One of the most surprising realizations I’ve had in the six months since our departure from military life, is that military families really have it pretty good. Now, before you get all upset, I realize that deployments are hard. And moving is hard. And living in a PMQ can be terrible. But just hear me out.
We live on a cul-de-sac. There are nine homes. We’ve lived here six months and have only spoken to the people in five of those homes. That’s right … three of the neighbours have never even come out of their houses to say hello. Not even in the summer. That would never, ever happen on a base. And we don’t know any of the neighbours we have met particularly well.
And here’s the kicker – they don’t even know each other very well. And they have all lived here for years. That instant sense of community just isn’t here. So who do these people turn to when they need some help?
Let me tell you about the neighbours who are essentially living IR. They have two kids in university (huge bills). He works for a manufacturing company who told him last year that his job was being transferred to a city about three hours away from here. The costs of moving house would NOT be covered by the company (companies can get away with that sort of thing in a recession). If he chose to move, at his own expense, his wife would lose her job of course. A job they desperately need due to having two kids in university. And if he refused the new job, he’d be out of work.
So, he now lives in a very small apartment during the week (again, entirely at their own expense), and commutes home on the weekends. And there’s no extra IR pay for their trouble. He just gets to keep his job.
Another neighbour is an immigrant. She’s a highly educated scientist working at our local university. She has three children, and a husband who works the nightshift. And her entire extended family is on the other side of the world. There was no grandma around when she broke her ankle last winter slipping on the ice. She was completely immobilized, her husband had to get some sleep and her youngest was only in school half-days. And there was no emergency childcare. Her husband just spent six weeks being very, very tired.
And then there’s the neighbour whose marriage just broke up. She had to sell her house and move the week before Christmas. And, she had to do it all herself. I hope she had friends she could count on. There certainly isn’t an MFRC for people in her shoes.
And there’s the young couple with three little kids. They work crazy-long hours – I suspect they’re mortgaged up to their eyeballs. They’ve said as much when we’ve spoken. She’s a teacher, but he works in the very volatile automotive industry and could lose his job at any moment. That lack of job security must be so stressful. And he only gets two weeks vacation per year.Total.
So, although I know military life comes with hardship, it also comes with an awfully nice safety net. Fair pay, awesome holiday time, job security, social programs and a sense of community. Families out in the civilian world, facing very similar stresses, don’t have it nearly as good.