Having a Baby: A Brief Guide to Military Family Planning

Military Father
LWA/Dann Tardif

The decision to have children is a big one for any couple. But it’s especially big for couples in which at least one spouse is in the military. Should you have a baby at all? If not, when is the time to start planning a family? Should you wait until your spouse has been discharged? There’s a lot to consider here. Unfortunately, there’s a ton of confliction information out there, which can make an already-challenging decision even more confusing. The tips below will help give you an overview of what you need to know as you work your way through the family-planning process.

Financial Issues

Despite what you may have heard, having a baby will have zero effect on the military spouse’s pay. Raises will come with rank, time in service, and basic cost-of-living increases. And of course, certain deployments may carry a financial bonus. But this doesn’t mean that your family won’t affect your income in a positive way. To start with, you’ll have another dependent for tax purposes (both federal and state), and that should put a few extra dollars in your pocket—which you can immediately spend on diapers and other baby paraphernalia. Plus, you’ll probably see an increase in your housing allowance. Clearly, you’re not going to get rich on this.

Living Situation

Is your current home large enough to accommodate a new arrival? If not, do you have the means to get into a larger home? As mentioned, your spouse will get a slightly bigger housing allowance after the baby comes. But will that actually be enough to afford a home with sufficient space for the new baby? While newborns don’t take up much space, they do tend to get bigger as they get older—and so will your housing requirements.

Care Considerations

One of the best parts of being a military family with a baby on the way is the fact that you’ll receive top-notch medical care—including prenatal visits, the birth, and hospitalization—at a lower cost than what’s available to civilians. This is particularly true for those with Tricare Prime. (See also, Tricare Dental.)

Time Off

As a pregnant mom, you’re going to want to have your military spouse go to every doctor appointment and checkup with you. But, given that the needs of the service come first, taking Family Leave may not be possible. The number of appointments he’ll be able to go to (and whether he’ll be able to go to any at all) will depend on your spouse’s command and how understanding they are when it comes to things like this. That applies all the way up to the actual birth of your child.

Potential for Active Deployment

While joining the military is a great way to get access to education benefits and training that would be otherwise unavailable, it does come with some drawbacks. Active deployment to conflicts or war zones is a very real possibility for any servicemember, including those in the Guard and Reserve. And the fact that you have a baby on the way or already have kids won’t be taken into consideration. How are you with uncertainty? Will you be able to deal with giving birth if your spouse can’t be there—and might not be back for months?

The question of having a baby as a military family is never an easy one to answer. The best course of action is to sit down with your spouse and plan everything out. With a solid plan and a firm understanding of the many things that will affect your life during and after pregnancy, you can at least make an informed decision. Above all, be prepared for the unexpected.