Rituals of the Military Moving Mom

Kids celebrating the military

As spring thinks about turning into summer, PCS season is again upon us. If you're doing what MY family is doing this June, you're moving! Again. We military moms have this zoo-moving thing down to a science. We chuckle at other families who spend months stressing over a cross-town move, and shake our collective head at the rookie mistakes of our civilian counterparts. Whether to keep our household goods in order, keep our kids from running amok or just to keep our sanity, we military spouses have developed our own moving rituals that inspire flawless ground operations everywhere.

Rituals to Love. No matter how old your children are, if they are able to hold a crayon they can create a 'Best-Of' book from each station as you depart. Have the younger set draw pictures of their favorite things as they prepare to say goodbye. Pictures of school, friends, church, that awesome rock in the back yard … The key is to let your child decide for herself what she'd like to draw. You might offer to label the pictures (be sure to include the date!), but let your little one own this project. Secure several pictures together from each move, and bind them to carry forever!  Encourage the older set to journal about their favorite times, upload pictures, or create their own webpage that they can reflect on in their own time. Part of moving on is saying goodbye – no need to dwell, but make sure to embrace this necessary step, both for you AND for your little ones.

How many of you make donation a regular part of shipping-off? Toys, gear, or clothing that may be either outgrown or inappropriate for your new station's climate – swap it out or donate it all!  Enlisting the kids' support in this step is important … so is the timing. You might consider lightening your load several weeks before your actual move, so your precious little one doesn't associate the new post with the disappearing treasures.

Rituals to Steal. Whether you're married to an Admiral or an Airman, chances are you've created some incredible time-saving, headache-avoiding packing tips. "I put all hardware for furniture, drapery rods, etc. into ziplock bags that are marked, and place all of them into a fabric handle bag. I hang the bag on a doorknob centrally located in the house. I keep my handy multi-screw driver and drill in the bag. This way I have to go back to the bag and it forces me to put everything in there. I also have a large ziplock for the remotes and wires to all electronics." Thanks, Julie! 

Make sure you have an 'open first' box. Either pack it yourself, or have the goods stashed together in your home so they go in ONE box. Each family will have different things in the box, but some ideas include the coffeepot (and coffee fixins, including creamer/sugar/cups), boxes of granola bars/nuts/morning snacks, paper towels and cleaning supplies, tape, scissors/box cutter, a few toys, whatever you think you'll need ASAP when you push the 'play' button on your unpacking!  You can keep kids busy during the pack-up if you let them decorate the outside of the box HOWEVER they want (and I guarantee you'll find it in your vast sea of boxes!). Thanks for this, Sam.

Vina makes sure to meet people before school starts. She and her family adventure out right from the start, to learn what's around them and how to get there. She lets her kids have a voice, to share what they like about their new house and what they miss from the old.  

Rituals to Inspire. Military children have an incredible opportunity to gain valuable perspective beyond their years, and light-years beyond their civilian age-peers.  Their flexibility and resolve are a direct result of their exposure to different American cultures, often international as well.  Lori advises: "Always make the drive cross county as memorable as possible - go places you never thought you'd go - and do at least one unique thing. That is one great thing about being a military family; you get to know the US better than most Americans because you're always driving across it! We've done it 4 times!"

Rituals to Start. Make sure you take advantage of base resources on your move. Make the SLO (School Liaison Officer) your new best friend. Go to your Family Support Center to see what resources are available to you, including starter kits for the kitchen/linens/etc while you wait for your belongings – even if you are living off-base, check!  And please girls, take Cathy's advice: “GREAT communication with each other during the entire move is so important so we can work together and know what we are doing since no move is easy.”  What you are doing is hard – give yourself permission to ask for help, lean on your spouse, expect your kids to pitch in, and embrace the adventure.


thredUP connects thousands of moms across America and on bases overseas to exchange boxes of stuff your kids no longer use, for boxes of stuff you actually need – all without leaving your house. All swaps are done online, with scheduled home pick-up and delivery in CONUS, post office delivery service OCONUS. Military families can upgrade their free basic membership to a pro Membership at a 33% discount. In addition, military families are given at least one additional swap credit per month (without the need to swap out a box!). Our Chief Military Mom, Sara Gibb, is eager to help you get started and answer any questions you have along the way ~ sara@thredup.com.

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PCS Family and Spouse