You know how some weeks it seems like the same thing hits you over and over and over again? (And I’m not talking about how you get an explosion of IKEA ads on your Facebook feed right after talking to your sister, on the phone, about IKEA. That’s just creepy.)
This week, it’s been people upset that their military life is more expensive or more complicated because of choices that they have made. Whether it’s not being able to move on base because they have too many pets, or the costs of buying and selling a house, or the economic impact of the loss of a second job, folks are mad and they are blaming the military. It’s kind of hard to say, “Hey, no one forced you to own three Great Danes or buy a house or build your budget reliant on two incomes,” because then you sound like a jerk.
So I’ll take the conversation a few steps further so I don’t sound like such a jerk. Here’s my expanded theory: If you are going to make certain lifestyle choices, then you need to take other steps to make sure you can support those lifestyle choices.
Let’s take pets as an example.
I appreciate the value that pets bring to a family. We had two cats for eight military moves (well, two cats for six and one cat for two), and there was no question that we were going to take them with us. That included three very expensive and complicated OCONUS moves, with quarantines and months of boarding and all sorts of other fun stuff.
Because we had these cats, and we were not going to abandon them or leave them with others when we moved, we had to make other decisions and take other actions to support that choice.
First, we specifically did not get more pets. I can’t tell you how many times we uttered the phrase, “We’ll get a dog when the cats die because we more than two pets does not work for our life while Dad is still in the Navy.” Would we have loved to get a dog? Of course we would have. But it wan’t a smart decision for a family that could move who-knows-where, who-knows-when. And if the cats had not lived an extraordinarily long time, and we had gotten a dog, it would not have been a huge dog or a dog that made it harder than usual to find housing.
Second, we knew that moving the cats overseas would cost money, and we knew that any set of orders could send us overseas. So, we made sure that we could fund any overseas pet adventures. Usually, that meant some money out of our pet account and some money from dislocation allowance and some money wherever else we could scrape it together.
These same concepts, thinking ahead and saving for expenses, can be applied to almost any lifestyle choice that one could make. Things I’ve heard people gripe about recently include:
having a special car/more cars than you can reasonably move
cost of moving with pets, especially overseas, doubly especially if they are big
buying a house/selling a house/renting a house
maintaining two households because the family chooses to live separately
shipping a 2nd car overseas
I’m sure there are a thousand other things that could be on this list – inconveniences that we’ve all faced because of our various choices. And I’m not perfect – if we ever meet in person, I’ll tell you ALL about my “brilliant idea” to buy a house two full years before we moved back to the area. (Spoiler alert: it was NOT a brilliant idea.)
I’m all about people having choices, and living their best life. But every choice requires other choices to support it. And if you’ve chosen to serve, or you are married to a person who has chosen to serve, then you may need to pick different options than you would if you were not part of a military family. Because ultimately, the responsibility for those choices comes back to you and you alone.
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