There are so many perspectives on what it is like to be married to a submariner, different from your standard Navy spouse, and different still between boomer and fast-attack life. I have had the distinct pleasure of experiencing both lifestyles, and one is definitely more challenging than the other. My perspective has shifted during our 20-year Navy career. Yes, I said “our” because Navy life is very much a shared experience. As a Navy family, we live by one universal rule – Navy First – which means that we endure many disappointments, anger, and loneliness. It doesn’t mean that I, as the Navy spouse, must put the Navy first, but quite the opposite. It’s my responsibility to put the family first. It is for me to understand that it has been drilled and ingrained in my Sailor to put the Navy first, and if we want things to work, I must accept this. If you don’t learn to accept and deal with this steadfast rule, you are only setting yourself, your family, and your marriage up for failure. 

 

I am grateful that Justin and I have grown in the Navy together. This time has taught us many valuable lessons about being a Navy family. When we started our family journey Justin was a young second class. In the early years in the Navy before Justin had acquired the responsibilities that come with rank, life was simple. Yes, he had some long days, and deployment was a pain, but time away from work and family time was easier. Navy first was still a rule, but there was less he was responsible for, so it wasn’t as hard to live by. We were also still on a boomer, which meant two crews to manage the boat, more time off, less deployment time, etc. Life on a boomer is easier. It’s easier to go with the flow when the time your Sailor is away is in shorter chunks. Two to three months out vs. six months out is more manageable to the psyche. There is less time for significant change and personal distance to form. Even when he made 1st class and was LPO (in civilian terms, this is basically like an assistant manager), our Navy first rule was still manageable because we were on shore duty.


We were spoiled on shore duty. Strike that, we were spoiled on the boomer, and when we went to shore duty, we got complacent. We took leave whenever, celebrated all the birthdays, holidays, and had almost every weekend. Life was so good, and we didn’t even realize it. We took it for granted. Justin made Chief at the end of his shore duty, but before that he was looking for his next duty station and we thought we were moving back to Washington. So, that summer I packed up our house and kids and moved from Connecticut to Washington. We decided that it would be better for me to go with the kids to get settled and put them in school, plus my family lived in Washington, and we were going to rent a house from my grandparents. This meant that Justin was alone to get our house ready to sell and get all of our stuff moved back to Washington. I had no idea what that meant for him, and if I did, I would have never left.

 

And, as luck would have it, he ended up being selected for Chief, which is a whole other world of late nights and training that we were not expecting. I didn’t think it would be anything we couldn’t handle. We had done deployments (on a boomer). How hard could being apart be (after a 2-year shore duty)? I would just like to point out that this was a real blonde moment on my part. Also, we ended up learning another hard lesson: wait for hard orders before you do anything. This might seem like a “well duh,” statement, but we were young, and I was excited to move home, close to friends and family. We ended up having to drive back to Connecticut. Thankfully, my grandparents, having been familiar with military life and very proud of my husband, supported us every step of the way and never once gave us the “I told you so” conversation. 

Justin's Chief Pinning Ceremony

This wasn’t our first road bump with Justin’s new rank. He took orders to the Missouri Submarine as the FT Chief. Little did we know this would be our home for the next seven years. Yes, you read that right, SEVEN! How did we manage that? Yeah, we get that a lot. First, Justin took extended orders so our oldest daughter, Ashlyn, would graduate before our next transfer date. Then, he extended again so that we all could move to Hawaii together. After we made it to Hawaii, he reenlisted to give Ashlyn his GI bill for college. Soon after that, when we were getting ready for much-needed shore duty, Covid-19 hit the world, and we got stuck on the boat for some more time—totaling seven long years, 4 different commanding officers, 6 XOs, 4 COBs, and never-ending cycling of the crew. 

 

Being on the Missouri for so long earned Justin the title of Ship’s Historian, fitting because he knew that boat inside and out. I also got to see the changes from an outside perspective. When we got to the Missouri, she had just come off a deployment and was being sent back out on a surge. This crew and their families were as tight-knit as any I had ever seen. I thought I knew a thing or two about deployment and Navy life. Whiplash. Being on a fast attack is so different. From the workload on the Sailor, the boat schedule, to the mental toughness of the families, it is a whole new ball game. Luckily we were thrown into our first deployment. Justin got a call to come off transfer leave, and the very next week, he was out to sea, and I was moving us into our new house. He was now a Missouri Chief, and I the spouse of a Chief. I took the role with enthusiasm. I wanted to be in the Missouri family. I liked the feeling of community and jumped in with both feet. I had no idea what being a Chief spouse meant, but I had some fantastic teachers.

 

I learned how to be a Chief spouse from Laura Voland. I didn’t know her well. I had met Laura a few times before her husband transferred, and my brief interactions with her were pleasant. She was kind and friendly with a warm and welcoming demeanor. Though I didn’t know her well, it was easy to see why she was loved and thought of affectionately by the women she had brought together. 

 

When we first got to the Missouri, I was the only spouse in Justin’s division. I had no friends, and my first experience with the FRG was not bad, kind of like being the new kid coming into a new school in the middle of the year. I quickly found my people though. The Sonar spouses welcomed me into their group. By the time I had found myself embraced by the group, Laura Voland had moved on to another command, but her presence was still felt. The spouses she left behind still reminisced fondly of her, and the community she had fostered among them was beautiful. She was my example of how to be a Chief spouse. I chose to follow in her footsteps as best I could.

