Military Children – The World They Live In

Adapting to change is something we all struggle with, and we all know how change (and lots of it) can disrupt children and affect their wellbeing.

Military children are inspiring.

We waved goodbye to Daddy in our house for the 2nd time in 2 years. Last year, she had her 2nd birthday a month into his deployment and was barely aware that he was going. When she asked, I told her Daddy was at work (or on holiday!), but with little concept of time at that age, she didn’t know when he was coming back. That was probably made all the more confusing when his tour was extended, and he returned for 2 weeks R&R in the middle of it before heading back out to finish the tour off.

This time is different. It’s a much shorter tour for a start (just shy of 3 months as opposed to 8), and Olivia is older now. She’s 3.5 years old and much more aware that Daddy has gone away to work for a while.

It’s something she’s used to, though more from me being away at work than Daddy. In fact, she is used to both of us working long and unusual hours, having little routine in terms of who will be picking her up from the childminder, or who will be tucking her into to bed.

She takes it all in her stride, only occasionally being upset that either Mummy or Daddy aren’t around when she wants us. I am so immensely proud of how well she manages all of that change at such a small age. I suppose the big, independent and fierce personality (that she was destined to inherit from me and her Nanny) probably has a lot to do with it!

The other home truth about military families is that, usually, when one parent goes way, the other one is around to do everything. If they work, it’s part-time or in school hours or a normal job with normal dependable hours. The army mantra is still very much set back in the 1950s, expecting the ‘wives’ to do everything when it comes to childcare or managing a home. I’m not sure how this equates when the serving member is a woman with a husband at home, but, in our situation, Olivia is a bit of an anomaly in that respect. When Daddy is here, it’s him doing the majority of the home life, but in reality, neither of us are dependable because either of us could be away at the drop of a hat.

She didn’t choose this life, and no military children do, no military spouses do either, for that matter! We’re all lumped with it and have to make the best of it. But our children are certainly the most incredible little people, managing the change so well and with few complaints along the way.

Their voices are rarely heard. Spouses often feel overlooked when it comes to the respect and awe that their service member receives for ‘what they do’, because the people left behind dealing with the everyday are forgotten. If the spouses feel that way, imagine how the children must feel. Especially those like Olivia who are too young to really understand where Mummy/Daddy is other than ‘at work’ and wondering how long it will be until they’re back.

The cake we baked for Daddy after his last deployment!

Unfortunately for Olivia she has even more change to come. There is no support at all for military families needing childcare while one spouse is deployed, and so Olivia will be spending the weekdays with Nanny for the next 3 months so that I can carry on going to work.

Military life is so incredibly frustrating, and definitely better suited to single people who want to travel the world! Our family of four became two, and is soon to become one, whilst we wait for Daddy (and Kiera with him) to come back home.

I’m so proud of our ‘pad rats’ for adapting so well to everything that’s been thrown at them. But we certainly cannot wait to have Daddy back home!!!

Are you a military family? What’s your experience of military life?

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Moving from a Childminder to a Nursery

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In the new year, I was fortunate enough to start a new job that I love. With the new job came some pretty big moves for our family too, one of those being Olivia moving from a childminder to a nursery.

Olivia started going to a childminder in September 2017, when I started studying for my BPTC in London. I was commuting 4 days a week from Aldershot, while my husband was working through the week too. She was only 16 months old then, and this was her first formal childcare setting as I’d had a year of maternity leave while I finished my undergrad, and then the summer waiting for my BPTC to start.

She started off with a maximum of 28 hours a week, though because of Jamie’s job it was flexible which worked well with our childminder.

Come April 2018, she had a lot more hours in tandem with Jamie’s deployment, and in June it went to full time with the childminder when I started working in Reading.

Olivia was really settled with her childminder and had lots of friends. The childminder worked in a group with 2 other childminders, so although the setting Olivia went to was small, with only 3 children, she was constantly with a group of more children and engaged in lots of activities.

So what are the Pros and Cons of using a childminder as opposed to a nursery?

