We’ve all seen the movies/commercials where the young man comes home, excited and nervous, sits his parents down, and explains to them that he’s joined the military. Usually the mom cries and the dad gruffly pats him on the back with a “Congratulations, are you sure about this?” Then talk turns to when he leaves, how grown up he is, and goes from there.
This can certainly be the setting in real life, but there are many different ways in which families react to a loved one (or a parent) who has decided to enlist or commission in the service. Some reactions are well received, others are mostly shock or anger. Joining the military is unlike any other profession, so it takes some time for people to get used to the idea.
How do you tell your family you’ve decided to have the government become your employer? And what happens if they don’t agree with your choice?
Ideally, you’ll want to tell your family you or your spouse is considering this huge life change in advance of it actually happening. When Sam was thinking about joining the Army, we told both sides of our family what we were thinking about and what it would mean. Gather as much information as you can to sit down or call and discuss the options you have available. Some questions they might have, as well as some that are good for you to ponder, are listed below:
- What type of jobs (MOS) in the service do you qualify for?
- When would you sign up?
- When you you leave (approximately)?
- Where might be a place you get stationed?
- How will this affect your family if you already have one?
- What about your current job and that timeframe?
- How often will you be able to come home?
- How long is your enlistment?
All of these and more might be brought up, and you can speak to your recruiter or look online for more information. Be sure you and your family are comfortable with the details or your enlistment, because once you’re in the military – it’s not easy or very wise to try to get out.
If it’s a quick decision or you feel like you need to do it prior to telling family, be prepared that it may cause some hurt feelings and not so welcoming responses. Even if you are married or have lived away from home for a while, joining the service isn’t like switching jobs. It’s a major life change – one that involves the service man or woman being gone for long periods of time in sometimes dangerous situations.
Be positive and reassuring about this being what you or your spouse really wants to do, and stand firm. If nothing else, give your family and friends some space to comprehend the news and have the shock wear off. Remember that someone might be upset simply because they care about you or don’t understand the decision and may need time to really process it all.
Ultimately, this is a choice only your and your partner can make. Many people make it for different reasons – financial, insurance, love of country, education, pay, a desire for a job with steady promotion, and/or simply a love of the military. It needs to be clear to everyone involved in some way how the choice you made it the right one for you and the people you support.