 

I wanted to foster the same feelings of belonging and community amongst the FT spouses, but there weren’t many. It was one other spouse and me. It would take me another deployment and a few new guys to practice the lessons I had learned about being an excellent Chief spouse.

 

The first lesson I learned was to be involved. As a Chief, your spouse is now responsible for a division. I was responsible for getting to know the families and spouses of the Sailors that Justin was responsible for. If the Sailors can go out to sea knowing that their family members have support at home, it helps them to be able to entirely focus on their jobs and spend less time worrying about home life. I was lucky in the fact that Justin’s division was small. At any given time, there were never more than 3 or 4 wives and families for me to look out for, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. I still had to put in the time and effort to get to know the spouses and their families, build the connection, and nurture relationships so that they felt supported and comfortable. They needed to feel like they could come to talk to me, ask for help, and have a resource to go to when they needed it. We started with division gatherings. Usually family-friendly dinners on the weekends, potlucks/BBQs were a favorite. We would eat and get to know each other. Sometimes Justin would take the division out for dinner or hail and farewell, and I would invite the spouses over for a wine night. This way, I got to have some one-on-one interaction and get to know them better. Not all spouses will participate, but most will with a bit of encouragement from their Sailor.

 

 

Getting to know the spouses was also beneficial to the command and the boat’s Family Readiness Group (FRG). As a Chief spouse, I wanted to make sure that the families of Justin’s Sailors were supported and had every resource available to them for their mental health and wellbeing during deployments. A good FRG, is an excellent resource.

 

The Submarine birthday ball was always a good opportunity to shmooze with other families and it was always lots of fun!

Getting the families together to form a community is vital during deployment. Deployment is already challenging, and the loss one feels when their other half leaves is significant. Knowing that you’re not alone in your emotional struggle helps ease the grieving process. Connecting with others who are in the same boat is the best way to get through. If you have good FRG leadership and a good Command Support Team (CO spouse, XO spouse, COB spouse), they know the importance of the FRG and will work their butts off to meet the group’s needs. Being on the Missouri, I have been a member of seven FRG turnovers and been on the board two times.

My first experience with the Missouri FRG was when the CO spouse was Natasha Luckett and the XO spouse Karla Todd. These ladies were good at being outstanding members and advisors to the FRG. They were real cheerleaders, rallying the officer spouses and getting them involved brought the group together as a whole without rank divisions. They were excellent at bringing everyone together and fostering feelings of community. Which is so valuable and much needed during deployments. 

 

It’s debatable which is harder to endure – the workup to deployment or the deployment itself. You will only understand this if you are a Navy spouse. You see, on one hand during the workup, yes your Sailor is home most nights, with duty and more than a few underways here and there, but you can not plan anything. The boat’s schedule is packed and more than likely your Sailor is working long days and weekends too. They are constantly in and out, training, testing, training some more. And it’s frustrating to try and be a family during this time. You want to spend as much time together as possible before deployment, but are unable to really plan anything as the schedule and training shifts around every day. So, instead, this is when we prepared the kids emotionally, managed our own emotions and expectations, organized snacks, keepsakes, and little reminders of home to send out with our Sailors. We are shopping for underwear, socks, and whatever else our Sailors need for their trip. We are mentally preparing ourselves for the loss of our partners again. Planning for murphy’s unexpected surprises. Trying to ready ourselves and steel our nerves for life as a single parent. Tensions run high, little squabbles happen, and then, the inevitable wall you put up from your partner. It happens, there is no avoiding it, it is your mind’s way of preparing for the loss it knows is coming. It’s the first part of the emotional stages of deployment, the anticipation of loss, followed by detachment and withdrawal. You’re going through all this while your Sailor is going through a tough and grueling workload getting ready for deployment. I often thought deployment was easier. I think the worst is when you have gone through all of this and you are finally in the calm before the storm. A couple of days before deployment, when your Sailor gets a very small window of time to take care of non-Navy business before they leave. This is when you get a minute to emotionally prepare your relationship for what comes next. The departure date is set and you both know what’s coming. Wait! Navy throws a curveball, something on the boat broke or whatever, now the schedule has shifted. On the one hand, your heart is like, “yes! We scored more time”, but your brain is like, “OMG! You’re killing me! I have to start over!”. It’s tough because you want to welcome the gift of having a little more time, but you also just want to get the hard part over with. This is a test of your flexibility. 

 

As a Navy spouse, I flex this muscle A LOT! Being flexible is the cornerstone of any military relationship. The ability to roll with the punches and come out unscathed is a talent and something that is acquired over time. And if you’re a type-A control freak, like me, this is a hard skill to master. There is so much that is out of your hands and you just have to learn to be really really good at pivoting and managing your disappointments. So you learn to plan, but also plan a backup, and a backup for your backup. This means refundable tickets, keeping things to yourself, never getting too excited for a specific date, and always expecting the shift to happen.

Life during deployment is always peppered with murphy’s law. I was prepared, or so I thought. There is always the one thing that I missed or didn’t think of.  I thought I was so clever, keeping emergency binders on hand with all important paperwork readily available. I was, but when murphy is pounding on the door, it is hard enough to manage, not because you haven’t done it before, but because your emotions take over and everything seems like a big deal.

Coming home from a job well done. It took forever for this!

Preparing and organizing for disasters beforehand did make life a little easier. It always seemed to be the things I knew the least about were the things murphy would smack me in the face with. Like waking up to find the car has a flat and I have to get the kids to school. Thank god for triple-A and the neighbors that have kids that my kids could carpool with. My favorite was waking up to a fresh new foot of snow, just kidding. I hated having to shovel the driveway at 7 am to take the kids to school. At least I knew exactly where the snow shovels and road salt were in the garage because I placed them there. It’s the little things that make it so much easier. Deployment is lonely and hard. I tried to set myself up the best I could to manage the hard parts,and most of the time it helped to dim the giant spotlight highlighting the fact that I was doing it all by myself.

