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.
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.