When I first became a military spouse without kids, we moved on base.
It was perfect!
My spouse was gone for a one year deployment, and our previous apartment had become infested with rats so huge they dragged a large dog rope behind the sofa. Yeah…
It was also very strange to move into a total military community. I thought it was doubly weird because almost all of my new neighbors either had, were in the process of creating, or were shortly planning to create children. All this despite the fact that we were, for the most part, in our early to late twenties.
Growing up in the academic northeast, it seemed super normal for families to begin adding children starting in their late twenties. Before that, everyone was too busy getting degrees, careers, and financial resources. (I am NOT saying that military spouses/families are NOT educated, financially stable, or career minded. Hear me out!)
In the military, young moms and dads seems to be the norm.
What’s a gal to do when kids aren’t even on the horizon, and almost everyone else has firmly arrived in Parentsville?
1.Don’t write someone off because of kids.
Even parents are people beyond their children, and most of them are just plain awesome! So dig a little bit. When you move into a new neighborhood, unit, or church reach out to other people who seem like there might share your interests and values. For new neighbors arriving in your ‘hood, show up with a food item or info about the next potluck. At church, invite someone to join your Bible study or fellowship circle. At a new unit, use your spouse as your intro.
2. Once you find a potential bud, get to know them beyond their parent status.
Talk about their hometown, interests, and hobbies. Some of my best friends (with and without kids) were made through running and Bible study! Even if one of their activities is new to you, it could be that you find a fun thing to do that you might not have tried otherwise.
3. Include the kids often.
Having children around is a great excuse to relive your childhood days: play with trains, water paint, and hop scotch. And with kids, you can sometimes check out cool places. I went to Legoland with a friend and her kids several times!
4. Carve out adults-only time, too.
As much as parents LOVE their kiddos, they also desperately need some time to not be Mom or Dad. When your spouses are home, see if they might double team the littles so that you and your pal can get a drink or coffee without whining. Or plan on a grown-up dinner for after the kids go to bed.
5. Think of it as a win-win.
You get to spend time around a great friend (and her cute kids), but you also get to return to your quiet house at night. All the fun, none of the commitment!
Luckily, my new neighbors, and their kids, were amazing! A few came over right away to introduce themselves, and they brought us pies, offers of dinner, and treats for our fur-child. When I started running around the neighborhood, someone invited me to run with her; another neighbor let me know about the informal strength workouts she hosted a few times a week.
With almost all of our husbands deployed or deploying, we created standing lunch and dinner dates. We packed up the kids and went to the zoo, Legoland, and apple picking.
So, how did I fit into a neighborhood as one of the kid-free neighbors? Perfectly! All it took was a little extra effort, a healthy respect for nap time, and a little conversation, and I had lifelong friends.
Now that I am a parent, having these friends to turn to for advice and hand-me-downs is also pretty sweet.
Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger, and freelance writer/editor. She is published on Homefront United Network, National Military Family Association, NextGen MilSpouse and the Education Tourist. Meg currently writes about all things education at MilKids Education Consulting.
Want more on military life?
- When You’re Stretched Too Thin as a Military Spouse
- How Strong Military Spouses Rock Deployments
- “What I Wish I’d Known Before Becoming Military Spouse”
- 7 Things Good Military Spouses Do…That I’m Not Doing Anymore