 

The loneliness of deployment can be crippling. When you finally get the opportunity to connect with your spouse after weeks or even months into the deployment can sometimes feel even worse. It was hard for me to understand that his ability to get off the tin can he has called home for weeks was greater than his need to connect with me. I had to repeat in my mind, no sunlight, same faces day in day out, the monotony of the days blending together. To keep me from being angry with him, to keep my thoughts from spiraling out of control. I was heartbroken that he didn’t miss me as much as I missed him. I knew that this wasn’t true but I also couldn’t see past my own loneliness and need to connect with him, to feel connected to him. He needed to get off the damn boat. To stretch his legs and feel the land beneath his feet and sun on his skin, breathe air that hadn’t been recycled. It wasn’t that he didn’t miss me, it was that he had been caged too long. I knew this, my rational mind understood this, but my heart didn’t accept it. I was resentful. He would tell me about all his adventures that he was having without me in places that I wanted to go explore too and I was jealous. Here I was stuck at home taking care of all the day-to-day, managing our lives, and struggling. All the while he is on vacation. Of course, I knew none of this was true. This was my little green monster born out of all my hurt and loneliness that I had buried deep down and kept hidden. These are the irrational thoughts of a Navy spouse that was enduring the long harsh Connecticut winter alone and away from family. Who spent Christmas alone. In short, I felt sorry for myself and had some serious FOMO. 

 

The reality was that I had a great support system and I had spent Christmas with warm and lovely spouses that were all struggling with the same feelings I was. We were all sharing the same FOMO, the same disconnect. It was in this that I knew it was ok to feel how I felt, I was normal. You have to have a support system, and family is great, but you need someone who has stood in your shoes or is going through it too. No spouse or Navy marriage will survive without a support system. Make friends with other spouses on your boat. Don’t know anyone? Go to an FRG meeting and find your people. I know it can be super intimidating and uncomfortable to be the new kid, but it is worth it. It is worth finding someone to connect with. You’ll both be able to lean on each other through deployment. It’s even better if you can get in with an incredible group of spouses. If it weren’t for the friends and support I had during deployment I would have fallen apart. Hell, I did fall apart. I wouldn’t have made it if these ladies didn’t pick me up and glue me back together continuously throughout the deployment. There is no way to do this alone and those who try, fail. The mental toughness a military spouse has is only as strong as the community she builds to support her. I truly believe this.

 

We made it through three deployments, a homeport change, and a shipyard period while we were on the Missouri. Now we get to breathe on shore duty for a while. Then we are retiring! That’s it! We are ending our TWENTY years in the Navy. For a long while leading up to this point, Justin was very apprehensive about what comes next. What were we going to do? I was apprehensive, though, not about the same things. I spent the last 15 years raising kids and living the Navy life. With kids getting ready to leave for college and Justin getting out of the Navy, what was I going to do? I would be losing everything in one fell swoop. I am going to say something very strange, so just bear with me:

 

Covid-19 saved our retirement.

 

I told you it was strange. I am not grateful for covid per se, but for the perspective it forced us to take. Instead of figuring out what job(s) we were going to pursue next, we got to step back and evaluate what we wanted for our retired life. This submarine spouse’s journey has just begun!

Finally in Hawaii and ready to live our best life!

We have so many lessons learned raising our kids we had to add an index! So, the main areas are split up and linked for you below. Happy reading!

 

Boundaries

Expectations and Rules

Bribery vs Rewards

Independence

Integrity and Honesty

Respect

Structure and Stability

 

Having raised 3.5 kids, we have learned some things. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals and no parenting book or baby book will ever prepare you for the experience. I think we can safely say that raising kids is a learning curve and a steep one at that. Even armed with our parents’ advice and experiences we knew very little, but enough to embark on this parenting adventure. Here are some of our takeaways from experience as a whole.

 

As parents, our most important job is to make sure that we give our children the tools to succeed as adults. There was a TED talk that I saw once by Mel Robison. The topic was “How to stop screwing yourself over.” This TED talk had nothing to do with parenting. The talk was actually about doing the things that you don’t feel like doing when there is no one around to make you do them. As I was listening to this, I thought about my oldest daughter, Ashlyn. All the times I asked her to do something she didn’t want to do, now as a grown adult, she does those things. She is conscientious about making healthy nutritional choices, exercising, getting her college coursework done, planning her schedule to prioritize school and work. These are all habits that we had a hand in building by our parenting.

 

Let me tell you a little more about our oldest daughter. Ashlyn, our guinea pig, if you will, was by far the easiest. She never really tested boundaries and always strived to meet expectations. She got a lot of privilege and minimal restrictions because she hardly ever stepped out of line. Of course, we had our “tough” preteen years. The worst we ever got from her was some sass. By comparison to other parents’ horror stories, we had it easy. Today she is out in the world, finishing up her 3rd year of college and thriving as a young adult. We are so proud of her. Often after I wrap up a phone call with her, I can’t help but think we did a good job. It might seem a little braggy, but out of all the things we have accomplished, raising our kids is by far the most rewarding.

