Several weeks ago while walking in to pick up Drama from Dance class, I heard a few parents having a conversation in the corner while looking through the little window into the class.
"No... I say 5."
"You think? I'd put no more than 4. I mean, look at her!"
pretty coordinated, though. One lady said she saw her registering for
Sr. Kindergarten. She's gotta be at least close to 5. Either way,
she's too young to be in this class.".
My heart sank a little and I got butterflies in my stomach. Because I knew what they were talking about.
They were guessing the age of my daughter.
they were angry. Angry that their daughters were in the same class as
someone so young. As though their eventual scholarships to Julliard
were hanging in the balance of this one pre-school age child that could
hold their class back.
Except she's not preschool-age.
And she's been dancing for almost 5 years.
So I stepped over to where they were, I looked through the window and I said
you talking about the little girl in the purple tank top?". (I
resisted the urge, at this point, to say things like 'the one NOT
disturbingly dressed in hotpants and a completely functionless sportsbra
like most of the others'. Because that was not the point, that was
only my judgement.)
And when they said yes, I simply followed up with this.
"She's actually 7. And I believe in the same grade as your little girl."
I listened with at least a little sympathy to their back-peddling
because, well, all they did was make a fairly easy assumption that the
little tiny dancer wearing size 4T, standing a good head shorter than
all the other girls, was the age that her size led you to believe.
It wouldn't be that hard to make that call.
it wouldn't be too hard, after that, to start to feel a little
indignant as to what that meant for YOUR child and her dance
The problem was that there was a clear parallel that was drawn here that was false.
The idea that one person's truth is the same as the next. (Your child is average size so all are)
idea that what you have seen or heard is absolute fact. (She was seen
in the S.K. registration so must be attending that grade.)
Assumptions like this all have their basis in some form of truth -
in actual fact, she is just a feisty and tiny 7 year old who was with
us when we registered our 5 year old son for Kindergarten.
brings me to today, when I read all the Military Family blogs rising
with indignation at a Huffington Post Column that calls their lifestyles
Assumptions were made by someone standing on
the outside and an entire community of people was painted with a
sweeping and mostly untrue brush.
As much as I disagree
with his assumptions I cannot speak on life as an American Military
Family, I am not one. I will leave that up to the talented and well
spoken women who have already cleared that up. (Here's one to check out at Singing Through The Rain)
But let's be honest. The same assumptions and misconceptions happen here, in Canada, and they happen both ways.
truth is some of these Budget Cuts being introduced this year are going
to hurt families. But I don't know enough about them to be able to
speak with any authority.
The best I can do is show you a face.
To remember when you read the articles about what is being cut.
It's time to be straight up honest about what it's like being a Canadian Military family.
What I've Learned Living With The Canadian Military for 13.5 years:
1.Canada is not a State.
Our life/pay/benefits/deployments/housing/etc. do NOT work the same as they do for American Military Families.
Please leave all assumptions that you have based on American Movies,
American Reality Shows, Lifetime Dramas and the comedy series MASH at
the door. They are not applicable.
Bottom line: Just Stop It.
2. Where's My Caviar?
Our pay is readily available to be viewed on the Internet.
I'll even operate Google for you.
NCM Pay Chart - Canadian Forces
Officer's Pay Chart - Canadian Forces
you can see, pay varies. Like any job, pay changes according to the
type of work you do (regular, specialist), your rank (level of
promotion), and your education before enlisting.
Officers would be
considered management, and as such have an ability down the road to
reach a far higher level of pay than an NCM (the non-officer ranks).
A deployed Service Member receives further benefits on top of his regular pay. No one gets rich off of them. They do what they were meant to do, make life a little easier those months by removing some financial barriers during deployment.
Bottom Line: There is a wide variety of pay in the Canadian Forces. And very few are getting rich. Google before you assume.
3. This House Was Made for You and Me
Back in the day, Military Housing (PMQ's) was available on a sliding scale based on the Serving Member's salary.
almost all families pay fair market value rent for their PMQ's unless
special financial circumstances require them to apply for percentage
based rent (25% of monthly income). It is not always an option.
PMQ's have been renovated and look great. Other's have mold issues,
asbestos, and other concerns. Few have finished basements or garages.
Most do not have fencing.
Each time a family is posted, if they
are choosing to live in Military Housing for whatever reason, they have
to take what's available and offered to them, and pay whatever is
required at that posting. They pay all other related housing costs
(utilities and other services).
Wanna see the houses and their costs.
Let me work Google for you again.
Housing Floor Plans and Costs for Military Housing
For the approximately
85% of Military members that live OFF base and on the local economy,
they do so at their own expense like the rest of the world. Some
locations have 'PLD' or Post Living Differential. This is a seemingly
(though I'm sure not really) arbitrary amount (between $0 - $1500 per
month before tax is taken off) given to subsidize cost of living in
places the Government feels are more expensive to live. Every year,
they threaten to take it away.
Many locations do not have PLD.
Bottom Line: In
some places Service Families do receive some compensation for cost of
living. But there is no free housing, cheap housing, or anything like
it. For anyone.
4. Leaving on a Jet Plane
The Military offers what is called "Service Flights', especially during the holidays.
are given first to Service Members who are on Restricted Posting or IR
posting WITHOUT their families. These flights will bring them home and
back to their families over the holidays at no cost to them.
they are offered to single soldiers who are posted away from extended
family over the holiday, offering them a no-cost way to travel to be
with family during the holiday.
