I am no stranger to packing or unpacking a home.

woman writing on a moving box
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

When my husband and I were both active-duty and dual military, we moved numerous times in the span of eight years, both separately and together. Career changes, new units, deployments, transitions…you name it, we experienced it. From Pennsylvania, Colorado, Georgia, overseas to Italy, and back to Georgia where we currently reside, we can typically predict our moving needs.

You know what hits different?

Moving with toddlers.

child in a moving box with their feet poking out
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Our move from overseas back stateside to Georgia was our first move with two toddlers, aged one and three. You know what can feel nearly impossible? Unpacking a home with two toddlers. I greatly underestimated the challenge of setting up a home with two tots in tow.

Fast forward two months: we finally received our household goods (HHG). Moving from outside the continental United States (OCONUS) to the continental United States (CONUS) is a marathon of an experience that ends with the large task of unpacking a home.

I found myself at church one Sunday, in conversation with a retired military spouse. She asked if we received our household goods and if we unpacked. She saw the stress and tiredness in my expression as I explained how unexpectedly difficult it felt to unpack a home while maintaining routine for my littles and meeting their needs. 

She asked, “What room did you unpack first?” 

I responded, with what felt like the unquestionable: the kitchen. 

What she shared with me next felt profound and one I had not heard. She said, “Unpack your room first.”

I looked at her dumbfounded and confused. My room is always last, a similar tactic in many aspects of taking care of yourself while parenting young children. She was no stranger to my confusion.

child peeking out of a moving box while parents are in the back ground unpacking
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

She gently reminded me that unpacking a home is stressful, chaotic, and overwhelming. This is normal.

It is also normal that, while unpacking, a parent usually has nowhere to escape the chaos. By unpacking your room first, it becomes your refuge, a space to breathe, and a place to shut the door and reset, even for a minute. Your room provides a respite from the looming stress outside the bedroom door.

Reading my quizzical expression that defied her logic, she reminded me that my family would not starve if the kitchen is not perfect or boxes become temporary baskets in playrooms. But parents will burn out quickly if there is no space to escape the chaos of the unpacking. 

I left church that day and our conversation to go home and unpack our bedroom. And this sage wisdom from a retired military spouse will carry with me in the moves and years to come.

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