The Importance of Self-Care

Y’all, I am run down. 2019 got the best of me and I am in desperate need of some self-care. I’ve bought and renovated a house this year, my workload has been off the charts, and I’m still trying to be an adult. With the holidays coming up, my schedule is only going to get crazier. All the running around and working a lot is taking its toll on me. I’m exhausted and have no motivation for anything after I get out of work, and that’s something that absolutely needs to change. I need to start taking care of myself because if I don’t prioritize it now I never will, and it’s my responsibility to take care of my body and mind.

Sometimes I look at my work calendar and see if I can schedule a “sick” day, but it never happens. I always put it off with excuses like “oh, I don’t have time” or “maybe another day.” So, I finally scheduled some days off for self-care. I find that most of the time when I take off at work, it’s mainly for traveling to see family (military family life). While being off to see family is amazing, it’s often long days of driving and running around to see everyone before I leave, which isn’t very relaxing. So, I’m taking some intentional days off for MYSELF. Yes, a day off just for ME.

At first, it was super hard for me to just schedule a day off for myself. I felt guilty. But I (and anyone for that matter) deserves to be able to take a day off to take care of themselves. It’s nothing to feel guilty about.

Self-care can be many things in my mind simply because it depends on what YOU need. For me it can be following a skincare routine, getting a workout in, or even just lounging around. The most self-care I’ve been able to squeeze in is sleeping in a little on weekends and making myself dinner during the week. But other than that, my self-care is zero to none.

Some self-care things I’ll be prioritizing the next few weeks are:

  • Establishing a workout routine
  • Scheduling my annual doctor’s appointment and check-ups
  • Getting a new hairstyle (AKA a quarter-life-crisis haircut)
  • Fueling myself with healthy food and having consistent meals
  • Taking a bath and then just napping

Self-care is important. We need to take care of ourselves in order to be healthy and take care of others. Many times, I feel like self-care isn’t viewed as a priority when it should be. When people are run down, they can’t be the best versions of themselves. I hope if you’ve had a crazy 2019, you’re able to take a few moments to yourself for self-care. Even if it’s something small like a cup of nice coffee or a nap. You deserve to take a moment to care for yourself.

Don’t Forget the Kids When You PCS

It is 8:43 p.m. on a Monday night at the end of November as I sit here typing out this blog. If I’m being really honest, I’m splitting my attention between fleshing out cohesive thoughts and daydreaming about when we might get some whisper of news about orders — or at the very least, a bulleted list to help me more efficiently aim my PCS stress at probable locations.

It’s not just tonight, and it’s not just this PCS. This always happens. The closer we inch toward the projected PCS date, the more distracted I get and the more I tend to detach and uproot myself from where we are currently. Maybe it’s my Type-A personality showing. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism. Maybe you’re reading this, and it isn’t even remotely relatable because I lost my marbles a long time ago. Who knows?

But it recently dawned on me that — whatever it is — my process of detachment is personal; it’s selfish. I’m a mom of two military kids, so I can’t think that way. This isn’t my move; it belongs to each member of our family. Gone are the days when my kids were easy to uproot because they were still in diapers and didn’t attack or question the PCS process. Now that they’re in school, we’re talking leaving friends, transferring grades and waving goodbye to the comforts of home that it took roughly three years to establish.

My 6-year-old asked me on the walk to school last week if our family cat, Murphy, (currently residing in Texas while we’re in Japan) could sleep in her room once we move to Virginia. She also asked me what color their treehouse was going to be. Those are some hard-hitting questions for a parent to answer when, A) We don’t have orders to Virginia, B) We don’t know if we will ever have orders to Virginia, C) We can’t possibly predict if our hypothetical tree in our hypothetical yard of our hypothetical house where we could move will, in fact, have a tree house, and D) How am I going to tell this miniature cat lady that Murphy may not even remember her after three years apart?

