In the third post of a limited series Siobhan Fairgreaves talks about her experience of living on base as a military family without children.
In previous posts I’ve talked about the misconceptions I had of a military lifestyle before I jumped in. I was convinced that, being a married couple in our mid to late 20s, we would be the odd ones out for not having children. I was braced for numerous “when you have kids” conversations which only ever leads to awkwardness when meeting new people. I couldn’t have been more wrong! In fact, I’d say I’ve had fewer of those awkward conversations in the military world than in any workplace I’ve been in.
Despite lockdown making socialisation difficult, nobody we’ve met so far has batted an eyelid and we’ve enjoyed making friends with families of all shapes and sizes. My experience so far is that military families are more than willing to just welcome you as you are. Frankly, there might not always be time to find out much before the next move happens.
I think there are many ways that the military lifestyle welcomes kids, though of course it may feel very different to people who have them. I’ve noticed that when gatherings were allowed to happen, there is a great family friendly feel with everybody pitching in to keep an eye on kids playing. Even during lockdown we have been told about events such as online family yoga classes which are an important way to acknowledge the younger members of the military community.
I’ve also found it’s been really refreshing to attend virtual meetings with the Military Coworking Network where kids pop in or home-schooling is the topic of the day. The acknowledgement of the reality of family life, and it’s many complexities, creates a supportive and nurturing environment. Of course, the point of the coworking network is to work but right now it’s important to be sensible about what is achievable and the online coworking community have always presented a realistic view of family life. I won’t pretend that seeing me with no kids to worry about and a puppy to cuddle hasn’t stirred some occasional jealousy among other MCN members when complex home-schooling work is being tackled though…
There is sometimes an assumption that it is easier to meet new friends through your kids, for example toddler groups or at the school gates, but sadly lockdown has made these great opportunities disappear. I can’t comment on whether it would be easier to meet people if I did have children but I’ve found that, despite lockdown restrictions, we’ve been warmly welcomed, whatever our family has looked like.
The lesson throughout my experience of becoming part of the military community has always been to challenge my preconceptions and it has been great to meet people I could share these worries with. Many of them are far more experienced in military life than me but they’ve remembered how it felt to be new, and have always been supportive. I think they are such useful conversations to have and we all know how interesting and diverse the members of the community are so no two journeys are the same.
While I can only share my own experiences, I know that there will be a range of stories as diverse as the families within the military community and it would be great to hear yours.
Lastly, this is my handsome coworker Teddy.
If you’re interested in contributing to the MCN blog you can contact Kelly Wales at email@example.com.