“Honey, I got my orders. We’re going to…..”
Aren’t those every military spouses favorite words?
It sends visions of pack outs, broken furniture, paperwork nightmares and new jobs flying right through your head as soon as you start thinking about going to yet another new duty station.
While it’s not always a smooth transition from your current duty station to a new duty station, there are a few things we can all keep in mind to help changes seem a little less overwhelming.
And in case they don’t work, I have a recommendation for a great wine that goes wonderfully with a bubble bath and a bag of Dove chocolates…
1. School can be tricky
Parents have an added stressor when it comes to PCS season.
Trying to find the right school for the youngest members of the family isn’t always an easy task. You can look at every website for school ratings only to find yourself on the wrong side of the street to enroll your child in the 5-star school you expected.
When you’re looking into schools, look not only at which ones have the best ratings, but also look at the city lines to find out EXACTLY where you have to live in order for your child to go there.
Look at the waiver policy for the city. Some cities are willing to give district waivers to students if the parents are able to provide the transportation to get their child to the school.
And look into what special programs schools in the city offer.
From students that have special needs to those who want to be a part of advanced academy style teaching, there is more than just good districts to look at.
Oh, and in case you’re unhappy with all the public schools in the area, look to see if your base is near a DoD school.
Because what a lot of people don’t realize is that DoD schools aren’t just overseas!
There are DoD schools right here in the states and as a military dependent you get first crack at enrolling your child there before they open extra spots up to the general public.
2. Friends come and go
Something no one wants to tell you about PCSing is that you are going to lose touch with friends.
Think back to high school.
Senior year, you signed yearbooks and promised to be friends forever.
Summer came and there was a beach party of two. By 4th of July you’d already dwindled down to just seeing your closest friends.
And once everyone started to drift off to college, it became harder and harder to schedule time to get together.
Holiday visits and schools breaks were about the only time you saw those “best friends,” because you found a new circle at school…and so did your friends.
But that doesn’t mean those holiday visits weren’t wonderful when you could have them or that you didn’t like the old friends you had.
It just meant you were at different places in your life. And the military community is no different.
The first few months we are weary of new people and missing the old people, but in no time the new people are our families at these new duty stations.
The old friends are people we catch up with when we can.
And we all know how small the military community can be, so we’re bound to run into each other sooner or later.
Try not to let the loss of close connections taint how you see your new duty station. Try to remember that at one point the best friends you had at your last base were strangers, too.
3. Housing can be surprising
It is inevitable.
No matter WHAT the floor plan looks like online, your new apartment, condo or house is NOT going to be exactly the same as your last one.
If you’re the type that loves living in military housing, you know that you better have multiple sized curtain rods and mini-blinds, because the powers decided that housing shouldn’t be uniform and no two bases are the same.
Heck, anyone ever live in the housing in Brunswick, Maine?
Somehow, the plans got mixed up with plans for Brunswick, Ga., so instead of nice carpeted, well… the plans went from insulated townhouses with fireplaces to these drafty places with hardwood flooring that somehow had 24 windows on each half of the duplex!
Talk about having to adjust how we made the place functional.
Try not to get frustrated when your favorite piece of furniture just won’t fit in the new place or when you learn that you have to downsize, because orders changed at the last moment and the extension you were promised in your favorite duty station didn’t work out.
Remember that in just a few short years, you’ll be out of there and off to a place with, hopefully, a kitchen that wasn’t last updated in the 70’s.
4. Culture takes time
Did you know you can experience culture shock just from going east coast to west coast?
Most people assume you only have the big adjustments when you’re going overseas for the first time, but that’s not true.
East coast sailors will tell you west coast sailors are a different breed.
Someone who spent their last duty station in New England will have a heck of a time adjusting to Louisiana humidity.
Washington may be west coast, but going from there to Hawaii requires learning a WHOLE different dialect of English and packing away the rain gear.
Be patient and try to embrace the change.
Don’t stick your nose up at the local cuisine, even if it does still have a face on it when they bring it to the table.
Find the great non-tourist spots that locals rave about.
Give the place a chance before you write it off as a horrible new duty station.
Before long, you might just find that people mistake you for a local and start asking where they need to go while they are in town.
5. Change is inevitable
When we get new sailors in my office, I have to cringe every time I hear the phrase “at my last command.” It’s no different than when the families say, “Well at our last duty station, we did it this way.”
I get it.
You were comfortable in your last place.
You had a routine.
You had a way of doing things that made life run smoothly for you and your family.
Your FRG was great (or awful) and you miss it.
However, if you sit there and dwell on how different the new place is, you will have a hard time seeing that different ISN’T bad.
Sure, bring up the great things that you and your friends and family did at the last place.
Start neighborhood block parties if that was something you did as a community to meet new people before.
Find out who in the neighborhood has the same hobbies and start a club or a group to keep each other motivated and active in whatever way you all enjoy.
Help kick start the FRG if the new command doesn’t have the best one and you have a constructive way to make changes.
Just don’t forget to sit back a little and see how the differences at this new duty stations make things work smoothly.
Find the positives that you want to carry onto the next place. Because as we all know, there will be a next place.