I began to wonder if I was completely mishandling the PCS situation. Because they have moments of awesome maturity, I sometimes forget that my husband and I might speak about the next move, but our kids don’t hear the maybes or what ifs. Kids like structure, so they seek it out by piecing together things they overhear and things we casually say in conversation. They’ve probably overshared possibilities. We’ve probably gotten their hopes up in one direction or another. And, I can say with some confidence, that I have not been as curious as I should be about their feelings, concerns, fears and questions about this move. Sure, I’m thinking about settling into a good school district and making sure I have shot records in hand when we move, but that’s level-one thinking. There’s a lot more that we can be doing as parents to make sure we don’t forget the kids when we PCS.

  1. The Concept of Time. Kids don’t have it. I’d say it kicks in at some point in adolescence, but how many of us can say we never missed curfew growing up? If we start talking up “when we move next [year, summer, etc.]” we are opening the gate for their minds to go buck wild, totally unbridled. Twelve months or 12 weeks, it doesn’t matter, once a move is mentioned, the wheels are in motion and those little curiosities and fears are wide awake.
  2. The Purging. The Pre-PCS purge is a personal favorite tradition of mine. But, as I’m currently chanting to myself as I see a mess spilling out of the closet, “it can wait.” Starting the purge initiates the move process to little minds. Even if this is exciting, the process of uprooting starts when that first box is donated. There’s really nothing wrong with waiting a little longer and letting their rooms and common spaces stay comfortably cluttered a while longer.
  3. The Crew. Remember back in kindergarten when everyone in class was your kid’s friend? Wasn’t that just sugar-coated preciousness? It seems clear to me as a mom of a first and third grader this year that there is an apparent shift from quantity to quality of friends after kindergarten. It becomes harder to leave when you start making friends based on choice verses convenience. Just like we don’t want to think about leaving our tribe, our kids don’t want to leave theirs. And, worse, without ease of access to social media and phones (demands I will not give into for several more years), it is more terrifying to leave your people. What can we do? Tell your kids you can and will stay in touch! Get their address, phone number, and email address if you don’t already have them. Assure them that even though they don’t have their own phone or email address, they can use yours to stay in touch. Check to see if there are Boys and Girls club activities where you are or where you are going that help military kids stay in touch, or see if the Military Kids Connect message board is something your kids could use.
  4. The Goodbye Tour. As you pinky-swear open communications with their BFF post-move, don’t forget to allow for goodbyes pre-move. This means making the rounds to all your local favorites one more time and seeing your favorite people. I recently approved a joint bowling party for my kids and their friends ahead of our move. I’m somewhere between “what did I just do?” and “wow, that was really cool of me.” [Pats self on back.] But, let’s be real, we’d never leave our own crew without a proper goodbye, so we can’t expect little hearts to do that either. This goodbye could very well be the last hoorah — let your kids have it.
  5. The Bandage Ripping. This one covers school, sports, clubs, church groups, secret societies, magical mythical associations ­— whatever your kid is into. Eventually it will be time for that last day, the last meeting, the last game. We should be tracking those lasts. I personally feel it’s important to make a big deal about them. Bring some cupcakes to Chess Club or baseball, who’s going to stop you? I think it’s equally important to have a game plan for plugging into the equivalent where you’re going. We should do our homework and track down the places that are the best fit for our kids after we move and then get them there.
  6. The Move. Despite the heel dragging and eye rolls, it’s go time. It sounds simple, but just talking about the move itself can ease fears. Structure is comforting, remember? So, knowing the next three steps ahead brings certainty to something that is otherwise uncertain. Let your kids keep a comfort item during the trip. Let them help plan road trip stops or shop for snacks for the Patriot Express flight. Getting them involved, even slightly, can help them feel more in control.
  7. The Settling. Once we get where we’re going, it can be easy to slide into cleaning and unpacking (guilty) — you know, boring grownup stuff. But, even speaking as the person who unpacks everything in the first 72 hours of the household goods delivery, take time to make sure your kids are plugging in to more than the video game console or a streaming binge. Help them meet the neighbor kids. Make time to take them to a new favorite ice cream place just waiting to be discovered. Don’t make excuses about being busy when soccer signups open. Just do it! Drive by the new school, meet the teacher when it’s time and do what you can to help them acclimate.