 

Taylor, our middle daughter, was a late bloomer. A petite baby, she didn’t crawl but scooted, was late to walk and talk, and had no concept of personal space. Taylor was our sweet sunshine and rainbows kid. Well, she still is. Between the ages of 6 – 9, Taylor went through a sneaking and fibbing stage. This stage was challenging. We had no idea why she felt the need to sneak things or lie. We weren’t overly strict, and we never punished honesty. It was important that even if the kids did something wrong, they knew that if they fessed up when asked, the most punishment they would ever get was talking to, for the most part. To this day, she is still not the greatest at keeping on top of her school assignments. We chalk it up to her artsy side, and we know that it’s just part of who she is. She still meets our expectations for her grades, and that’s all we ask. We know she is capable of so much more. We want so much for her to put effort into her school work, but we have to accept that school is not Taylor’s passion, and that’s ok. Taylor has no idea what comes next for her after she graduates high school, and that’s ok too. Sometimes you just need a little more time in the nest.

 

Amelia, the baby, was by far the most challenging child. She was, or is, stubborn and strong-headed. We had a trying time as a toddler and a worse time as a preteen. She was never sneaky or told fibs. She was just a very strongly opinionated child with her own ideas on how to do EVERYTHING! It took some major intervention to help us get to a place where we could understand each other and communicate effectively. Amelia taught us that it is ok to ask for help and seek help when things aren’t working. Amelia is an amazing young woman, very driven, and passionate about her goals. She is also the kindest, most empathetic human I have ever known. Amelia is going to be so great out in the world as an adult. Bright and driven, and full of ideas on making the world better if not a more efficient place. 

 

Isaiah was the latest addition to our family. He came to us when he was 18, still a senior in high school, a friend of our oldest daughter, and not living in the best situation. When he asked if he could come live with us, we knew he would be our son from then on. Isaiah has a story, and maybe one day he will allow me to tell it, but as it is not my story to share, I will not be telling it today. Isaiah has found his path. He enlisted in the Navy and is thriving! We couldn’t be more proud of the man he is becoming. 

 

So how did we do it? It wasn’t easy, but here are the things we did and learned to mold and shape these extraordinary humans.

Boundaries

Boundaries are by far the most important key to parenting. If you ever want to shower alone again or use the restroom without a shadow, boundaries are the means to which you win back your privacy. We set boundaries right from the start by not letting our children into our bed at night and learning that it’s ok to establish privacy boundaries. Here are a few that we set for our house.

 

Knock before you enter mom and dad’s room. This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you have ever lived through walking in on your parents, you know how important it is. You also understand that kids are all wrapped up in their own little world, so thinking outside of that doesn’t happen very often. Thus, making every matter urgent and of extreme importance. They will not stop and think about what may be happening on the other side of the door. Their only thought is of their own need at that very moment. So, establishing knocking is essential for that one moment that you may have forgotten to lock the door. It’s also probably not as tough as you think. We also established this rule for the bathroom too. If the bathroom door is closed, knock before entering, and don’t bother if it is in use. 

 

We established a manners code early on, like don’t interrupt unless it was urgent. By urgent, I mean injury, destruction to property, or a severe rule-breaking offense. As mentioned before, kids are in their own little worlds and whatever is on their minds is so important it just can’t wait. You have to teach them that it can. Adult conversations were one of those moments that their thought or need could wait. If I was talking to another adult, that was adult conversation. Which meant it was not appropriate for kids to be involved, listen to, or interjecting themselves into the conversation.

 

Then there was the mom is busy boundary. If I was in the middle of doing a task, it was not the time to ask for me for something or ask me to do something else because you were bored. Bored was not a word you said more than once in our home. If you were bored, it meant you needed a task. There was always something that needed to be done, like folding laundry or vacuuming. 

 

Nowadays, lots of parents work from home. It is not unreasonable to set the boundary to be able to get your work done. When my kids were young, I was still taking college courses. I used time blocking to be able to get my work done. During my blocked time, usually two-hour intervals, the kids were expected to play on their own, read, write, color, play outside, pretty much anything but interrupt me from working. After the two hours of work was finished we did 2 hours of together time. We would go for a walk, or bake, or have a picnic, or something else that was engaging and usually learning-based. Then it was back to another two-hour block of work. This workflow worked well for us. I got my school work done, and the girls got time with me. We perfected this workflow through a lot of trial and error.

 

Boundaries are so important for your personal space and to teach your kids that everyone (including them) has personal space that should be valued by everyone else. If you teach your children that you can not be at their beck and call 24/7, then they will learn to do things themselves, entertain themselves, and learn to value time to themselves.

Expectations and Rules

Setting expectations is different from establishing rules. Expectations are the behaviors that you expect from your children. Rules are the things that your children follow. For example, I expect my girls to behave and mind their manners no matter what. When we go somewhere, it is a rule that they stay with me and not wander off. Another way to distinguish the two is that expectations are fixed, whereas rules can have exceptions. For example, I expect good grades from my girls, A’s and B’s, nothing less. Whereas the rule ‘don’t use the stove’ has conditions. The girls were allowed to use the stove with permission under adult supervision.

 

Another example of an expectation in our home is chores. I expect my girls to pitch in and help with various age-appropriate tasks around the house. We all live together, and therefore it is up to all of us to keep our home neat and tidy. There were no rewards or allowances for this. You got rewarded for going above and beyond the expectation. The girls cleaned the garage without being told, and it was not a chore of theirs, but they saw that it needed to get done, so they took the initiative and did it. This deed earned them a tremendous amount of gratitude and a reward for their thoughtfulness. 

