If being a military spouse is hard, being a dual military family is even harder.
While there is nothing greater than the call to serve your country, it does come with a lot of stress, late nights, early mornings, and the important ability to find the balance. If you are a dual military couple you know it is not for the faint of heart, and if you’re thinking about joining the ranks of it there are some things you should consider before doing so – especially if you have children.
My family spent four years being a dual military house. Here are the lessons we learned:
Reliable Childcare and Family Care Plans. This is a must. There will be times when you are both called to the field, a late meeting, or even deployed at the same time. You need to make sure you have reliable childcare when in garrison who can be flexible with the hours you may have. You’ll also need someone to be your short-term family care plan for those times when you may have to go to the National Training Center (NTC), Joint Training Center (JTC), or other TDY. A long-term family care plan will be necessity when it comes time for deployment or an unaccompanied assignment.
Support system. You will need one. I cannot tell you how many times my support system came to my rescue. They were there to help get a child off the bus, or pick up a child from the CDC if we realized we would be a few minutes late (make sure they are on your approved pick up list!), There may be moments when one of you may be TDY, and the other has staff duty. Having those friends who don’t mind a sleep over are golden.
Work balance. You will need to find that sweet spot of work balance. This isn’t just the family-work balance that you hear so much about, but the balance of give and take between your career and your spouses career. If you have children, there will be times when they are sick and cannot attend school or daycare. Who takes the day off and who goes to work? Who is the one who stays late for a meeting and who dips out to pick the kids up from daycare? For my family the plan was that we would alternate unless, depending upon the mission, the other was strictly needed at work. We did our best to find that sweet spot balance in the give and take.
Deployments. Depending on if you are both in the same unit or on what your job is, there is a very real possibility of being deployed together or on opposite deployment cycles. You will need to find which works best for your home situation. I had friends who were on opposite deployment cycles. Between deployments, they had about 2 months together before the other deployed. My husband and I were on the same deployment cycle. We deployed together with our brigade, but in Iraq he would be located somewhere else with his battalion. For us that worked since our children were still young, and we had willing grandparents who would watch them. For us it was best because it meant we didn’t have to play the game of handing off parenting duties while passing each other to and from deployment.
Not being stationed together. Yes, the military does have married couple programs, but there are times when that just isn’t possible, especially if you are dual military of different branches. We experienced this situation for 8 months, and during that time I was ever so thankful for my support system. Just know that this is a possibility and pre-game a plan on how you might handle it.
Before you take that step to become a dual military family, take the time to sit down an work through the process of figuring out childcare, care goals and ambitions, and who in your family could step in to care for your family should the both of you be called away at the same time. It’s not always easy when you are a dual military family, and sacrifice will be made in trying to balance everything. But having a good plan in place, and an open mind of the expectations, will go a long way to setting up for success.