times than I can count.  It is a small, small price to pay to know that your kids are taken care of and loved.  My friends have had au pairs, nannies, or had a mom or mother-in-law move in…whatever works best.  Corollary – treat your day care providers better than your mother – good care can be hard to find so don’t mess it up by being late.
  •       Some days it will all go wrong. Cars break, kids get sick, the snow storm of the century occurs, someone gets 60 days notice on a deployment.  No one wants to be the special case, but don’t try to tough it out.  The AF is filled with people to help you, you will never be alone.  We often have a quick pow-wow that sounds like this, “I have a meeting at 9, if you can take the kid to work with you, then I’ll meet you at Peds for our appointment, then I can take him in the afternoon so you can get your briefing done.” When I left for Iraq I had typed out a “Mom Instructions” book and had booked the first 6 months of tickets for our helpers.  It helped make us all feel better.
  •       Make it so people hardly notice the previous bullet.  I, to this day, am usually the last person at work and the first to leave (day care closing, or soccer/chorus/insert kid activity that requires a diver here).  This sometimes makes me feel guilty, but I work my tail off to make sure all required tasks are completed.  I don’t BS (that much :-)) at work, I hardly go to the gym during the duty day, etc.  I actually had a boss at the Pentagon tell me that he wasn’t sure how I did it, because I worked far less hours than he did, yet my work got done.  What he didn’t get is that because I choose to have kids and be involved in their lives I have no choice but to get it all done quickly and efficiently ‘cause Mommy needs to roll out on time
    How about you?  Any tips to add to the list?

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