Childminder

+ The approach is really personal. Your childminder only has a handful of children compared to those at a nursery, and they get to know you and your child really well.

+ It’s a lot more flexible. If you have a part-time space, you may be able to add extra hours on as and when they’re needed.

+ Childminders usually have a wider age range of children in their setting.

+ They will normally take your children to local baby/toddler groups to socialise with other children and widen their own friendship groups and experiences.

+ Depending on the spaces they have, you can end up with your child having one-to-one time with the childminder, although this might not be the case everywhere.

+ The costs are usually much lower than nurseries!

+ Must be Ofsted registered.

– The one-to-one time can be a bit boring for your child, but they wouldn’t normally be on their own in the setting if the childminder’s spaces are full.

– You are at the mercy of when your childminder wants time off! If you work throughout half term, you may have to find cover, but hopefully you would be informed of their planned holidays well in advance.

– Your childminder might not accept government funding schemes such as tax-free childcare or childcare vouchers – it’s best to check! I was fortunate that mine did.

Nursery

+ The setting really prepares children for school as it is much more formal than a childminder.

+ There are a lot more children! Your child can learn to socialise with a class size full of kids, preparing them well for school class sizes.

+ You have the option of either term time or full time places.

+ There is no risk of your childminder being sick and having no back up childcare, as nurseries are staffed by a group of people rather than just one.

+ Your child is usually assigned a key worker, who they will have one-to-one or small group time with during the days that they are at nursery.

+ The children can get involved in school-like activities, such as sponsorships and show and tell.

+ Nurseries sometimes offer hot cooked meals on site, a much better option than a packed lunch!

+ Nurseries should always accept government funding schemes.

+ Must be Ofsted registered.

– Depending on the nursery, they may charge more or not accept younger children (under 1 year or under 6 months), so if you want to go back to work sooner rather than later, they might not be the best option.

– Nurseries do tend to be more expensive to cover staff and building costs.

I honestly can’t praise the childcare Olivia had from her childminder enough, and was really sad to have to move her, but with the new job I began working in a new location, down in Portsmouth, and on full-time hours it would have been impossible to try and keep her in the same place because drop offs and pick ups simply weren’t feasible. Plus with Jamie on ceremonial duties and due to go away again later this year, there were no guarantees that even he would have been around to collect her!

I was of course filled with anxiety and trepidation on her behalf at the thought of her moving to a nursery, worrying whether she would make new friends or not… But my little munchkin settled so well, which is a massive relief!

So, what are my tips for coping with this move, as a parent, and for helping your child prepare for it?

  1. Firstly, and most importantly, go and see the new setting before your child goes for their first day. It’s a good opportunity for you to see the layout, what their routine will be, and who will be working with them.
  2. Ask questions – as many as possible, so that you feel 100% comfortable with the setting.
  3. Check the Ofsted report. Even if somewhere has a grade of Outstanding, it’s important to look at when the grade was given, as Ofsted inspections can be once every 3 years. The reports tell you a lot about the setting regardless of the grade, including parents’ comments.
  4. Take advantage of “settling-in sessions” to ease your little one into the new setting.
  5. And finally, try to prepare your child for the change by talking about it. This can be difficult if your child is still quite young, but I spoke to Olivia for about a month about going to a new playgroup and seeing lots of little boys and girls, and making new friends.

Have you made a similar change with your child? Has anything else helped you to make the transition?

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Moving in with the in-laws.

This last week has been very busy. Me and my partner decided to leave our first home and move in with his parents. Now, I can already hear many of you shouting WHHHHHY at your screens, but we obviously had our reasons.

