B.A.H. Syndrome

As military spouses, the common acronym for B.A.H. (Basic Allowance for Housing) is one we associate with how far our housing allowance dollars will go at any given duty station. However, I have recently used this same acronym for labeling a dysfunctional symptom of military life that I, along with many others face. It is the B.A.H. Syndrome, or what I like to call the Back-At-Home Syndrome.

Most of us would agree that social media serves many helpful purposes for military spouses; it is our way of networking nationwide (and often globally), for some it is an avenue by which you run your business, and best of all, social media provides a means through which we can efficiently share in what is going on with our family, friends, and loved ones.

However, this constant subjection to photographs, status updates, check-ins and posts can lead us to feel isolated, homesick, and even question our parenting. Social media can be a tricky little devil; it connects us, yet separates us; it makes us feel apart, yet it makes us feel alone; it makes us feel proud, yet it makes us feel insecure; it makes us happy, yet it makes us sad. Social media can be the chief instigator for stirring up our B.A.H. Syndrome.

There are a handful of times during a calendar year, that I feel especially homesick and miss living near extended family members. Instagram and Facebook show me photographic evidence of the birthday parties, holidays, game-day hangouts, baby showers, church and sporting outings we routinely miss because we aren’t living Back-At-Home. Military life takes us far away and limits the time we are able to spend with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. If you let it, B.A.H. Syndrome can convince you that you are “out of sight, out of mind.”

Another threat of B.A.H. Syndrome is seeing evidence of your friend groups that have moved on without you. They have continued on in their get-togethers, in raising their kids together, in their book clubs, Bunco groups, and girls’ weekend trips. It can be painful and isolating to watch this unfold and pass you by. Yes! Military life affords us many friendships and meaningful connections, but there’s nothing like the power of social media to enhance that fear of missing out (FOMO) with your OGs (Original Girlfriends). Your TimeHop app alone reports the “old days,” when you were surrounded by friends only to remind you now that you have been plucked out and must routinely reinvent yourself and find friends quickly. These will be the same friends you will say goodbye to only a few years or months down the road.

I would argue that by far, the worst cases of Back-At-Home Syndrome flare up when we see our kids’ peer groups growing up together and solidifying deep, deep ties. Maybe they are all spending years together on a softball team, gymnastics squad, a youth group, or simply going through school together. If you’re like me, seeing all of this on social media gives you moments of doubt that maybe you are somehow robbing your kids of the experience of stability, well-worn roads of long-term friendship, and what many would label as a “normal childhood.” If there’s one area of life that gets my anxiety brewing it is the worry that our choices as parents are somehow messing up our kids, scarring them for life.

life-is-likea-cup-of-tea

Thankfully, there is an anecdote to Back-At-Home Syndrome. Just like the allergy suffers in my household take a Zyrtec everyday, B.A.H. Syndrome isn’t an ailment that can be treated once and you’re cured forever. Believe me, I wish that was the case. Like the daily, preventative antihistamine, one must treat B.A.H. Syndrome “quaque die” (every day). Here are my three remedies:

(1) Realize that life isn’t a one-size-fits-all. No two lives will be the same; your life is yours, it is unique. Embrace the individuality in the way you are living it. We all have moments of wanting to be normalized among our peers, but resist the urge. God has called you to live YOUR life, not the life of someone else.

(2) Take a social media break if you need to. There is no shame in removing your social media apps from your phone or de-activating your accounts altogether.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is a self-imposed fast from the barrage of what seems to be going on without you. This can be temporary or permanent (and also very freeing). I tend to do this at least twice a year.

(3) Hunt the good stuff. You can’t live happily in military life (or any life) if you are always wanting and wishing for something else, something you don’t have. Look around at what you DO have, WHO you do have, this is where you will realize the blessings of the present instead of pining for what was or what could be.

Today, I am preaching this message to myself. I have been in a recent funk where my B.A.H. Syndrome has flared up. Instead of letting it run rampant and invade my mind, I’m squelching it pronto! I’m choosing to focus on the uniqueness of my life, limiting my exposure to social-screen time, and counting my many, many blessings.

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3 thoughts on “B.A.H. Syndrome

  1. Judy Griffis says:

    So very well said, Claire!! THANK YOU!!
    Your words are inspiring and so true, not only for military life, but life in general too! Thank you for reminding us of what our true priorities should be. Love you guys!

    Like

  2. Rachel Oleksik says:

    Sweet Claire… I can so relate to this, even if I am at home… We are going through a phase that we question true friendship. I don’t remember a lot from elementary school but info remember that is where our (yours & my) friendship began. Riley is in 5th grade and often a asks me, “who was my best friend in 5th grade”. Well, I have to tell her that I do not remember “one” best friends but 2 or 3 people that I consider true friends. My meaning being, friends for the long haul. I may not talk to those people daily, monthly or yearly but I still consider them my friends even if we were only close for a season of life. Social media is a “little devil” in that you can feel all of the emotions you listed above. I get so caught up sometimes in what I am missing instead of relishing in what I have at the moment… I am scared for my girls and the friendship they have made or not made because of choices we have let them make in commitments to time consuming activities that sometimes take away from other friends… I feel that through the years even though I was committed to softball, our friendship was still strong and one I was always confident in! I only hope that Riley, Mae, Kate, & Rory can build those friendships and look back when they are almost 40 and be confident in those friendships. That is how I view ours! I try to keep up on social media with those I don’t see or talk to in a regular basis and that is still hard to do without feeling like an inadequate friend… I have thought about you so often lately. With your uncles passing. (I saw a lady from my church post about how beautiful the speech from his niece was and I knew immediately she was speaking of you! ) and I saw your sweet mom at BSF last week. I am finally making the commitment to this study time… But for some reason, I guess BC Riley is asking these questions about my childhood friends, I have thought about one of the times I spent the night with you. We had been at your church gym playing and were driving home and we crossed the train tracks on Thrasher Pike. Your dad stopped the car on the tracks and tried to scare us with some legend of a ghost train engineer.?! I drive over these tracks some 3-4 times a day… But for the last few days I have laughed as I drive over and thought of that time and the friendship (life long) that we have had and I feel still have even if you are away from home… I Love You Claire and always cherish our friendship!!! I hope you do not feel you are missing something but can relish the season, place you are at…

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