Happy Monday! I hope you had an enjoyable weekend!
Today I’m excited to write this post in real time and candidly answer your flood of questions I received on Instagram last week about post-Army life.
About a week ago, I had a kind reader email me requesting another post with more of my thoughts about our transition now that we’re nearing the one-year mark. I’ve shared a handful of posts on this topic throughout the last year or so, so I opened up the Q&A box on Instagram Stories to see if others were interested in reading more about this topic as well.
In addition to some great questions, one follower sent me a message that pointed out what a great resource some military-related blogs tend to be regarding real-life military topics. Her words encouraged me to share as much as I could.
“There is SUCH a lack of information out there about transitioning that I feel like most of what I know about the process has come from you! Sure, there are all the “official” processes/documents/resources, but I often find those less than helpful for any particular situation/person because they are SO generalized. So literally anything about the transition would be helpful.”
I couldn’t agree with her more, as I remember reaching out to literally a dozen or more Army friends from former duty stations with a slew of questions about transitioning as they popped into my mind. I am an open book and feel very comfortable seeking verbal counsel from others, while I know there are others (like my husband) who prefer to gather their information quietly from reading a book or something on the internet. To each his own; All kinds of different learning styles.
Most questions had to do with friendship, fitting in, and finances/insurance. I picked just a few from these categories to answer, and then tackled a couple other topics as well.
Ah – real quick. Please, please, please know that these are simply just MY opinions. I’ve said this 100 times before, but getting out of the military is NOT for everyone and I never, ever want to convince anyone who’s purpose is to serve as a military family to get out. Serving as a military family is incredibly honorable, and I think the world of my friends who are staying in until retirement, because it’s not easy. Getting out was right for my family without a shadow of a doubt though for reasons that I have and have not explained on the blog, so please know that my agenda with this post is not to tell you that civilian life is better for everyone, because it is not. Is civilian life better for my family? 100%, so my answers are naturally slanted that way. I hope this makes sense and that you are able to apply my experience to your own lives and decisions if necessary. xo
Did you ever feel like you had trouble fitting into the civilian world?
No. Since getting out, I’ve realized how all-encompassing the military is, and my personality lends itself to being more comfortable with just letting Jamie’s job be his job, and not something that I weigh in on or am involved with, if that makes sense.
With that being said, I do remember struggling to make conversation with new couples for the first two-ish months after we got out. In the past, it was so easy to strike up conversation with new Army friends. “Where have you been stationed? How long have you been here? Are you involved in XYZ? etc etc etc.” I remember laughing with Jamie as we were all “What do we talk to people we don’t know about?!” LOL. We’ve learned that most civilians don’t talk about their jobs as small talk with people they don’t know, but in the Army that’s the first thing you talk about! We’ve obviously figured out how to make small talk that doesn’t revolve around the military, but it was a little awkward and funny the first couple months.
How long did it take to adjust to a different income/budget?
Five solid months. I remember us telling each other “Let’s just make it until October and then everything should be completely ironed out and normal.” There was so much money coming in and going out rapid fire from various sources (both civilian and Army related) that it was hard to know what to finally expect to be normal. We had a rough idea of what to expect financially by about month three, which was when we sat down with a financial advisor and completely redid our budget, investments, savings, etc. By October (roughly five months after his last day in the Army), things were 100% predictable and smooth sailing.
What do you miss about the Army?
I still think it’s so neat how military families get to call so many amazing places home, so I miss that we won’t get to explore new places to live. We wanted roots more, but unfortunately that means we won’t ever get to call amazing places like Hawaii, Alaska, or Europe our home.
How did you make friends?
Since we moved to my hometown, I had a handful of friends who still lived here that I was able to pick back up with immediately. They all have their own little lives and careers though now too, so I knew that while I wanted to reinvest in those friendships, I’d also need to grow new branches of friendship where opportunities presented themselves. My new closest friends are from plugging in at church as well as the families who live on our street. I’ve also made friends at the gym. Basically, if friends ask us to hang, we say yes 99% of the time so that new friendships can strengthen as quickly as possible. In addition to hanging with new friends, we also have really enjoyed spending more casual time with my parents who live nearby.
How is insurance and prenatal care different then vs. now?
As a Reservist, Jamie is able to secure our family Tricare Reserve Select. Basically, we have the same deductibles as active duty families who are enrolled in Tricare Select ($300 family deductible + $1k catastrophic cap), plus we also pay $220/month as an extra premium (this premium cost kicks in around the six-month mark after enrolling). Regarding prenatal care, I will pay next to nothing (just like I did while pregnant with Sadie on Tricare Select), except this time we will pay the $220 extra per month. Everyone tells horror stories about how you should stay active duty for the health insurance, but if it’s that big of an issue, the Reserves or Guard is a wonderful alternative to securing affordable health insurance.
More about Jamie’s perspective. What have been his favorite/least favorite things?
I told Jamie that someone submitted this question and he smiled. He is quick to say that he misses his soldiers. He was very, very close with a lot of the people he worked with. He liked working hard towards a mission, and he liked wearing the uniform every day because it made him proud. So those are really the biggest things he used to miss, but he doesn’t really think about them anymore since he is so settled as a civilian.
His favorite things about being out of the Army are the opportunities for spontaneous raises and promotions (He’s already received two! So crazy proud of him.), how laid back and encouraging his work environment is, that he’s home to see the girls every morning for breakfast and dinner every night, and that I am a way less stressed person than I used to be. 😉
Is the Reserves difficult to balance with an advancing career?
Right now, no. He works one weekend a month, which has been way more manageable than we thought. His drill site is 15 minutes from our front door, so it’s just like going in to work a few hours on the weekend. Not a big deal. His job is required to give him time off every year for his two-week annual training (which will be local), and Jamie told them months in advance when to expect his absence.
How much did you spend or how much did Jamie increase his work wardrobe?
Last Christmas and for his December birthday (2017), Jamie asked for only Dillard’s department store gift cards. We then went and did a big shopping spree getting basic pants, belts, socks, shirts, and dress shoes. He probably spent about $600 total. He also took two of his old suits (one gray and one black) and had them custom fitted, which cost him around $80/suit. Jamie now gets a Stitch Fix for Men box every three months and keeps what he likes as a way to add 2-3 items to his closet every season and keep his wardrobe fresh.
Feel free to share your questions or experiences in the comments below! I am hopeful that the comments will be additionally helpful to others who come to read this post. 🙂
Hi! I’m Erica, and I absolutely adore sharing my life on this website with you! I come here almost daily to blab about all of the things related to being a regular wife and mother in today’s ever-evolving society. I share about our new home, what’s on our kitchen table, what we’re hanging in our closets, where we’re traveling to next, my crazy 5 a.m. work outs, how I make time for girlfriends, our faith, and much more. We always have a lot of balls in the air and somewhat thrive on the chaos. I believe in the power of story-telling as a form of inspiration and entertainment, so I’m here to do both! I was born and raised in north Alabama and recently re-planted roots here again after my husband transitioned out of the Army (he is now in the Reserve and it’s going so well!) I’m a super proud mom to two little girls (ages 5 and 2) who seem to be the stars of the show around here (for good reason – they’re pretty great!) I’m so glad you found me and are here reading! I hope we can get to know each other here on the blog as well as Facebook and/or Instagram. xoxo