Finally, whatever is left is offered to military families posted away from extended family, as a way to visit at no cost.
These flights are hard to come by.
Most people don't even know they are offered or have never been able to get one one if they do.
Even if you are lucky enough to receive one, they can be cancelled at any time, or bumped if the plane is needed elsewhere.
also have to make your own transportation to and from the airforce base
the flight is from. This can sometimes mean up to 12 hours driving to
catch your flight.
Bottom line - Free flights do
happen and I'm grateful that those who need it have the opportunity.
But many, many families will never have a posting close to their
extended families or wherever they call 'home', and will still never
have the opportunity for one of these flights.
It's not what you think.
5. Last Month He Paid A Good Chunk of His Own Salary
only time a Canadian Service Member does not pay income taxes is during
a deployment, and even then, only if that deployment meets certain
We do not receive tax breaks, shelters or exemptions in any other way.
Bottom Line: So stop it.
6. I Have To Attempt To Coupon Like Everyone Else
I can't emphasis enough that we are not the same as Americans.
We do not have Commissaries. Or PX's.
have a Canex. Anyone can shop there. They sell things similar to a
Radio Shack with some furniture. It's not very big. And it's not
Some stores and services, depending on location, choose to offer Military Discounts.
That's really nice of them, and I use them when they are offered.
I think some of you have the wrong impression of how much easier our
life is because we get 10% off our oil change at one of the places in
We found as well while traveling in the US, that many places
there that offer Military Discounts do so only for American Military.
Bottom line: The
occasional discount is super sweet but they don't save our budget.
They more just make us feel a little appreciated. Which is equally as
awesome, to me.
7. The Lucky Stay Home Mom
feel infinitely blessed my husband's career has allowed for us to
afford for me to stay home with the children full time these last 5
years. We afford it by not taking a vacation the first 11
years of marriage, owning only second hand cars and eating out
sparingly. But I'm still grateful we can afford it when I know many
others had no choices.
But the truth is, when you move around to stay with your spouse, you often lose the chance to choose to work.
times in a Service family they would love the extra income, they may
even be struggling without it, but can't find a job in their new city.
Or the cost of childcare is far greater in the new place and they don't
have the option of living near family to help. Or they may have made
the decision to stay home based on a need for the children to have a
'constant' parent available while the other parent deploys or leaves for
Things aren't always what they seem.
7. Some Days It All Comes Up 'Us'!
times over the holidays, Service Members will have much longer than
your average employee in vacation time. UNits often 'stand down' during
the holidays or over a summer break time, meaning that the Service
Member has some days off that don't require him to use his annual days.
(Not always. But there are times it certainly works in the Member's
Post exercise/course/deployment, many times there is a
good chunk of time off given to the Service Member to reintigrate.
(Again, individual experiences vary, but this is the norm.)
We have family Medical and Dental Benefits.
we are posted to a new location, the Military pays a company to both
pack AND move our things. That is the best possible way to move!
Canadian Armed Forces Members look hot in uniform.
8. One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other
Military Experiences Vary
ago on my husband's 2nd deployment, another spouse said to me in front
of our mutual (civilian) friends, that her husband 'made it a priority'
to call every day during his last deployment, so she was shocked it has
been weeks since I had heard from mine. As though he had not simply
because it was not his 'priority' and not because there was no phone
around him for miles.
And that's why this point is even MORE important for military families to remember.
Here's the thing: It's not the same.
soldiers will have jobs that allow them access to phones even when they
deploy. They will live on bases that have Internet access and Skype.
They will call daily. They will video chat and email and post updates
Other soldiers will live in a tent in the
dessert. They will walk to a satellite phone that only works
occasionally, or a computer that sometimes gets Internet and doesn't
have a spacebar key. They will come home with $180 in Tim Horton's gift
certificates their kind friends sent because they heard there was one
on base. Except they were never on the base for more than a day. It
will be days, sometimes weeks between calls.
between? All variety of experiences. Sailors who can only use phones
when at port. Airmen who can call from their hotel room. Special
Forces who can't even tell you what country they are calling from.
This works for pay and benefits, too. A General's lifestyle should not be used to judge a Corporal's. Would you assume the Mechanic did the same things and made the same money as the company CEO?
So lets call it what it is, friends.
And lets not let the pendulum swing the other way.
As military families, I see a growing trend of us making our finances and compensations out to be worse than they are.
Just be honest. That will work better than anything at stoping the lies.
The truth is it
IS hard and many newly enlisted soldiers with families especially
struggle to make ends meet. Heck, sometimes we do too. "Lavish" isn't
the word I would use to describe our life that was excited to own a 2007
The truth is many would find higher pay in
the civilian workforce, but they wouldn't get to do what they do. They
would also risk layoffs and job hunt failures that they don't have to
fear in the Forces.
The truth is all we need to stop the rumours, assumptions and accusation.
Those who choose not to believe it aren't worth the argument.
And Civilian families who are looking in, here's the thing.
just like the idea of a preschooler getting to bend the rules your
daughter had to follow to get into dance class, it can be easy to get
mad when you think Military Families are entitled to benefits that seem
But just ask first, before you assume things that are probably not true.
sometimes the tiny dancer wearing shirts that still have head snaps, is
a grade school student who wishes people would stop talking to her in
that baby voice.