Dual Active Duty Life -- One Family's Story
(September 17, 2010)
|MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, Jacksonville, NC (MCN -
Sept. 14, 2010) -- Dual active duty parenting takes
planning, organization and teamwork. It is not easy, but
neither is anything else about the Marine Corps. |
Raising a family in the military can provide unseen benefits
for the family unit, including children learning to take
responsibility at an early age. I have found that along with
the benefits, there are also near constant sacrifices on the
family, especially the children, I did not face when I was
working in the civilian sector.
When both parents work outside the home, especially in the
military, there comes a point when they have to sit down and
realistically assess their lifestyle to figure out where
they can minimize stress in order to have more quality
Some say dual active duty parents face the same challenges
that other working parents face, and although some are
similar, in my experience, it has been an interesting
transition from working outside of the home to being an
active duty Marine.
My husband and I have three children, ages one, six and
eight, and the switch from civilian to Marine brought some
dynamics into our lives I had not considered before I
joined. Our day starts early by necessity. My husband and I
have to be up and awake by 3 a.m. every day, and the kids
must be dressed and out the door by 3:30 a.m. so we can get
them to the sitter's house and my husband and myself to
physical training on time.
Unfortunately, as early as our day starts, it ends even
later. By the time we pick the kids up from the sitter and
get home, it is typically 7:30 p.m. We usually have just
enough time for dinner before we have to get the kids in the
bath and put them to bed. We also have to decide who gets
the majority of sleep.
It may sound odd, but think about this: a teething, fussy
baby or sick child requires constant monitoring and
attention. They will not usually sleep through the night. We
have to discuss our following work day so whoever has the
more urgent tasking can get the most rest.
Communication is vitally important. Before I joined the
Marine Corps, there was no need to pay attention when my
husband would tell me he had barracks duty or would be out
doing field training. I would miss him that night, but it
didn't impact me in any major way because my job started
later in the morning and I knew I would be off work at the
same time as usual. Now, we need to know if we have duty the
same night (has not happened yet, but it could), and I have
to be able to let my chain of command know if an issue comes
up because he is unable to get the children.
We talk a lot about our day on our commute. My husband knows
what my job is and he knows the Marines in my shop. I know
the same about him. We talk through our successes and
frustrations at work, so by the time we get home, our minds
are clear and we can focus on the family.
The other thing to take into consideration is what we can
let go to make family a priority. Due to our limited family
time, we do not have our children enrolled in every sport or
class that comes their way. They are allowed to choose one
activity at the beginning of the school year to be involved
in, and that is it. They cannot choose an additional
activity, nor can they drop the one they are in until the
school year is out. That way, they learn that time and money
are something valuable; not something to be squandered
Being prepared is key, and having a routine helps us
navigate the chaos. When going to the grocery store, it is
imperative to know exactly what we are going to eat for the
following two weeks so time is not wasted at night trying to
figure out the next day's menu.
We installed a wipe board for schedules. Everything goes on
the wipe board, from where the children need to go to that
day and who is taking them, to work meetings and events. It
prevents any miscommunication between the five of us. To
make use even easier, I color-code the children's names, so
they write in the correct schedule column. Bags and lunches
are packed the night before and either loaded into the car,
or set by the door. The kids pick out the clothes they want
to wear the next day before they go to bed and have
everything, including underwear, socks and shoes, laid out
in plain sight and ready to put on first thing in the
Is this system infallible? No, of course not. There are
still days where I leave my military identification card at
the house or forget the kids' lunches in the refrigerator.
There are days when the baby won't sleep or the kids are
sick, or we get last-minute notification from our shop that
there is an event going earlier or later than usual. That's
life. That is where we have learned to adapt and overcome.
Another unique issue we face as dual active duty parents is
the possibility we could have simultaneous or dovetailing
deployments. So far that has not happened, but the longer we
stay in the Corps, the more likely the chance that it will.
This would mean that neither parent would be home for the
children, or only home for a limited time. We have to make
sure our family care plans are up-to-date and we have people
we can count on to watch them in the event that happens.
Both my husband and I are on our first enlistments and when
our reenlistment opportunities came up recently, these were
the issues we had to talk about.
Eventually, and with a heavy heart, we finally decided that
I should bring the active Marine chapter of my life to a
I realize there are many dual active duty parents that make
it work, and I give them my highest respect. For our family,
however, we decided that what met our needs best was for one
of us to leave the Corps.
I will never regret our decision to serve as dual active
parents. It taught us a lot about our marriage, and each
other, and it taught our children duty, commitment and
responsibility that they may not have learned otherwise.
Even though I will say goodbye to active service in 2011, I
will not say goodbye to the Corps. Our family will still be
here, supporting my husband and his Marines as they tackle
the next challenge.
Article and photos by USMC Cpl. Nichole Werling|
Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego
Marine Corps News
Comment on this article