Here’s the thing about military houses that is unwavering: they are what you make of them, just like military life in general. Having run around the military block for some time, I realize it’s hard to have any base house feel like “home” when within a month’s notice your family could have to pack up. It’s inevitable and unstable. Plus, it’s not yours. You’re renting, and under strict rules about what you can and cannot do to it to make it your own. There’s often a void where roots should be planted, especially for children. But if you take the time to fill your home with laughter, love, and just the right amount of Target accessories, it can harness some semblance of “home.”
I have been a military spouse (between two husbands –hush!) for over 16 years. I have moved into nine homes, five of them being on-base military housing.
After the third base house we vowed to never live on base again.
Of course, we are living in base housing once again.
But you know, it’s not all bad. We live currently in a brand new single-family two-story house that is absolutely gorgeous by our standards — which may or may not be standard!
However, we’ve lived in our fair share of less-than-standard or ideal homes. Our last military house was a 900-square-foot townhome built in the 1940s. For our family of four, plus a pooch and a kitty, it wasn’t an emblem of space or modernization or anything else for that matter, but it was cozy and had a je ne sais quoi.
Expect it: neighborhood drama
Of course, no matter how much you accessorize, bake, and adorn your home with odes-to-Americana, base housing can come with a heap of obstacles. Namely, your neighbors.
Many base houses are duplex or townhome styles, and living in such close quarters can be a blessing and a curse. Your neighbor can become your best friend — or make life extremely difficult. There is certainly a stereotype of rampant drama in base housing, but sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason.
I suppose there is such a thing as being too close. I’ve heard neighbors in all manners of situations from horrific screaming matches to explicit rounds of marathon sex. Making eye contact the following day can be difficult, especially when you remember that if you’re hearing them, they’re hearing you. But this is likely no different for anyone who lives in an apartment or non-military duplex.
What is different is the shared military lifestyle. You can grieve and relish in the same things concerning your military lives. I have always found a sense of safety and camaraderie, even among the neighbors I don’t know.
Love it: convenience
I love being near the commissary, clinic, post office, and my husband’s job. I love that my kids can better understand what their dad does and what it means to serve because it is close to their lives daily. Sometimes I wish their lives and the Job were farther apart, though; especially deployments, moving often, having to say goodbye to friends, drama, and having to start over in new schools.
The few times we have lived off-base there were certainly things I did like (like being able to paint my house any damn color I pleased and not having to deal with drama-mamas), but I distinctly always remember feeling isolated from the military. We didn’t live near other military members and the only semblance of being associated with it was seeing my husband in his uniform. We didn’t hear the national anthem every day at 5:00pm or Taps at 10:00pm. My kids didn’t have friends who understood being a military brat. I didn’t have neighbors to call (or rely) on when my husband was gone.
Some military members and their spouses like being removed from the military and that’s perfectly fine. I did not. It’s the only life I’ve known since I was 20 years old and I find extreme comfort in being near those who are living similar lives. Although I don’t know many of my neighbors, I do know that I could go to them for anything I needed in any situation…because they’ve been there.
So I think in a long list of pros & cons the sides are pretty evenly matched. We chose to live in base housing this time around because the housing market was crap and it was cheaper for us to live on base. Sometimes this is not the case, so members do have to be diligent in weighing the financial aspects. Contrary to popular belief, we do pay rent. The rent & utilities (BAH) comes out of my husband’s pay automatically every month. If we were to live off base the BAH would be reinstated into his pay and we’d use that for our mortgage, utilities, and any extras that come with home buying/renting.
No matter where you live or who you live next to, the key to home happiness is doing your best to capture the essence of “home” and keeping a positive attitude…but if you live next to a drama-tornado, no one will blame you for wanting to run for the hills!