As a military wife and mom living overseas to Japan, I am very familiar with starting over following a military PCS move. With each military move comes an opportunity to build new friendships and community. It may feel incredibly daunting and scary sometimes, thinking about moving far from friends and family, with whom you’ve worked hard to build strong relationships. You are among a community of military spouses doing the exact same thing. You are not alone in this challenge.
There is an upside here though. If you desire community and strong friendships in your military community, no matter where you are, I believe you can achieve it. There are countless ways military wives can overcome our ever changing home away from home, creating an experience that is both positive and enjoyable.
Embrace the new duty station
Duty stations are not always ideal; having a positive outlook can dramatically change our overall experience. Each new duty station provides us with an opportunity to grow and learn. Living in the South at our prior duty station definitely taught me how to be more polite. I learned that sometimes being a crass Yankee isn’t all that charming of a character trait. Moving to Japan helped me to learn and know another culture. Sometimes it is really challenging, but the experience molds you into a better person. When you are pushed outside of our comfort zone, you become better.
Embracing a new home away from home creates a model for our children’s experience. Leading by example in challenging situations, you demonstrate resiliency to your children. You show them that when life throws you for a loop, not only can you overcome it, you can enjoy, appreciate and embrace it.
You can also help your children embrace a new duty station using “I wish” statements. For example, if a child is afraid he won’t have any friends when he moves. You could say, “I wish you a thousand friends when we get to our new home.” Wishful statements provide security and help children envision something happy.
Understand everyone is in a similar situation.
We are all equally eager to build a new relationships; we all need each other for support. This is especially true around times of holidays or special occasions. All of us are far away from our families. Spending Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July and even birthdays with other families in the community is important. This provides you and your children with a consistent big family holiday experience.
It’s also important to remember that when you are struggling, members of our community have likely struggled in the same way. When we share our struggles with each other, it helps us cope with difficult situations.
Ask for help.
In the military community, we often provide help in ways many wouldn’t dream of in the civilian world. People surprise us with how far they will go for someone they do not know very well. I recently had a military wife that I met only a handful of times ask me to be “on-call” for her in case she went into labor while her husband was away. My immediate answer was yes. Then I turned around and asked a different military wife that I met only a handful of times if she would be “on-call” to watch my son. Her immediate answer was yes, absolutely.
Asking for help offers dramatic short-cuts when figuring things out, reducing stress. Asking a friend what they did before researching a specific problem offers wonderful insight. Community members love sharing their problem solving experiences and sometimes even offer direct help without us having to ask.
Host regular events at home. A simple Sunday afternoon outdoor barbeque provides an easy platform to invite a few families to your home. Join a mommy group. My 21-year-old self is glaring at me for even mentioning this, but I participate in regular mommy groups, and it’s very rewarding. An organized group allows you to only attend events and play dates that work well with your schedule, while hosting an event offers a guarantee that it will work within your schedules.
Attend organized events offered by the military base and Family Readiness Officer even if they don’t seem fun. Even if we only stay for a short time, these events offer us another opportunity to meet people. And often enough, they turn out to be fairly enjoyable. Get to know the neighbors. Sometimes sitting outside and playing in your front yard is inviting enough for a neighbor to come over and introduce themselves.
Be intentional with far away relationships.
Write and send letters. This is especially fun between children. Children love getting mail. Sending photographs or drawings is a simple way to start. Utilize Google Hangouts or Skype for casual and organized events. Personally, I like Google Hangouts because it allows us to group chat for free. Skype only offers a group chat for a fee.
Opening presents and celebrating together during Christmas, birthdays or other occasions over a group chat is fun. When I was pregnant, my in-laws threw me a virtual baby shower. It was a great way to share an exciting time together. A mom’s night in via Google Hangouts is also fun. Pencil in a Friday evening to chat with girlfriends after the kids are asleep.
At face value living as a military wife and mom appears kind of daunting, but when we take a moment to look deeper, we find it really isn’t that bad after all. Living far from home affords us unique opportunities to become more woman, mother and wife then we ever thought we could. We all chose this life. We should be proud.
Want more on military life?
- The Real Reason Being a Military Wife is so Hard
- 3 Telltale Signs You’re Friends With an Awesome Military Spouse
- Military Moves Overseas: 7 Major Mistakes to Avoid
- Best Moving Overseas Checklist for Military Families
What is your best tip to build a strong community after a military PCS move? Let’s chat in the comments!