The military lifestyle provides many stressors on families and marriages. But I think one of the biggest stressors on a military marriage is a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Especially if this PCS involves a lengthy cross-country trek.
Picture this: me, my husband, our six-month-old daughter, our lab, and two cats stuffed into one SUV in the dead of winter. Halfway through our 2,000 mile cross country trip. In the middle of rural Oklahoma. With no cell service or GPS signal. Baby screaming in the back. Gas tank on empty. My husband and I arguing because he refused to stop earlier and now we are going to be stranded in the middle of nowhere. Me threatening all the things I will do to him if said stranding occurs.
Yet, two years later we are still (happily) married. We managed to survive this trip without inflicting bodily harm on each other (I kid, we would never actually hurt each other) and no one was left on the side of the road.
How do you make it? Here are four tips for surviving a PCS:
1. If you have kids, get a portable DVD player. No, seriously. This was a lifesaver for us. No one would argue that planting your child in front of cartoons for hours upon hours is good parenting. However, when it comes to being stuck in a car for days on end, license plate games and signing songs aren’t going to cut it. Having access to entertainment makes a trip with small children tolerable.
2. Take Breaks. Being confined to a car or small hotel room for days with your entire family can make you want to pull your hair out, so it’s important to get a breather. If you are on the road, plan stops around places that you can stretch your legs and the kids can play. For instance, fast food chains with play areas are great for this. If you are living in temporary quarters, get out as much as possible. A quick trip on your own to the grocery store may be just what you need to clear your head.
3. Think of it as an adventure. Your frame of mind can make a big difference. Also, finding sightseeing stops along your route can turn your travels from a grueling cross country march into a memorable family trip.
4. Above all else, keep your sense of humor. When the going gets tough, the tough get laughing. A good laugh is great stress relief. And, if you can laugh together instead of fighting, you can keep the inevitable hairy situations from getting the best of you.