Here’s the hard part: stay engaged. Even six months after a move when you’re back to getting “OK” and “Fine” as responses to questions over dinner, and they’re annoyed with you for regular life stuff, don’t let up. Even when your kids insist that “You’re so embarrassing, Mom,” keep at it. That just means your love and attention are working. Make sure they know that no matter where the military sends you, they have a constant in you, a safe haven— no matter how many times the address changes, the love never does.

How to Make a New Base Feel Like Home

You did it: you moved your family, your furniture, your cars and your pets to a new location. You researched housing and school options around your military base. You unpacked piles of boxes and sorted out places for everything in your new house. So, when will this place start to feel like home?

A PCS move is a familiar challenge for military families, but adjusting after a move is not as simple. Many families say it takes up to a year before they feel comfortable and familiar in their new location. Sometimes that’s just in time to anticipate orders to the next duty station. Then the cycle repeats. After a while, moving can become a physical and emotional drain on the family.

So, what can you do to speed up the process and help your family feel settled more quickly? Even if you just moved to a completely unfamiliar part of the country, there are steps you can take to invest in your location and help your new base feel like home.

  1. Find the essentials. Explore on your own or ask around to find a good grocery store, hairdresser and coffee shop. Save the GPS location of your favorite chain stores and restaurants. Once you can run errands and pick up food without directions, your new town will feel more familiar. Getting into a routine of visiting your favorite new places will help you appreciate your new town. A great resource for this is MilitaryINSTALLATIONS that has locally updated pages for nearly all of the installations in the world.
  2. Hang those pictures. When you’re unpacking moving boxes, it may be tempting to leave some of those pictures and decorations in the garage. After all, you’re only going to be here for a few years. Why go through the hassle of decorating if you’ll just have to take it down and fill in holes or re-paint later? The fact is your house won’t feel like home until you treat it like your home. There’s something comforting about unpacking your family treasures and finding a place for them in your new house. If you don’t invest the time and energy into decorating, then you will always have one foot out the door, ready to go to your next place. No one wants to feel like they are camping in their own house. The sooner you get the rooms set up and comfortable, the easier it will be for your family to relax.
  3. Join a group. If you want to feel like a local, you’ll have to mix with the locals. The best way to feel like you belong is to get out of the house and join a local group. This can be anything that appeals to your interests—a church, a gym, a book club, or a mommy playdate group. Even if you are an introvert, make the effort to talk to some group members. Learn their names; collect their phone numbers. These will become the people you can ask for advice, for help, or even the location of the best fish tacos in town. If you aren’t sure how to get started finding people, consider trying a peer consultation as a place to start.
  4. Be a tourist. Have you ever heard people say they have lived in the same place for years, but have never made time to visit local attractions? Military families don’t have the luxury of spending much time in one place. Before your family gets too settled and sucked into daily routines, make the most of your new surroundings. Visit the base ITT office to get discounted tickets for local attractions. Plan a daytrip or a family outing to help everyone see the value of your new town. When your family starts cheering for the local sports team or enjoying the local hiking trails, they will be proud to call this new place home.
  5. Get involved. As you get settled into school and work routines, be sure to make connections and get involved in your communities. Learn the names of your coworkers and try to participate in office events like holiday celebrations, cook-off competitions, or happy hours. If your kids are interested in sports and extracurriculars, chat with other parents at the events and buy the school T-shirts. These actions show your family that you are part of the community and you belong here, even if it is just for a short while.

Moving can be an unsettling process for everyone in the family. But taking these steps and making a little extra effort now can really pay off. Moving isn’t just about unpacking and starting at a new school. It’s about taking a new location and making it feel like you belong there.

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