Poll: Does Military Life Get Any Better?


Her question kind of stumped me. When a military spouse at a book club meeting in South Carolina asked me if military life ever got any better, I jumped right in with my answer: YES!

Of course, yes!

Via the wonder of Skype, I could see that this lady had three (or four?) little kids. Her husband had the kind of job that meant he was gone all the time. They lived in a tiny community.

I swear I was looking at a retro version of myself. That’s the thing about military life — you are always running into your past self and your future self every time you turn around.

Back then, my toddler was so active, so capable, so dangerous that none of my friends wanted to exchange babysitting.

“There is no equal trade for Sam,” my girlfriend Kath told me, laughing.

I wasn’t laughing back then. It seemed like the demands of the family and the demands of the Navy were never-ending. I felt like I was losing ground every day.

Yet the minute Sam was in preschool, my life got a whole lot better. So I rashly promised this lady in South Carolina that things would get better, especially when her kids started school.

She didn’t look convinced — any more than I looked convinced back when people told me the same thing. Military life can be hard with kids or without kids.  It has good times and bad times, hard times and times when you get a chance to look up and feel like things really are getting better.

But it is different for everyone, isn’t it? That is why I am asking you. Did your military life ever get any better? And  if so, when? Take our poll and then check out the results below:



About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at JaceyEckhart.net.

13 Comments on "Poll: Does Military Life Get Any Better?"

  1. I don't think it was ever "bad," even during the deployments I don't think it's all that bad, it affords us things that many don't have, so you will never catch me saying it is bad. Does it get easier? Yes and no. If you have children and are a stay at home mom, it does get a lot easier when your kids are in school. But with each stage, there are new challenges. The only time when I thought it got better is when myself, or my husband, had a not so great boss. Those people are usually temporary, so just plow through it and once they move it gets better.

  2. sabrinacking | January 16, 2014 at 9:10 am |

    Can you define “better” for me Jacey? I’d say, its subjective. Some things get easier, some things get harder the longer you stay in. You make more money, but you now have more mandatory social obligations which eat up a good chunk of that money. Where you once waited 3 weeks tops for housing, now your housing waiting list is 24+ months long. I went to a BBQ this summer where the young wives in our shop were glamoring to me about how great I must be with a husband who was “the boss”. Uh, no. They assured me they’d gladly give up their on post McMansions for their husbands to have the rank…then we had them over to our tiny substandard 800 sq ft we can afford on the economy up here in Siberia, they changed their minds real quick like. Sure no more diapers, now you have teenagers who won’t take the easy answers about “why” regarding war. When you are young you might feel as if you have no support, but the FRG and ACS are geared toward the support of young families, utilize them. When you get up in rank there really is not only no support, you’re expected to be everyone else’s support. So, the “better” is subjective. Each side of this life has its challenges. If those challenges don’t outweigh whatever you deem as the reward for them, you stay in. But if you are expecting it to get “better”, I think you’re going to be sadly mistaken.

    • sabrinacking | January 16, 2014 at 9:17 am |

      Cont'd Expectations Management is key here. I don't think it ever gets any easier. And I am one for telling people the truth. Our fifth deployment was no easier than the four that came before it. Its all very subjective to what is going on in your life, at that very moment. If you want to work, do you have a job? Having entry level employment in your 20s is one thing, doing it in your 40s is quite another mentally. Are you stationed in a tropical paradise or Siberian Hell? Is your school district great, or subpar….Is your husband's command climate good or toxic? All of these things are variable and having nothing to do with tenure and everything to do with "is it better".

  3. timsarmywifey | January 16, 2014 at 9:23 am |

    How bout NONE of these? Where's the tab for that?

    The only thing that made it "better" was my attitude choice! Anywhere you live can be horrible or wonderful depending on what you make of it! Also quite frankly the insinuation that somehow it's the kids "fault" or that they are a burden disturbs me! The kids are not a burden and whilst little ones take tons of physical energy older ones take mental and emotional so there's that … plus I think all my deployments etc would have been harder WITHOUT them to keep me busy!

    How bout an Other tab? Or an attitude tab? Or one for when I got plugged into a community? (PWOC, FRG,etc?).

    • jacey_eckhart | January 16, 2014 at 9:50 am |

      There is an "other" option at the bottom of the list. Sometimes with polls you can't see all the options in the results until someone chooses that option in the actual poll.

      Also, I don't think anyone is saying that kids are bad or a burden or at fault. Kids are kids! We love our kids! I think this young mom was just at that stage where the physical work of taking care of small children and the constant absence of the servicemember were happening at the same time. That's hard. And that stage does "get better."

      • timsarmywifey | January 16, 2014 at 10:06 am |

        I did see the other option later :)

        I guess I don't think it get's "Better" it just changes … it's hard in all kinds of ways in each stage. As I said we have 4, eldest three are close together. Hubby went to Korea right out of basic training and was there for 17 months due to the Gulf War – I had a ring, a picture and a baby in the days there was no Skype! We sent MARS Grams and had high phone bills! …Welcome to married military life! lOL… was it "hard"? Yes but was it any harder than having 3 teens and a tween on our 4th year or longer tour to Iraq? NOPE! :)

        It is what you make of it, and we all have those days when we hate the military, our life, our kids, our hubby, our duty station, our ___________, but those are moments not the whole lifestyle! It's a CHOICE to be grateful or not and I think those of us who are older have a duty to tell younger Mom's it will get "better" in the sense of those moments but also to encourage them to look at the bigger picture and look for things to be grateful for in that moment!