We have never been what you call ‘responsible with money’ and unfortunately we found ourselves in a hole that would’ve taken a miracle to get out of whilst renting. So, in order to get our finances sorted, we packed up and moved into the in-law’s house so we can firstly, pay off what we owe and secondly, save up for a deposit for a house that we could really call a home.
It’s only been five days but honestly, I feel happier already. No, our finances aren’t sorted but there is now a chance for them to be in the future. The idea that in a couple of years, we could have no debt and possibly saved enough for a deposit on a house, makes me so excited for the future. I’ve also found that me and my partner are happier together. There isn’t this constant worry hanging over us about whether we could afford to pay a certain bill or tension because one of us bought something we didn’t have the money for. We are enjoying time with each other without nagging or bickering and it feels amazing.
Obviously, living with the in-laws does have it’s disadvantages as well…
(Cynthia and Tony, if you’re reading this, I’d stop now)
We are sharing a bedroom with our 2 year old daughter at the moment, so we don’t really have the space to relax and spend time with each other as a couple. Which was to be expected and will make the time we spend together in our next home even more worthwhile, so it’s not that big of a deal.
The other downside to sharing a room with our daughter (and this is why I asked you to stop reading Cynthia and Tony) is that romance is slightly tricky when you have a toddler sleeping at the end of your bed. So as much as we’re happier as a couple, there is a little less us time than what we are used to.I’m not going to say that this will work for everyone, I’ve been lucky that I get on with my in-laws and we are lucky enough to have this as an option. But as I said, it’s only been five days so it’s still early days. I will be sure to keep you updated on how things are going and how well we are saving.

Have you ever moved in with your in-laws to save money or maybe you couldn’t think of anything worse, let us know in the comments!

Mum guilt: I can’t live with or without you

Definitely not a tribute to U2’s famous classic, but definitely how I feel about this whole parenting thing sometimes… okay, more often than not.

I recently started university again full-time, and it’s incredibly full on. I barely have time to think about anything that’s not law-related. Except, when I’m there, everything I think about is baby-related.

Our recent settling in sessions with the childminder have been great, Olivia has enjoyed them and is always happy as anything when we pick her up, but it doesn’t make the guilt of leaving her any easier.

The guilt eats at you all day.  Some days since re-starting my education I have only seen her for 20 minutes in the morning, and it’s been Daddy picking her up from the childminder because I have so much work to do and can’t afford the distraction of coming home to try and study. As disciplined as I am and as good at time-management as I am, my baby is a distraction. Normally in a good way, in that I just want to spend as much time cuddling her as possible to make up for the time I’ve missed with her.

BUT

The screaming fits are a worse distraction. Far worse.

Does anyone else have a 16 month old who already is the worst behaved little screaming diva? Come on, she’s not 2 yet, those terrible twos should be at least 8 months away!

For the most part, her screaming is a normal part of our daily life now, and it’s something you become somewhat immune/deaf to. Or maybe she’s just reached a pitch that only dogs can hear (if so, I apologise to my neighbours and half of my street).

But it’s one of those awful situations where you’ve missed them so much, you come home and no angelic little sweetheart is waiting for you. Oh no, it’s your darling devil child coming to play, kicking and screeching and really making you wish you’d stayed at work/uni longer, whatever the case may be.

Then you see them snoring away peacefully, and back comes the guilt. Why didn’t I just hug her when she was crying and what am I doing wrong for her to scream like this? The truth is you didn’t hug her because she’d been screaming at you and started kicking/scratching/smacking you and that’s not okay, you had a short fuse because your brain is fried and what your child is doing should be classed as some sort of inhumane treatment, right? And secondly, you’re not doing anything wrong. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a game she plays to make me feel guilty as hell. They know what they’re doing, don’t be fooled!

So, I’m no longer a stay at home mum – to be honest, I was never home all of the time anyway. She would always have the odd day here or there without me, but never as often as this right now. It’s a huge adjustment for the both of us. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the guilt may always be there in the back of my mind even when it no longer bothers me.

For now though, every day is a struggle to be away from her and keep my sanity or to be with her and keep my sanity. And so, babies, this is our dilemma. Please understand and spare us mummies and daddies one night of respite, let us sleep it off and start afresh tomorrow.

Perhaps all parents are destined to be insane, just a little bit…

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