 

We had three rules for each situation:

Going to the store: 1) no touching 2) no running off 3) don’t talk to strangers

House rules, 1) clean your messes 2) no running 3) no snacks without permission 

Playing outside, 1) stay within the boundaries 2) don’t play with other people’s things 3) stay together. 

 

There were more, and as our girls grew, the rules did too. 

 

Rules were constantly being updated. As the girls got older, some rules were no longer needed, and some rules became utterly irrelevant. Expectations, however, were consistent, with us adding more as they got older. The key is to make sure that the expectation is not beneath them or too out of reach. It needs to be obtainable through effort. There is a delicate balance, you don’t want too many or too few expectations, and you don’t want unrealistic or unreasonable expectations either.

Bribery vs. Rewards

There is a big difference between rewards and bribes. Rewards are often given for good behavior, whereas you offer a bribe to avoid or stop bad or unwanted behavior. Giving a bribe has the opposite effect than what you are trying to accomplish. You are not correcting the behavior. You are reinforcing it. Instead of setting the proper behavior expectation, you have just made it more appealing to misbehave. Knowing that each time they continue to act up, they will get a reward. Instead, try rewarding for the follow-through and completion of the expectation you set. For example, if you want your toddler to stop throwing tantrums, ignore the fit, don’t give attention to the misbehaving, or create a boundary; If you are to throw a tantrum, you must do it in your room. Once the child has decided to not tantrum to get what they want and instead ask or accept the alternative, offer praise. 

 

Praise for good behavior is a reward. It is in our nature to want to be praised and give acknowledgment for our good deeds. Give praise frequently to reinforce the behaviors you want to encourage your children to exhibit. Praise should be shown for even the small things. For example, if your child keeps their room tidy, let them know you notice and you are proud of them. 

 

It is essential to reinforce desired behaviors, but once a reward becomes an expectation of the child for being “good” the reward loses its value. This is why rewards don’t always need to be tangible. Physical rewards should be reserved for behavior that goes above and beyond a set expectation. Like if your child brings home a straight-A report card, celebrate with a special dinner out or a trip to the store for that new video game they have been eyeing.

 

It can be hard not to give in to the bribe. Trust me – it is not worth it!

Independence

Fostering independence at a young age is so crucial to the growth of your kids. It teaches them to trust their own opinions and think through choices, enabling them to make more challenging choices and be confident in their decisions later in life. It gives them a clear sense of their voice and individuality, too. Their independence is what is going to allow you to have your space. When a child is independent, they can entertain themselves. They can go to bed without you having to lay with them until they fall asleep. They learn to make good choices on their own.  

 

We started to develop independence around 2  years old in our kids. We did this by giving them small choices for things, like what clothes they wanted to wear for the day, or what they would like for a snack. By making their own choices, they also got to experience the consequences of their choices, good or bad, and learn from them. Like, “Wearing sandals in the snow sucks!” Next time maybe choose the snow boots, as mom suggested. Even at an early age, these lessons were important at shaping the ability to make better choices which turned into making good choices more effortlessly.

Sometimes bad choices work out in the end. Like these poor fashion choices made amazing play pictures!

As they got older, we gave more challenging choices. We talked through tough spots they faced with peer pressure, self-advocacy, and challenging questions like, “Is it ever ok to betray the trust and confidence of those close to you?” This was an actual topic that came up between Ashlyn and one of her close friends. She learned that sometimes to do the right thing doesn’t mean doing “their” right thing. 

For the most part, we let them decide what was best in the situations they faced. Of course, with a bit of guidance to ensure it was the right choice. Because we gave them the ability to be independent and think independently, it gave them the gift of self-trust. They can trust their instincts, thoughts, and feelings. They can make crucial decisions and be ok with having an unpopular opinion. They can walk away trusting that they are acting in their own best interest. Through these actions, they naturally developed integrity. 

 

Integrity and Honesty

Teaching a child to develop values such as trust, honesty, truth, and integrity is as simple as practicing what you preach. Be honest with your kids. Answer questions truthfully. Admit your mistakes and apologize. Act with fairness and kindness. It is possible to be firm but kind. Remember that kids are kids, and learning to develop and uphold values takes time and practice. 

 

Remember when I mentioned Taylor and her sneaking and lying phase? She had to learn that the consequence of dishonesty was way worse than telling the truth. We were consistent in that lesson, and eventually, she just stopped sneaking and lying. Once she stopped the behavior, she started to earn back the trust she lost and noticed that she had more privileges and choices. 

 

You earn trust through action or inaction. We trusted our kids up until they did something to break that trust, then they had to earn it back. Those are hard lessons for kids to learn. We praised honesty and integrity. These are core values that we uphold ourselves and expect of our children and our other relationships. 

Respect

The best way to teach your kids respect is by giving them respect. It’s another one of those lead by example lessons. Your children are, like you, full of emotions, thoughts, and opinions, and they have good and bad days. Their feelings deserve to be validated, but they need to be shown that while their feelings matter, they do not matter more or less than anyone else’s feelings. Their voice deserves to be heard, but there is an appropriate place, time, and manner to express their thoughts and opinions. For example, when my girls butt into a conversation that is not meant for them or are not a part of, we let them know that it is not their place to share their thoughts as they were not asked to join in the conversation between Justin and me. Usually, it’s with a clever saying, “this is an A-B conversation, please C your way out,” is a popular one in the Owney household. Kids also need to be taught that it is ok to have a bad day or not to be happy. No one is always happy or always has a good day, but most adults don’t go around throwing tantrums or taking their bad day out on those around them. So why should your kids have that opportunity? They shouldn’t. No one should. We gave our kids the option to tell us about the bad day or the incident that soured their mood, but they only got 5 minutes. Then they had to think about what they could do to change the situation or mood. We taught our kids that you could not control the things other people do or say, but you have control over how you act or respond and how you let it affect you. 

