Based in a remote part of India, Chandana Banerjee is a mum, author, a health coach and environmentalist. She shares with Mums and Stories, “.I am a fauji brat too. My father was an Air Force officer and I spent my childhood living in remote areas across India. The best part about being a military kid is that you spend a lot of time outdoors, playing in green and safe areas, and get to appreciate nature.”
Talking about being married to an Armed Forces personnel, she shares, “We had an arranged marriage. When you’re married to someone in the Armed Forces, who has a very high-risk job, you understand that your spouse puts his life on the line for his country, every single day. You also learn to work with the fact that his “work timings” are as erratic, long and unpredictable as can be; and, that he can also be called away on a deployment at a moment’s notice.
Communication during these times is often minimal, and you take each day as it comes.
A military wife needs to tap into all her mental and emotional strength, and be patient and flexible.
She also needs to learn to be on her own for long stretches of time and be willing to look after the homefront and the kids on her own.
The other challenge is to get innovative and find a way to create a career that you can pack-and-carry to remote areas across the country, and make it work through all the social commitments, responsibilities and logistical issues
My husband is a very hands-on father, and whenever he is at home, he takes on a lot of the parenting responsibilities. But whenever my husband is away on a TD (temporary detachment), deployment or even at work, I (and most military wives) have to get into a sole parenting role. It was overwhelming, especially during my son’s babyhood and toddlerhood – and more so because I didn’t have good babysitting help.
As far as dealing with emergencies or challenges during this time, we have the support of the military community around. If you ask for help, there’ll always be a friend or lady from your unit, who will drop in with medicine or come to look you up. You can also request those who are at the base to get you anything from the nearest town, if you need something particular.
I’d also like to add that most Armed Forces officers, including my husband, are great dads and wonderful caregivers when they are at home.
(Chandana with her child. Photographs are subject to copyright)
My son is a rambunctious and creative little boy, who loves the outdoors and likes to learn through hands-on exploration. When he was going to a nursery at another base, he hated every minute of the long hours spent filling up worksheets. He lost his spark and became very cranky. However, the next place that we got posted to, had a lovely Montessori school, and my son loved every minute of his time there. But we got posted out soon, and this time, with the option of either forcing him to go to a standard school where it’ll be all about worksheets and tests, or let him be homeschooled, we decided on the latter.
During a transition phase last year, I had started teaching him at home, and he had enjoyed it a lot. So, I’m teaching him through activities, beautiful books and short lessons. Our homeschool is inspired by certain elements of the Charlotte Mason method.
I’m taking every year as it comes and though I might continue homeschooling him through his teen years, it is a tad early to make concrete plans on that.
My book- ‘The Work-At-Home Military Wife – A quickstart guide to creating a pack-and-carry career and work-from-home lifestyle’ is all about creating a portable, work-from-home career that’s joyful and satisfying. It’s for military wives (and anyone who wishes to craft an entrepreneurial career), who have to factor in unique challenges like frequent postings to remote areas, bad internet connection, multiple social commitments, and sole parenting with their own ambitions and aspirations. I wrote this because I’ve faced a lot of challenges while creating a work-from-home career, especially when I started this 13 years ago, when the concept of working-at-home was almost unknown in our military community. I couldn’t find any book that addressed the unique concerns of a military wife and wrote this for all those ladies who’d like to continue using their skills and talents to create work for themselves.
The book is available here
I’m also a health coach and I work with busy women to help them reach their wellness goals. As a military wife, I’m fortunate to have long, winding roads and a pollution-free environment to walk in. I prioritize exercise and choose fitness activities that I enjoy. I try to go for a brisk walk or two every day, and like doing yoga. I also have fun working in my backyard garden.
Often people do not understand the challenges of the military life or the military wife. I’ve noticed that when it comes to careers, employers, business partners and even acquaintances, some often compareand don’t understand why our career paths look so different from theirs, or why it takes us longer to reach a goal that someone not in the military can achieve more quickly.”
Regarding kids growing up in an Armed Forces environment, she shares with Mums and Stories, “Fauji kids grow up with an extra dose of discipline. I also feel kids here are more confident because they are constantly interacting with people of all ages and from different regions at the many social events that happen in the services to foster a close bond.Add to that exposure to different parts of the country, frequent moves and new bases with new people to befriend every couple of years, makes kids quite adaptable and open to change.
Kids here also get to enjoy a more outdoors lifestyle, which I feel is a great boon for children.
And though kids miss their dads, they also quickly get used to the fact that their dads are away often. Fauji kids become quite resilient. And yes, they do speak to their dads, whenever they call home. However, for the mum or the partner it does get exhausting when you are sole parenting for long stretches of time. However, we learn to build that “independent muscle” along with patience and resilience.”
Some tips from the book:
- If myths, naysayers and excuses are holding you back from working-from-home, then first work through these fetters before you get onto the ideation phase of your work-from-home career (I’ve mentioned methods and solutions in my book).
- Instead of focusing on what you cannot do from a remote area or because you have small kids or other responsibilities, think of what you can do with your skills, talents and educational qualifications. There’s always a solution!
- Do your research and be ready to re-train or add to your existing skills, if you want to create a work-from-home career on the move.
If you’re going on a posting or shifting houses or sole parenting or dealing with a lots of military wife responsibilities, slow down and prioritize.
- The will to go on working and doing something meaningful is very important when you’re a work-from-home professional, who moves to different military bases every couple of years. The journey isn’t easy, but it’s well-worth your time!