Ah, my inbox has never been so full as it has been the last six-ish months with questions about ETSing (leaving the military).
Getting out of the military is a very daunting transition, and what makes it even more of a blurry road is that you’re often left with very few people to ask questions to. As a soldier, you don’t want to share too early that you’re planning to put your packet in (i.e. your “notice”) or not re-enlisting as it will surely ruffle feathers with your leaders, and as a spouse you don’t want other spouses who are staying in to “write you off”, per se. It’s a weird thing, but if you’ve ETSed before, you surely understand what I mean.
So, I hope that (somewhat) openly talking about it here on the blog is helpful to those who are remaining “hush hush” right now about their plans to transition in the near future.
I did a little round-up of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received from strangers via social media messages and email, and I’d love to answer a few here publicly, if you’re interested.
What were the hardest parts of leaving the Military?
Finding the right job (i.e. the right pay, the right type of job, and the right timeline) as well as making said timelines match were probably the hardest parts. I really underestimated the second one, but it took a tremendous amount of work to make our timelines work out. There was nothing “lucky” about it; we had to dig deep and work as a team daily to crank out everything that was needed on each of our ends to sell our house, buy a house, finish up his Army job, get started with his new job, physically move, etc. etc. etc. Like I said, totally underestimated the second part.
How did Jamie find his job?
I’ll go ahead and give God all the praise for this one because He basically orchestrated the most destined conversation in the most unsuspecting of places that got the ball rolling for Jamie to interview for and land his dream job in our dream city. Way before (and even after) their conversation last summer, Jamie worked his tail off with Cameron-Brooks (a head hunter) while also working hard on his own to find something as well. We didn’t know what would pan out, but what we ultimately hoped would pan out, did.
(Side note): Jamie read dozens of books related to this transition in the 18 months before he got out. He tells everybody who asks him questions about ETSing to just. start. reading.
Are you sad to not be an active duty military family anymore?
I thought I would miss way more about the military than I do. I feel like I walked away with a lifetime of experiences, lessons, and friendships that have made me a more well-rounded, better person. With that being said, the physical separation between Jamie and me got to be too much to bear. I was far from my best self when he was gone, and he was always gone. If we didn’t have to be apart as often as we were, I believe in my heart we would have stayed in. When I married him, I knew we were doing 20 years.
Jamie loves this country and has the purest heart for serving, but the constant separation was enough for us to pull the plug. Being away from me was one thing, but missing out on so much with our girls slayed him. Who knows what the next 12 years would have looked like? Maybe they would have been better? Maybe not? Either way, we (he) had to make a decision, and we are really happy in hindsight with the one we chose. It was clearly best for our little family, but as I’ve said a zillion times before, getting out is NOT the best decision for every family.
What about health insurance?
So the health insurance that his new job offers is verbatim what my parents have, so they were able to break it down for us and give us the “real deal” on how much to expect to pay per month. It would have hit us hard regarding the quality of life that we’ve become accustomed to financially, to say the least.
This was the final clincher in Jamie’s decision to join the Reserves. While we will pay more for health insurance in the Reserves than we would have with Tricare Standard/Select (what we’ve had for four years), it’s still significantly cheaper than health insurance via his new job.
Why didn’t you save money and live with your parents longer since you’re right down the road?
I love my mom and dad. Love them. We are extremely close, but two women in a kitchen is too much. I’ve been on my own for 12 years and have my ways that I like to do things, as do they (like every adult does). Plus, Jamie and I have two children that we wanted to be settled in their own home ASAP. We didn’t all need to be under the same roof for months at a time. Having them five miles down the road totally rocks though!
Why didn’t you take Jamie’s full 60 days of leave and go on a trip or relax or something?
Because we like quiiieeeet! I’ll go ahead and state the obvious here – “double dipping” for a short time paycheck-wise is a good thing (that’s so uncomfortable for me to say publicly, but darn it – I’m trying to be honest!) Plus, he was ready and excited to start his job. Also, after a helluva few months, we were ready to settle down, find “routine”, and get back to normal life. The last thing we wanted to do was lounge around or pack our bags again for another big trip.
Now that you’re close to family, are you going back to work?
I’m not. I’ve always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom when my kids were little, so that’s why I’ve chosen to be a SAHM right now, not just because we were in the military. Sure, the Army would have made it harder for me to have a job outside of the home, but ultimately I’ve always wanted to be home during this season.
I feel satisfied creativity-wise and “contributing-wise” thanks to this part-time gig with my blog, so for the foreseeable future I have no desire to work outside of the home. (I oddly feel shame saying that since being a SAHM isn’t a very popular option these days, but I truly love it – though again, I understand why it’s not for everybody. Different strokes.)
Best advice for a family planning to get out of the military?
I have two things that quickly come to mind that I always tell people when they ask this question. First, save money. We all should be saving money anyway, but finances are SO CONFUSING and blurry FOR MONTHS when transitioning out of the military, so having a bit of cash as back-up is necessary for peace of mind during the chaos.
Second, get on the same page with your spouse about where you want to go, what you want life to look like, why you’re getting out in the first place, etc. Make sure you’re working toward the same goals and envision similar things. We DeSpains call this “expectation management”. Ha, we do a LOT of expectation management around here. 🙂
LIVE FACEBOOK EVENT
On Wednesday, May 23rd at 8 p.m. CST, Jamie and I are going to host a Facebook Live event on my Whimsical September page to share a little bit more of our journey with getting out. If you have questions ahead of time that you’d like us to answer, feel free to email them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jamie (email@example.com). We’ll answer them without calling out who sent them (of course). If this topic is of interest to you or anyone you know, please tune in!
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 three little girls (ages 7, 4, and 1) 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