 

Conversely, it is ok to be proud of themselves and their accomplishments and share their wins, but not at the expense of someone else’s feelings. You should never belittle others or try to one-up someone to make yourself feel more accomplished, important, or seem better than anyone else. Another lesson we taught the kids is that how you speak to someone is a sign of respect. You should be mindful of words and tone. Adults deserve their respect, as they have been on the earth longer and have had life experiences they have not. They do not always have to agree with adults, but they may not be disrespectful. They also may not be rude to each other. We expected each member of our family the respect and consideration we gave them. We loved them, and when they were rude to each other, it hurt our feelings. Same for if they didn’t respect themselves. I think in the parenting books, this is called mirroring? The basic concept is that you want your children to see themselves as you see them. So if you showed them that you value them and expected others, including themselves, to do so too. I could be getting that all wrong, but I still think it’s a solid concept.

Structure and Stability

The last topic is structure and stability. As a military family, we had to find ways to provide structure and stability through all the moves and starting over. The structure was more straightforward because we were consistent in our expectations and rules. We also valued schedules. Our kids went to bed and woke up at the same time every day. As they got older, we allowed shifts in the schedule based on weekday vs. weekend, but for the most part, we were consistent. Giving the kids consistency allowed them to know what was expected of them and what they could expect from us no matter what was happening in our lives due to outside influences, hashtag Navy Life. 

 

Stability was a little harder to manage due to Justin’s work schedule, which is why the structure of our day-to-day lives was so critical. To give the kids the most stability we could, I made the rules. We decided that this would be the best way to keep things consistent. 

 

Let me explain why we would not do this vital parenting process together. If Justin made rules or gave out punishments, they needed to be maintained by me while he was gone. For example, if he wanted the kids to be up, dressed, and ready for the day by 8am, that meant I had to be up earlier to get them up and ready and enforce the rule. He was gone, so the enforcement fell on my shoulders which is an unrealistic expectation when he had no idea what our day looked like or what the schedule was while he was away. Same for punishment, if he took away screen time for a month and left on an underway, and during the underway, the only time I got a minute to myself was the two hours of screen time we allowed the kids, then he just punished me, too! Which means that I would more than likely end the punishment for my sanity and undermine him in the process. Undermining is one thing that we agreed never to do to one another. If one of us thought the other was overreacting, acting unfairly, or letting other things get in the way of our feelings and projecting that onto our kids, we said something privately, away from the kids, to the other. You can always apologize and walk back the things you said in the heat of the moment. Admitting mistakes and correcting them is part of teaching honesty, integrity, and respect. It’s ok to let your kids see that you’re human and make mistakes too. What you can’t take back is the damage you do to your spouse in the kids’ eyes when you undermine them as a parent. By undermining the other parent, you show your kids that you lack respect for your spouse. It is essential to have a united front and to be a team so that your children CAN’T divide and conquer. 

 

We are not perfect parents, and this is not an easy job. There were many times when we second-guessed ourselves and made mistakes, but we always tried to do better. The lessons our kids have taught us about patience and understanding have made us better spouses to each other and better friends to others.

 

To any parent reading this blog post, the one takeaway we hope you get from this is that YOU are doing great. Parenting is complex and challenging. The fact that you read this post and made it to the end means you rock!

 

 Leave a comment below if you have anything to add to the list. We know there are so many more topics that we didn’t cover and would love to encourage a discussion thread about parenting. 

Traveling with kids can be a challenge, for sure. Actually, just leaving the house with kids can be a challenge. Over the years I like to think we got pretty good at conquering these challenges. We learned to pick our battles and prepare for just about EVERYTHING. We developed a system, really I developed the system and Justin just went with it because when it came to managing the house and the kids I took the lead.

 

Step One – Make a plan.

 

First and foremost, I planned everything and I usually started planning early. I would start planning for an outing about three days prior for a local trip and about a month out for a road trip or plane ride. I would have three categories: emergency, food, entertainment. If we were packing for a long trip the categories would include, clothes, toiletries, and night time. The list was further divided into things that needed to be accessible and things that would go into suitcases. Next I would make a list of all the things I might need in each category, extra clothes and diapers or extra underwear under emergency, snacks and juice or milk as well meal planning under food, and each kid’s favorite toy, definitely a coloring book and big color crayons, under entertainment. Later we added Nintendo DS’s to the entertainment list, but I’m pretty sure those aren’t cool anymore (edit: Justin says they’re still cool). I would make the lists and check to make sure I had everything on hand. If I didn’t, I knew that a trip to the store was going to be put on the to do list in the next day or two.

 

Step two – Gather supplies.

 

If Justin was home I would send him with a list or I would go shopping when he got home from work. If he was away I knew it was going to be a little bit more of a trek to get to the store. A little more planning was required and to make it worth my while I would get a sitter. That way I could take a mini-mommy getaway and pick up some groceries or run other errands and treat myself to lunch or a mani/pedi. If I were really strapped for time I would load up everyone and take a trip to McDonalds… yup, I said it. With the new toys to entertain, some energy spent on a red and yellow playscape, and still full from the happy meal, the kids were calm long enough for me to quickly zip around the store to grab only what was needed and get out! Since this method usually cost about as much as getting a sitter and ended up being way more of a headache, whenever possible I just got a sitter.

