My husband has served in the Air Force for 16 years. I served for four. And in that time, we have never lived in base housing. We never even tried. We never took a tour of any family housing unit. And we never put ourselves on a wait list.
Because we associated base housing with one word. Drama.
My military friends told me stories of adultery. And, although, nowhere near as bad as the stories of adultery, I heard friends complain of children constantly knocking on the door. Others mentioned the need to get away from base to experience “real” down time and to enjoy the weekend and holidays like a “real” person.
When my husband and I started considering the move into base housing, those rumors more than crossed my mind. And when I confided in my mother about our potential transition, she immediately reminded me of all the times she left through the back door to go to work when we lived in base housing when I was a kid. She did this to avoid the nosy, gossipy neighbors who sat out front. She asked if I remembered the petty arguments over parking spaces. Or the spouse who stopped her husband’s patrol car every time he came through base housing just so she could find out the latest gossip to spread to to all of the neighbors.
I assured her that I remembered. Experiences like that are hard to forget.
I hoped (when we eventually signed our first lease for base housing) that things had changed. Because our move was out of necessity. We needed to shorten my husband’s commute and focus our efforts as a family on supporting my husband as he finished his most recent and intense training.
We moved into base housing almost three months ago. And I must say, I love it.
Here are My Top 5 Reasons Why:
My Kids are Living Military Tradition
I love that my kids are finally learning military traditions. Despite having spent their entire lives as “military brats,” prior to living in base housing, they had no idea about “Reveille” or “Retreat” or “Taps.” They knew about the uniform, the deployments, the temporary duty and the long hours. But we were very far removed from every other aspect of military life and tradition.
It wasn’t until we moved into base housing that my children stood for the national anthem before watching a movie in the base theater. We’d always seen movies off-base at whatever movie theater was closest to our house. Standing for the national anthem before seeing a movie is something unique to base living. It wasn’t until we moved into base housing that I witnessed my oldest son stop playing at the park across the street to respect the tradition of “Retreat.” I love that these traditions aren’t something my kids have just been told, but instead are something they now live.
My Husband’s Face
I love seeing my husband’s face light up when he comes home for lunch each day. He’s much happier now that his 45 minute commute has ended. He literally walks across the street to get to and from work. And now that he’s so close, he drops by the house even if he only has a few minutes to spare. And I know before the end of the duty day what kind of night it’s going to be. He may end up studying all night while I watch an episode of “Big Little Lies.” Or I might get a heads up, while we have lunch together, that his day has been so good, he’ll bathe the kids that night.
The End of Day Reminder
But if my husband isn’t able to help with kids (because of his intense training schedule), then that just gives me another reason to like base housing. A mother’s day can stretch well into the night. Or as military spouse’s know, it can mimic the military member’s 12-hour day. Especially when you look around the house and see the pile of dishes from dinner after you finally get the kids to bed. Or think to yourself, just one more load of laundry. But another thing I love about base housing is that when “Taps” plays, I tell myself I’m done. I tell myself that I’ve put in a full day. Now I can sit and watch television that only I appreciate. The extra load of laundry can wait. The kids are fed and in bed. And that’s good enough for today. Taps just said so.
The Reminder that I’m Lucky to Be Home with My Kids
I’m a stay at home mom. And as such, I might be taking a walk while my youngest son rides his bike in the morning. That didn’t mean much before we moved on base. I might see a neighbor. I might not. Most of the time, I didn’t. Most of my neighbors off base had probably already headed off to work.
Stay at home moms typically live a life of isolation. Unless you’ve met your tribe. But even with a tribe, I spend the majority of my days with only my youngest son. Because of this lack of interaction with other adults, I can sometimes forget how lucky I am to be home with my son.
But I get that reminder in base housing. Daily. I might not be able to complete an entire conversation outside my front door without pausing for jet noise, but when I hear it, I remember that someone is not home with their little ones. Someone is flying a jet or learning to fly a jet for my freedom. They are sacrificing time with their families, so I have more time with mine. So I go to the park, ride bikes, laugh often and kiss him just a little too much (or so he says).
The Community and Friends
In base housing, I know everyone is going through the same thing. And I think that is therapeutic for me and my sons. I know there are many other spouses who are doing it alone because of the latest temporary duty or deployment. Plus, what my kids go through as “military brats” is the norm.
During our first month in base housing, my oldest son met a boy in his homeroom class whose father is doing the exact same training as his father. This kid is leaving in the middle of the school year to go to one location for six months only to end up in an entirely different location after that. My son is fortunate in that he finishes the school year in one location before moving to our final location in this training process. Without the experience of being around other kids going through the same thing or something even more challenging, things may have been more difficult for my kids. But seeing others in their situation has definitely normalized their experiences.
So what about you, what rumors have you heard about base housing? Have you lived in base housing? Were the rumors true? What were your likes and/or dislikes?