Webinar: Moving as a New Milspouse
by Lizann Lightfoot - February 11th, 2022
Our Guest: Dr. Sharita Knobloch of Army Wife Talk Radio
I have worked with Army Wife Network for 8 years now, from blogger to owner in 2019. I’m an Army spouse for 11 years, have been with my infantryman for 13,I have two kids, and I’m a newly-minted doctor. Long ago I went to auctioneering school, and I still sometimes do charity auctions!
When you’re talking to new military spouses, what are the top three things you think they should know?
There are so many things I would want them to know, but the first thing I would tell them is that you can do hard things! It’s like learning any new skill--it takes time and practice, so don’t compare yourself to other spouses. Just go at your own pace and that’s okay. I would also tell them to get flexible, because I struggled with that a lot in the beginning. As military spouses, we always tell everyone to write in pencil because plans change so often. The third thing would be to “find your tribe.” Whether it is a seasoned spouse from an FRG meeting, or someone you invite to hang out over coffee, start building that up early!
There is so much to learn at the beginning of military life! What do we not need to do right away?
I would say try to take one thing at a time. Often, we want to figure out all the things all at once, and it gets overwhelming. Feel confident enough to stop and ask questions. I always stop and ask myself these questions: does it matter? And can I control it? Only if both those answers are yes do I actually need to worry about it. That helps you realize what things actually matter to you, so focus your energy on that.
Army Wife Talk Radio has had so many great guests! What are some of your favorite topics?
Army Wife Talk Radio is the podcast of Army Wife Network, and 2022 marks 17 years that it has been on the air! We’ve published 871 episodes! So we have broadcasts on so many topics. A lot of topics focus on the importance of milspouse mental health and self-care, but we also introduce authors, military spouses making waves in our community, and so many great resources. We get to highlight and celebrate the successes and stories of spouses, advocates, and people making a difference.
When you approach your first PCS as a milspouse, where do you begin?
Start by taking a deep breath and asking a lot of questions! When we first PCSed, I had just gotten married and gone through school, so I didn’t have time to build my tribe. Try to view it as an adventure, even if it’s to a place you aren’t excited about yet. If you are struggling with your location, try to pump yourself up and do “mandatory fun” to lighten the mood for your family. Have a sense of humor about the process, and share your story online and laugh about it as it goes. Our first PCS, they took our huge couch and dropped it off the balcony to move it! Then I got lost in St. Louis and since my husband was driving the other vehicle, we got separated and I was so mad that he “left me.” I did learn a lot then, and I would do a lot of things differently.
What do you wish you had known before your first PCS move?
Do your research, and be aggressive about it! Resources have changed dramatically, so use the internet and reach out! Use your people, because it is a small military world. Ask for recommendations (take them with a grain of salt) and do your research to start mapping things out.
Also, start early to purge and pre-pack some items one room at a time. If you wait until the month of the move, it will be way too much. Start going through things you can trash and donate. And be graciou to your service member, because if this is your first PCS, it is probably their first PCS with a spouse. So their other moves probably went very differently and they didn’t have to move as much stuff in the past.
Tessa: My first PCS was to Guam, so we got an express shipment, and I didn’t know what that was all about, so I just sent my whole closet--formal gowns, winter coats, etc. Turns out it would have been much more useful to have a shower curtain, a pillow, towels, pots, and pans, haha! So you really have to do your research to learn about what choices are best.
Lizann: That’s a big part of what PCSgrades does! We help you with all that research, from Area Guides to tell you about your new base, but also reviews from actual military families about base housing, off-base neighborhoods, real estate agents, and more. And our blog articles offer tons of tips and tricks to help your move go more smoothly. So not only can you learn about where to live, but you can also start to get excited about your move and find out how to have a successful PCS.
How would you encourage newer spouses to build community and get connected after a move?
You need to be courageous, creative, and aggressive. Being courageous means putting yourself out there and doing it early. When I was a new milspouse, I spent a lot of time alone with my dog because I didn’t know milspouses were awesome! He was gone a lot, and one of my biggest fears happened while he was away at school. I had a miscarriage, and ended up laying in the Emergency Room by myself because I had no one to call. I realized I made a mistake because I had no one who could get on the base and be with me.
Be creative. As milspouses, we often think our tribe needs to come from the military, but there are so many people in the local area that might have more to give because they have lived in the area, they know where to go, etc. So look off base at your church, your gym, a book club, etc.
Be aggressive. Be intentional in building your community. Reach out right away. When you introduce yourself to someone, tell them you are looking for support, let them know you have an upcoming deployment or whatever it is that you will need help with. This looks different for introverts and extroverts. For an introvert, that might just mean making eye contact and asking someone to go for a walk or grab coffee. If you don’t like the word “aggressive,” substitute intentional, because we don’t have the time to shop around and make friends slowly, so we have to be very intentional about it. Make yourself go out and look for groups or clubs where you have a good fit.
What can the military community do to support one another?
Seasoned spouses can be intentional to reach out, give invitations, and invite people into the community. Reach out and support people, nurture younger spouses, and share your tips and advice you have learned along the way. Offer to watch kids, cook a meal for them, take one thing off their plate so they have one less thing to do on moving day. Offer paper goods on packing and moving day so they have something left to eat on! Let the family that is PCSing set the pace to determine whether or not they want a goodbye party, what works for their kids, etc. Don’t pressure them with another event or another thing they have to attend.
Also, when you see someone asking for connections at a new base, consider your network and your own friends scattered across the world, and help connect new people to your network!
What resources do you recommend for PCSing?
Army Wife Network “Post with the Most” highlights 40 different bases from across branches to discuss things to know about the base and the local area. We also created a PCS One-Stop page that has checklists and tips for a variety of ideas for different types of PCS situations like moving with kids, pets, or overseas.
The USO has Coffee Connections each month at different locations around the world, so that can be a good way to connect and tap into your local community. Blue Star Families has a lot of local chapters that host events and outreach programs that are great when you are new to an area.
PCSgrades also offers Area Guides for almost 100 different duty stations with info about the local area, and we have reviews of base housing and off-base housing for many destinations, so you can read info written by military families for our fellow military community members.
Military OneSource also covers a variety of moving resources. There are free resources to find support for spouse employment, faith-based groups, etc. So searching and volunteering is a great way to start. If you homeschool, look for local groups and co-ops, or connect with the Military Homeschool group online.