The Big Sister - eventually the best babysitter of all...

 

 

Step three – Start packing.

 

Now that I had everything I needed it was time to get it packed up and ready to go. If we were leaving for a trip I planned at least two complete outfit changes per day that we were to be gone. I would make sure that the clothes were weather appropriate for the place we were going and that I included one pair of jammies for every two days. When the kids were babies I would pack everything into a diaper bag, but as they got older I bought them mini backpacks and packed each of them their own bag to wear. I would set the packs out by the front door with a pair of socks and shoes next to each of the bags. I usually set out their favorite shoes at the time, to avoid the infamous toddler tantrums all parents come to know and loathe. If the favorite footwear was impractical for the weather or season I just made sure to bring the appropriate attire with me in a separate bag for later. This method might seem a little extra but trust me it is worth it in the end. The time it saves alone vs the battle of wills that would be sure to ensue if we chose to fight it out over a pair of shoes.

Disnleyland fanny pack, twelve minutes worth of sugar-free juice, and a "VIP" badge...these kids are ready to dominate the whole day!

 

 

Step four – The night before

 

The night before, while they were picking out their jammies and preparing for bath time, I would have the kids pick out their outfits for the next day. No matter what we were doing the next day we would always do this. Having the kids pick out their clothes made it so that they weren’t taking forever to pick them out in the morning and it eliminated the fight with the grumpy toddler that wasn’t a morning person. It just made life easier all around. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes the outfit of the day was, indeed, not the outfit I wanted. We learned that giving the kids the ability to choose their own clothes taught them independence and gave them the feeling that you get when something is truly your own choice, but we also have some great blackmail photos, too. The older they got the more wise they were about how they chose to leave the house, and any parent with toddlers doesn’t judge another parent if they see a toddler in an unusual get up. You see they, too, know the struggle and silently salute you. If they are “judgy” then they obviously have never had the “joy” of the infamous toddler tantrum and are probably childless.

 

Step five – The morning timeline. 

 

Any morning that it was vital that we be out the door on time was always planned with at least a one hour buffer. Laid out my timeline as follows; one hour for me, one hour for breakfast, one hour to get three kids ready to go, and one hour buffer in case anything went wrong. Believe me something always went wrong. 

 

I learned to avoid the mishaps beforehand by learning from each one, or at least all the ones that could be controlled. For instance I fed the kids breakfast and we brushed our teeth before getting dressed. That way at least we could start the day without breakfast or toothpaste on our shirts. For breakfast I always opted for something quick that would satisfy and not get them too wired. Definitely not sugary cereal, I would opt for usually a yogurt parfait (yogurt layered with berries and granola) that way they felt like it was a treat and there were no arguments about breakfast. We also had everyone getting ready with coats, shoes, and backpacks 10 minutes before we had to leave. With everything laid out the night before it was very easy to get everyone ready to go. Of course there were some days that were definitely easier than others but for the most part this method worked. Leaving myself the hour buffer made sure that if we were going to have a difficult morning then at least I wouldn’t be late (well, not too late). We never had to rush about with the extra time built into the schedule.

 

Packing individual bags was our way to ensure that no one had any reason to fight over anything because they all had their own stuff, but, of course, as siblings do, they always found something to fight about. Knowing this would always be the default, Justin and I very early on set a blanket rule. If you fought everyone was in trouble. We didn’t care who started it or what it was about. EVERYONE was at fault. This eliminated so many arguments, so many fights were avoided. This did three things: First – it taught the kids to work it out themselves without involving mom and dad. Second – it stopped the tattling. Third – it taught them to get along. Not much fun to try to get your sibling in trouble if it meant you got in trouble, too.  It was much better to be nice and play together than it was to be in trouble. We set behavior expectations for our kids early on and for the most part the kids were model citizens when we were in public. We had them recite the “three rules” before we got out of the car whenever we went places:

1) No touching 

2) No running away from Mom and Dad

3) No talking to strangers

The kids added a fourth after our trip to Dinseyland, 4) No touching the fire alarm. That’s a story for another time. These rules changed as they grew and our expectations of them did too, naturally. Of course, not all days were good days and we had our fair share of late or missed appointments because we just couldn’t pull it together. This was usually out of the ordinary for us, though.

 

 

The Wrap Up.

 

We applied this method to outings, appointments, and trips. Our timeline for starting the process just changed depending on how big the adventure was. For long trips we “listed” weeks in advance, shopped about 2 out weeks from leaving, and packed the week before. One suitcase a day, a separate suitcase for toiletries, and packing it all the night before along with the kids backpacks. This method just worked for us and we never forgot anything, actually we were usually over packed, but better safe than sorry.

 

Maybe some of you will think these methods are a little extra or maybe you think that we were too strict as parents, and sometimes I wondered the same. We can tell you, though, that we have raised some pretty extraordinary humans, so we must have done something right. Our kids are pretty much grown now. Our oldest son and daughter have moved out, starting their own lives, and our two youngest are ideal teenagers. Kind, respectful, and all around stellar young women. If you’re curious to see what Taylor and Amelia are up to check out their pages on this website or stay in the loop on our instagram or facebook page.

 

We hope that you other parents traveling with little ones might give this system a try. If you do, let us know how it works out for you. It does take a little more planning and time to get the whole operation to run smoothly, but I think it will reduce stress and the terrible toddler tantrums. 

 

What are some ways that you have that made your trips run smoothly? Any expert level parent tips? Or maybe just a good example of what right (or wrong) looks like for getting the troop out the door?…Post in the comments below – we’re looking forward to your stories!

