After 18 years as a military spouse, I’ve lived through my share of service-connected separations. Be it multi-month deployments or weeks-long TDYs, separations are a part of military life.
Some military spouses, especially those new to this lifestyle, often struggle with the idea of separation, even for a short period of time.
And while deployments don’t allow military spouses to visit troops in country, many spouses do make the decision to follow their service member while they are on temporary duty.
I certainly appreciate the desire to be near your spouse, especially when a separation comes after basic training or in conjunction with a PCS to a new duty station.
But before you pack a bag and make a long-term hotel reservation, here are a few things to consider.
Your Service Member’s Free Time May Be Limited
A TDY typically involves some kind of training or special mission requirements. As such, a service member’s free time may be limited or they might be restricted to the duty station or facility. They may also work odd hours or have homework that limits the amount of free time they have outside of work.
So what does that mean? You might find yourself sitting in a hotel room in a town you’ve never been to before with no spouse to keep you company and zero support network.
If you are prepared for the possibility of spending a lot of time alone, make sure you have something to focus your time and energy on in between the sporadic visits from your spouse. You may want to take an online class, write a book or volunteer for a local nonprofit organization.
Planning Ahead Is a Must
Few of us have the luxury of packing a bag and hitting the road. If you plan on following your service member on temporary duty, you’ll need lots of lead time to prepare.
If the TDY is in conjunction with a PCS, you may need to give notice to terminate a lease and schedule a household goods pack-out.
Reservations at many hotels around busy military installations may be limited or long-term stays and temporary or short-term rental properties may not always be available. If you have pets, availability may be limited even further.
It is tempting to throw caution to the wind and figure it out as you go. But consider the extra strain and stress on a service member if you are unable to secure living arrangements.
Training and focusing on the mission becomes infinitely harder if you are worried about your spouse sleeping in your car.
If you make the decision to accompany your spouse, don’t leave the planning to the last minute. Plan to have a conversation about expectations. Try to talk to other service members about services and facilities available for a short-term relocation. Have a plan B in the event that a 3-week course suddenly becomes 6 weeks.
TDY Life May Be Costly
Perhaps the biggest consideration for a short-term relocation for military spouses is budget. Can you afford to quit your job or take a leave of absence, for the duration of the TDY?
Don’t forget that you may find additional costs associated with living out of your suitcase. If your living arrangements don’t include a kitchen or a washer and dryer, make sure you include those costs into your monthly budget.
The seasoned spouse in me wants to tell my fellow military spouses contemplating one of these temporary relocations to reconsider.
That the potential strain to relationships and budgets aren’t worth the occasional opportunity to see your spouse. That being alone in a new place without the benefit of a unit to turn to in times of need is time better spent in a familiar place or with family.
But instead, I will simply say this — Military life affords us ample opportunities for adventure and promises countless nights will be spent counting down to a reunion.
Separations are never easy, but we can and do learn to persevere through them. We must each make decisions about what is best for us and our families. If you decide this kind of move is right for you, be smart about your reasons and be fair in your expectations.