What’s “Home” to the frequent PCSer?

Frequently relocating can make it difficult to feel at home at temporary duty stations.

Frequently relocating can make it difficult to feel at home at temporary duty stations.

“Home is where the husband (or wife) is!”

It’s a common saying among military families. We repeat this over and over amongst ourselves because it’s true. But we also use it, occasionally, a bit tongue-in-cheek. We move around so frequently, the idea of settling into a “home” for any substantial length of time may seem downright humorous.

Throw a few deployments into this equation and military families are truly left with complex ideas of home. It’s not uncommon to move to a new place and immediately say goodbye to your spouse; the only person you may know.

We may consider our childhood homes, perhaps our first duty station, the place we met our significant other or had a first child “home,” but all these places can mesh together in our minds into memories that, although wonderful, can seem to be missing that homey element of belonging.

Home becomes less about where you are physically and more about the memories you collect while you’re there – fitting together like a photo album, rather than represented by the physical notches on the door frame.

My husband and I PCSed three times in the first two and half years we have been married. Each move was coast-to-coast and we hardly had time to settle in before it was time to uproot and move again.

Thinking back to my first PCSes as a military spouse, I laugh at the enthusiasm I possessed and how eager I was to get started in a new life with each move. It was so easy to excitedly unpack and settle in at our first two duty stations.

Now, as an older, experienced (jaded?) version of myself, I understand the allure of skipping a chunk of the unpacking and settling in, knowing it’s only a matter of time before it’s once again time to say a tearful goodbye. As perpetual transients in a system that provides a constant change of scenery, it can be very tempting to give up and leave many of those boxes packed and the walls bare.

That said, looking back, I find the old enthusiasm was actually very valuable and wonder if there’s a way we can once again harness it. And so, as a veteran PCSer, I’d urge you to not throw in the towel so easily.

Truly settling into a home and breaking out into your new community is extremely important for your morale and for your sanity.

So how do you make a temporary house and duty station feel like home?

  • I think a great place to start is by thoroughly unpacking. Every. Last. Box. I like to challenge myself to do it as quickly as possible – within a week at least. This includes hanging up pictures, but not necessarily redecorating. Unpacking is more challenging now as a mother, but still doable with a little caffeine and perhaps a new sitter or two. When it’s done, I almost always feel a little more at “home” surrounded by my belongings – dented or not. When the brunt of the housework is done, it’s hard to not feel a little lighter.
  • Before getting into a new job search or worrying about other logistics, take at least a week to have a look around and a find a few things to like about your new and likely temporary “home.”
  • When it’s time to look for a new job, don’t forget to network with the spouses in your community – often times this is where the best and most fitting positions originate. It’s also where you’ll find friends, playmates for your kids and get the good gouge on the best things to see and do that only locals (I use this word lightly) may know about. You can also look up your local SargesList representative – they’re great resources for local communities.
  • Get organized and find your rhythm: the sooner your have your office neatly organized, the kids know where to find their toys and put their shoes and you have a new procedure for getting out and about – the better! If you don’t know where your keys go, you’ll never feel at home.
  • Make an effort to get out and meet new people in your new home as soon as possible. This seems to be easier to do when everything is in “change” mode. Join play groups, find out when spouse coffees are, and meet your new neighbors. If you wait too long until you are all settled in, it can be harder to step outside of your comfort zone and put yourself “out there.”

The stay will undoubtedly seem fleeting when you look back on your life in the long run and it’s a shame to do anything but make the most of it. As you take pictures and commit memories to your mind, these too will add to the definition of “home” in your heart.

 

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