Our third Defence family profile is with Jenn, Kate and their two boys.
How did you two meet?
Kate: Jenn and I met in Sydney in 1999 through a mutual friend, my housemate and Jenn’s university buddy. We both grew up in Sydney and when we met had management jobs in the corporate sector – Jenn in investment banking and me in telecommunications. After about ten years together, living in inner Sydney, working in high powered jobs, we felt the need for a change and Jenn had always had dreams of a more adventurous life than an office job! So we took a risk and moved to Canberra so she could go to university full time to study a Masters in Strategic Affairs at ANU, which led to her career with Navy. I have continued in my career as an IT consultant, working in large scale programs for Government. Fast forwardanother ten years and we are now committed Canberrans with two kids, and planning our legal wedding on our 20th anniversary in 2019.
Do you keep track of how many deployments you’ve had away from home over years? Which has been your most memorable and why?
Kate: This is Jenn’s first overseas deployment, but there have many other shorter trips and exercises.
In what way has ADF life impacted on your children?
Kate: The kids always miss Jenn when she’s away, even if it’s only a few days for a conference. The kids are anxious about her deployment, especially that she will be away at Christmas. No matter what, we always Skype and try to keep their routine stable. We don’t talk to our kids about our family in terms of an ’ADF life’; we talk about how lucky we are tohave two beautiful boys, about how lucky they are to have two Mums with interesting non-traditional careers. We always encourage them to talk about their feelings and dreams for the future. We also try and keep social life happening with other school families and friends..
Do you have any tips or strategies that helps maintain strong relationships with children and your partner during deployments or absences? Are there things you do to help reconnect, together and as a family?
I am proud that Jenn wants to make a difference in the world. I am unhappy that we will be separated for six months because Jenn is my partner and the one person (other than my kids) that I look forward to seeing every day; I will miss her very much. And I feel the weight of having to be the one go-to person for the kids. That said, I also support Jenn in her career and in the pursuit of her dreams – just as she supports me in my career and dreams. It’s very important to me to maintain my own career commitments and personal interests. We will be putting the Defence allowance to good use by bringing in an au pair from Germany to help me with the kids while Jenn is away. If I can maintain my own routine in Jenn’s absence I’ll be happier in myself and then be better able to support the kids and invest time in doing fun stuff with them and helping them when they’re missing Jenn. We plan to Skype regularly Jenn can read them bedtime books when she can and for the kids to write to her when they are feeling sad. They also need to feel physically connected to her in some way, so we are thinking about what she can leave them to snuggle -maybe a pillow or toy or t-shirt or something.
Do you have any examples of a story where you as a family have been helped out by another Defence family that you might like to share or can you think of a time where you have been able to help out another family?
Kate: For me ’resilience’ means being realistic and positive. So we are honest with the kids that it will be very hard for all of us, including Jenn, to be separated for 6 months which is such a long time for the kids. And that we will all miss each other, and it’s OK to have bad days. We are talking to the kids about some of the opportunities that come with having an au pair stay with us whilst Jenn’s away; we can show her our beautiful city, show her some of Australia, maybe even learn some German!
We are also talking about things to look forward to- we are planning a great family get together in the middle of the deployment and a longer holiday overseas mid next year. After that there will be ourwedding for the kids to help plan and participate in.
Kate: We’ve been very touched how many people – Jenn’s work friends, my workplace, family friends – have offered to help while Jenn’s away. I expect that I will take up the offers of weekend play dates when the au pair is having time off to have and I need to keep my very energetic boys engaged and happy, and for a catch up with friends when I just need some adult company.
We talk to the kids about all of us in the family supporting each other to achieve our dreams. I don’t view myself as a ’Defence partner’- I am Jenn’s partner and she is mine, and we love and support each other personally and professionally – no matter how far apart we might be.
Thank you to Jenn, Kate and the boys for participating in this project.
For 24/7 Defence family assistance please contact:
Defence Family Helpine (DCO) 1800 624 608 or DefenceFamilyHelpline@defence.gov.au
Open Arms (formerly VVCS) 1800 011 046