By Erin Whitehead
Deployment is looming: One spouse has only been married for a few months, is living in a town where she hasn’t really connected with any other spouses yet, she is expecting her first baby during this deployment and doesn’t want to go it alone, and she misses her family and friends back home fiercely.
She doesn’t want to seem like she is running back to Mom and Dad when things get a little bit rough, but if she moves back home they can save a ton of money in BAH that would set them up nicely as a new family. She is still not sure though and is having a hard time making a decision that many spouses have considered:
“Should I Move Home During Deployment?”
There are lots of things to consider when making this decision, and what may be right for one person will not work for another. Let’s take a look at a few things to think about before you make that move (or choose to stay put).
This is a big one. Do you have a support system in place at your service member’s current duty station? If not, it might be a wise choice to make the move to a place where you know there is family or friend support. This can be especially true for someone who is expecting a new baby, has small children or has a medical issue that requires support you might not feel comfortable asking a stranger to assist with.
Just be aware that support from family and friends who do not have experience as a military family can take you by surprise. It is possible that they won’t fully understand what you are going through, and that can make things complicated and tiresome. Of course there are families who have zero military-life experience but are still able to be the support you are looking for. Only YOU know the dynamic of your extended family and friends.
Also be aware that being near a military installation during a deployment can offer a level of support you may not be able to find elsewhere. Your spouse’s unit has a family readiness program (they differ in name depending on branch). Many times they will arrange monthly activities so that families can get support from one another and communicate information. In addition, bases may offer free childcare programs, volunteer opportunities or personal development courses during deployment. If you haven’t been in touch with them before now, consider reaching out to see what is available on base before making your decision. Military spouses who are going through the same thing you are going through can be a valuable asset during a deployment.
Do you have children? How will they be affected by a move? Will they thrive in an environment of close family members? How will they adjust when it is time to once again move away from them? Are they in school? Is transferring school systems something they can handle well? (Also, check out these ways to keep kids busy during deployment.)
Children who are not yet school-aged (or are homeschooled) can fare better in this situation, but not always. Not having the added stress of changing schools is a plus, but some children can be affected negatively any time they are moved to a different home and community. Again, you and your spouse know your children better than anyone, and are the best people to make this decision.
This is a big factor for many families. Are you in a situation where you (and your children if you have them) could live comfortably with a family member or friend for the duration? If so it could save you money because you would not be using your Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) for as many living expenses.
Obviously the length of deployment can be a big factor here: Is it long enough to justify adding the stress of a move, putting your extra belongings into storage, and finding a new place once your service member returns? Don’t forget to consider the costs of moving into a new home if you are not planning, or are not able, to live on base after the deployment ends: Deposits for rent, pet fees, and utilities to name a few. Will you be leaving a job? Will you be saving money in childcare costs if a trusted family member is available to babysit? Do the math BEFORE you make the decision if money is a main factor for your family and be realistic. How much will you really be able to save? For some families, the savings can be significant. For some, it will be minimal. It’s always smart to try and get a good estimate beforehand.
In regards to money, it is also very important to have an honest conversation about what both you and your spouse expect from the extra savings. Talk about this BEFORE the service member leaves. It can be a trying time if one spouse is expecting to be debt free after the deployment ends, while the other spouse expects to have saved enough for a down payment on a starter home.
(For other tips on communication, check out “5 Tough Conversations to Have Before Deployment”)