Multi Level Marketing (a.k.a. Network Marketing), Direct Sales, Affiliate Programs, what do they all have in common? 

 

They are all commission based sales structures. Most pay anywhere between 10% – 30% commission on product sales. Affiliate programs tend to pay the least and are done by the company giving the market affiliates a discount code to offer their customers, with some affiliate programs also requiring you to make a social media post and/or story about their brand, company, or products daily. Direct sales is very similar to multi level marketing. Both have sales representatives that are paid by commission, both have sales representatives who are self employed, and neither require a brick and mortar store. Some direct sales business models are even structured similar to multi level marketing, which encourages sales associates to recruit and train new distributors. In short there is not much of a difference between Direct Sales and Multi Level Marketing.

Multi Level Marketing is a little different due to the recruiting element of the business structure. Basically in this structure you are a sales representative and you get paid your commission for your sale but you also get bonuses for recruitment of other sales associates and a percentage of their sales too. The percentage made off your downline is wholly dependent on the company you have chosen to partner with. For example with Monat, one of the companies I partner with, I don’t actually get paid a commission from my down line until I am in a leadership rank, which is the 5th rank in the company and offers only a 2% commission on group volume. So most of my income from Monat is made through my sales and bonuses, of which there are a lot of bonuses. Basically, you can build a team if you want, but you don’t have to in order to make money. Seint Beauty, a makeup brand I also chose to partner with, has a very similar business model. You definitely get a really amazing commission from selling but if you decide to build a team you are compensated for that, too. I have to also say that neither one of these businesses that I chose to partner with require me to meet a sales quota, but any product, or keep any stock. The only thing I pay for is a monthly website maintenance fee of $20 and a partnership fee which is less than $50 a year. These were some of the criteria that I looked for when I was considering converting as a customer to a business partner with these companies. I had already used the product and loved them, I trusted the quality and the company, the customer service was outstanding, I gushed about the products with my friends, and shared the products on my social media platforms. Taking the step to become a business partner was a no brainer plus I wanted the larger discount too.

 

I am not saying that multi level marketing is better than direct sales or affiliate marketing. What I can say though is that multi level marketing has gotten a bad rap due to a few bad apples and changing the stigma around these business structures is hard. People know all about the bad apples and are really reluctant to try it out for themselves. The best way to avoid being taken for a ride is to do your homework. Like with any company you work for, I hope you are researching the company and learning about who you are working for. How they treat their employees matters and if it sounds too good to be true or people try to sell you “the dream” maybe you should dig a little deeper. Look for yourself at the success rate of the sales associates within that company. Is the success of the companies sales associates based on sales or recruitment? The short of the matter is that if you can’t make a decent earning without recruiting then it is not likely to be a company that will give you much ROI, unless you are really good at selling “the dream”. The companies worth pairing with will make it possible for you to earn a good income based on sales alone, with the option of building a team if you want. These companies are not get-rich-overnight kind of businesses and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is selling you. You can make a decent income with these businesses if you work the business. Working the business takes time and effort. Some people will tell you that you can do this in as little as an hour a day. Well, you can, but you will only be paid like you worked an hour a day. The real way to make money is to work your business like a business. Take the time to plan your daily work, learn the ins and outs of your products, compensation plan, and the value the products can bring to your customers. You want to know what you’re selling!

You need a plan for selling. How do you want to run your business? Do you want to ask your friends, neighbors, and family to buy your product and support your business? If you do make sure you have them in mind. Why would they like the product or service? How can it help them? If you don’t want to sell to your nearest and dearest then how are you going to sell? Social media is a great tool but it only works if you have a plan, are consistent, genuinely love and believe in your products. People can spot a fake a mile a way. You also need to be in it for the long haul. You need to be prepared for a slow start and slow growth. You need to be comfortable in front of the camera and you need to be comfortable with sharing yourself on social media. Like I said these types of businesses are not built overnight and you do have to put a lot of time and effort into building your brand, your business, your audience’s trust. The great thing about the two businesses that I partnered with is that they offered an amazing and motivating community of like minded people to collaborate with. Communities like these offer support, training, and comradery. I have learned so much watching these like minded individuals share their triumphs and failures, we collaborate, share content, and network. These communities are wonderful resources. I definitely feel like I got the most bang for my buck when I decided to build my businesses with these companies, and it was a ZERO risk investment!

What I mean by that is, in order to partner with these companies I was required to purchase a product pack. That is how I made the transition from customer to sales associate. Each of these companies’ product packs was a different price, both under $500, but the cost doesn’t really play any relevance to this point. The point is that I paid for products which I received and use daily. I have already earned back my initial investment in commission though using, sharing, and selling. Even if I were to quit working these businesses tomorrow I would not be out anything. I would be doing myself a disservice at this point if I quit, because I have put a lot of time and effort into building a customer base.

 

If you’re looking to start a side hustle each of these business models will make you some extra cash. Some require more work than others. Affiliate marketing definitely will make you some spending money, is pretty easy to squeeze into your social media stories, and doesn’t require much of a time commitment. Some affiliate marketing programs offer their affiliates free products to try and some require you to buy, but offer a decent discount to get you started. Direct Sales and Muilti Level Marketing do require more commitment, but the ROI is usually greater if you stick with it and are consistent in selling your products and building your customer base. In short there is real potential to build a substantial income with these two business models, it just depends on the company you choose to partner with, the quality and demand for the products, and how hard you want to hustle.