PCS Calculus: What Matters To Our Family Now?


We are just so darn lucky to move all the time! No, I have not, in fact, been taking drugs.

Instead, I’ve been reading Raleigh Duttweiler’s article about how the house you pick during a PCS has a profound affect on your career prospects.

Shoot, after 16 moves, I can swear that the house you pick has a profound affect on every other aspect of your military life, too.

Moving makes us perform that kind of relationship calculus few civilians ever get the opportunity to try.  They buy a home and imagine their baby daughter walking down the stairs in a prom dress.  Our baby girls will live in six other houses before they ever don the taffeta.

This is a good thing.  Because when we PCS, we get a chance to pick a house to comfort and keep the family we have now—not 15 years from now.  By thoughtfully choosing a new place to live, you and your servicemember get to think and rethink about what is important to your family now.

Your career. Valerie is a Marine wife who talked to Raleigh about how she and her husband made the decision about where to live.  He wanted to live as close to the base as possible, but that meant a nearly impossible commute for Valerie.  She reasoned, “Your job gave us a location. My job is giving us a neighborhood.”  The couple split the difference for the commute so that they could both work.

Your evenings. In a young family, the hours between 5pm and 8pm are golden—that’s when family life is lived.  I didn’t want Brad to miss any more of that than he had to.  I also wanted him to be in a good mood when he got home.  So we always picked smaller houses closer to the base.  We could have had a “better” house in a far away suburb, but we needed Brad at home as soon as possible.

Your sex life. Some houses are better set up to have a good sex life than others.  When kids are younger, your bedroom needs to be close so that you can relax knowing the chickens are sound asleep.  When kids get older, your bedroom needs to be far, far away. Or so I've heard.

Your tether. Some military jobs require the servicemember to be at the beck and call of the unit.  Engineers have to rush back to the ship when stuff breaks. First sergeants need to bail out their junior guys.  Loopers live at the elbow of their flag or general officer.  Where you live can affect the ability of the servicemember to do their job AND be part of the family.

Your school district.  Schools matter—especially when you have a child with special needs. Our youngest is on the autism spectrum. When we moved to San Diego, a Kindergarten teacher from one school district pulled us aside and told us to go to the other school district.  “I could get in trouble for telling you this but their program and their services are so much better than ours.  Early intervention matters with autism.  Go there!”  We picked a house in the other school district right that minute.  And blessed that teacher for years to come.

Your brand of poverty. Everyone is poor in something.  If you get the house with the pool at the very, very top of affordability, you could be house poor.  If you get the house with the big yard for the kids and a ton of yardwork, you could be time poor.  If you get the little house with no commute, you could be space poor.

Every military family is different.  Every military career has different demands.  Everyone is filled and nurtured by different things.  When you PCS, you get to make a more thoughtful choice about where you live your life.  In addition to questions about mortgages and locations and taxes, you also have to consider how do you want to spend your time?  What is important to you now? How do you want to spend these years of your precious life?

Choose the house that will best shelter the kind of life you want to live now.  You will have a chance at another kind of house sooner than you think.  Trust me.




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