        Same with the retirement button — which surprised me that it was that high! — it's not necessarily better, just different and I know lots of retires who miss the military

  4. Honestly, I wouldn't say the military life has ever been "bad" for us. In fact, quite opposite. And actually instead of complaining and thinking that military life is "bad", or wondering if it ever gets "better", it might be better to learn to look for the good things in every situation.

    We have been through deployments, there is another coming. There has been PCS moves. The whole nine yards of military life but we couldn't be happier.
    Do we love deployments? No, but we look at them as mature adults – they are part of the job and we will make the best out of them.
    Have I ever cried when I have dropped my husband off at the airport or on post when he and his troops are leaving for a foreign country out there? No. It wouldn't even come to my mind. Again, deployments are things we do – and we simply suck it up and carry on. There is absolutely no sense to stress or try to depress myself or my husband over things that we can't change.

    Do I feel sorry for myself when we might have been living in a less than ideal town (in the middle of nowhere)? No. Instead, I have been working and pursuing my career even if my commuting has been significant.

    And then the moving, well, we really enjoy that part of the life…..

    So instead of wondering if the life is ever going to get better, it might be time to make the best out of the current moment. It is very consuming and stressful just to wait and hope if things change. Instead, take your destiny in your hands, and do things that you enjoy, want to do and love the most. If we wait for something to get better, we might be really waiting forever and the life just goes by.

  5. the first mel | January 16, 2014 at 9:36 am |

    You are basing the question "Did your military life ever get any better?" on the premise that it was bad to begin with. Military life is a constant state of change. Life events are also continually changing and when you combine the 2 it isn't always complimentary. Often, it can be chaotic. A graph of satisfaction with the military life is not depicted with a steady increase in values, its a jagged line of highs and lows. I have never considered the overall military life experience to be bad, it just is and I try to focus on the positive. I have struggled, but I have also thrived. What makes it all worthwhile is the appreciation of what I do have: an almost 25 year marriage to the man I love, 2 beautiful daughters, a nice home, and friendships that I cherish.

    • jacey_eckhart | January 16, 2014 at 9:54 am |

      Oh, I don't know about that. Things always are what they are. They are neutral. Then things get better or easier. Things get worse or harder. Then they change again. It's good to know that change is coming!

      I had a lady in a Burger King Play Place once tell me that my son's "Furious Fours" were going to turn into "Fantastic Fives." It gave me cause to hope. And all through the period where my son was a Fantastic Five I really blessed that lady because she was so right.

      Raising kids is hard work. Looking forward to a time where things might ease a little is a good thing.

  6. Rossella C. Yumul | January 16, 2014 at 1:48 pm |

    I can only speak for myself as my husband I'm sure had experiences exclusive to his tenure in the military. It does get better. Your priorities change as you get older. Even the things or problems that seemed dire in the beginning, ultimately fizzled into a mere case study. I'm sure it is different for everybody, but from a point of view of someone who came from another country- got married and only had a couple of months to prepare for a long separation (deployment)- things did get easier after that. We've never lived on base and I've always worked outside of a military setting except for when we were stationed overseas, so my exposure is pretty limited. It's not to say that the pressures and stresses of being a military spouse escaped me. Even with no children to raise, we had other familial obligations to contend with. Things got easier for us after we started working as a team; giving our marriage top priority over anything else.

  7. I'm late to the party here, but wanted to add my 2 cents. I have never known anything but military life (I was an Army brat and have been an Army wife for almost 20 years). Military life, in fact life in general, gets better for a while and it gets worse for a while. And then it gets better again.
    We often think that the next promotion or pay increase will make things better. Maybe it takes the stress off of some areas, but new areas are added.

    Life getting "better" has more to do with my attitude, how I am taking care of myself, my personal choices, and my overall view of the world. I hated being overseas at first…but once I embraced it, I LOVED it and would go back in a heartbeat. Same thing for being in Alaska. Having kids at all different stages has had its ups and downs. And I am not being nostalgic. I currently have teens and toddlers, so I am in the thick of several different developmental stages right now.
    Life gets better, and then worse, and then better again. And sometimes there simply isn't a "reason".

  8. Is it possible for it to get worse? Lol. It got worse when we got stationed at Fort Polk. I am miserable, and my car is broke down so I've been stuck at home ALL day for 2 months. Good thing my schooling is online. It will get better, this I know…once we leave here lol.

  9. I will honestly say that the MOMENT that both of my kids were full time in school, my life became more "manageable".

    I think that "manageable" might be the more appropriate term because how a spouse looks at their life is purely going to be their existence.

    While we cannot control the "Who, What, When, Where, Why or How" of our spouses respective branch and ALL the potential snags that it entails, there IS something to be said about attitude.

    Until that day, when I took my youngest to his first day of kindergarten, I thought FOR SURE that my life would consist of nothing but them. That was because I didn't manage very well (AND, like a friend of mine, I wasn't what you would consider a good "Toddler Mother").

    Once they went to school during the day, not only did I now have time to do all of the things I HAD to do, I had time to do things that I WANTED to do. That in itself made me a better, (or at least more PATIENT) parent. Not to mention, I began appreciating my children so much more when I wasn't with them all the time.

    I think that "better" is in the eye of the beholder, but "manageable" is the magic word. ;)

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