In the second instalment of our blog series by a military partner, Siobhan Fairgreaves talks about her experience of deciding to move into a military quarter when her partner was posted and how finding the Military Coworking Network proved an invaluable source of support and inspiration.
The decision to move into a military quarter is different for every military family. Some people may never consider the option of living separately, or may have caring commitments that make that too difficult. Some people already have an established family home when a new posting comes up and have no intention of living in a quarter. Others, like me and my now husband, have lived apart for so long that having the option to move together presents an interesting challenge. In this blog I’ll tell you a little about my experience of choosing to move into a military quarter for the first time.
Unusually for many military postings we had a very long time to make our decisions as my partner was in training for over a year before we would be able to move into a quarter. We were engaged and had completed the very romantic process of registering with the RAF as a long term relationship. We had also already bought a flat where I lived alone through the week with my partner coming home most weekends. I worked locally and loved my job but we were both starting to struggle with having completely separate lives Monday to Friday. This didn’t get any easier when we began wedding planning and had to consider if we wanted married life to look the same.
I won’t deny that I was excited by the idea of setting up a home together, especially when we set the wedding date which would mean we were newly married when we moved. I was also very keen to finally have a home big enough to invite friends to stay and most importantly we would have a garden so could get a dog. I’d moved several times for family reasons or to study in the past and had always enjoyed it. I love exploring new places and have no trouble maintaining long distance friendships so it’s surprising I even hesitated at the thought of packing my bags and moving into a house with my husband to be.
So, what was holding me back?
Unfortunately I still had a lot of reservations, some fuelled by unhelpful stereotypes, which meant I was pretty nervous about agreeing to move. At this point I’d only been in one military quarter on a completely different base, several years earlier, and I only knew one other military family. Would everybody think I was “following” my husband? Was I sacrificing my career progression by moving to remote work? Would I regret moving to a new area knowing how often I would be on my own? What if the houses were horrible? Were we mad to go back into renting when we’d just bought?
Let’s face it- what’s the first thing you think of when you think of military quarters? Magnolia walls!
I didn’t know anybody who lived near the base we would be moving to and wouldn’t have known what questions to ask about the housing even if I did. Whilst confirming what we would do, we started to explore the process of applying for housing. It was confusing for both of us- my partner had never done this before either- and there seemed to be a confusing mixture of rules and options. I really feel like we could have used a cheat sheet when filling out the application!
With the wedding edging ever closer, I began to come round to the idea of moving and started to look at the advantages of being in a military quarter. Of course it would be great to live together, but I also hoped we would be able to enjoy the social life of being near base and I was keen to find out more about the lives of other military partners, particularly those who had careers which travelled with them. Luckily, at that time I found the Military Coworking Network which has proved an invaluable source of support and inspiration.
With more factors beginning to weigh in favour of moving, we submitted the application.
The first house we were offered was about 45 minutes away from the base- this was a bit of a blow and would take away a lot of what we were hoping to gain from moving into a military quarter. We took the risk and rejected the house and the next house offered was on base, behind the wire. That came as a shock. We certainly couldn’t say it wasn’t close enough!
We accepted the second house offered and eventually moved to our new home in July 2020 amidst COVID restrictions. I wont pretend I didn’t find it strange the first time I had to show my pass to an armed guard to get to my house- but it seems very normal now. We’ve got fantastic neighbours and I have felt thoroughly welcomed into the community. The Military Coworking Network, who I made contact with before moving, have helped me to feel part of something bigger and I am now proud to be part of a network which supports career development for military partners.
Of course my experience isn’t a completely typical one. In many ways the experience has been very different thanks to COVID-19 which delayed our wedding so much that we actually moved before we married in the end. Whilst the pandemic has ensured remote work would be more popular throughout the country, it has also cancelled the social events we anticipated would happen on base so I can’t say I’ve really tried that part yet. Unfortunately it’s also made it quite difficult to welcome friends and family to see our new home but we will have a great house warming celebration when we can! During these difficult times I have learned so much more about the supportive community of friends and neighbours who are always willing to help each other out. From trading groups on social media, to helping out with supplies for a list minute craft project, the people I’ve met- in person or virtually, have absolutely made the whole experience better.
Making the decision to live in a military quarter has ultimately turned out to be the right one for us. I have been able to form better connections within the military community, I work remotely which I love and we’ve finally been able to commit to getting a dog (more on him later!)
I’d love to know about your decision making process when moving into quarters - did you have any reservations to overcome or did you jump straight in?