Let’s start by putting the wondering minds to rest, TLF stands for temporary lodging facility in military land, and there are three reasons why you would be staying in a TLF with kids:

  1. You just moved to a place.
  2. You’re about to move out of a place.
  3. You were displaced from your home mid-tour for reasons too infinite to list and too pessimistic to mention.

A TLF is essentially your limbo into and out of permanent housing at the beginning and end of your move. You stay here when you’re short on patience and energy. You stay here pre-permanent housing when you’ve been crammed in a car or on a super-long airplane ride. You stay here when you’re missing separate rooms with doors more than you’ve ever missed a thing. You’re staying here on the cusp of a new phase of your life. You might be enthusiastic, or you might be exhausted — you might be both.

Bottom line, by the end of your stay in a TLF with kids, you’re going to be able to shoot a look at a fellow mom from down the breakfast buffet line, and — without a word — you’ll both understand that you’ve had just about enough of this place.

Surviving the TLF With Kids

Before diving into survival techniques, let’s set some expectations on time. This may hurt. Your TLF stay could be as short as one night (if you’re a planning goddess and the military gods favor you), or it could be upward of a month…or two. Probably not two, don’t freak…that’s a worst-case scenario.

That said, you have to be ready for anything from a quick, stealthy exit to a critical need to understanding the ebbs and flows of traffic at the laundry room because you are legitimately out of clean clothes.

Grab your packing list, patience, and batting helmet (you truly never know). Let’s get you ready for the TLF with kids.

Establish Boundaries

“This is my space, this is yours.” Maybe it’s sides of the bed. Maybe, if you hit the TLF jackpot, it’s “This is your side of the adjoining room, this is mine.” Set the boundaries early, and stick to your guns, mama. You’re going to be up in each other’s space regardless, but you might as well set a healthy perimeter.

Establish Routines

So, permanent change of station (PCS) season falls in the middle of summer because the military thought it would be logical to move during the season with the maximum number of daylight hours, which, honestly, makes sense with school out for the season, but frustration needs a target, you know. You’re trying to put kids to bed who are used to being depleted of energy at school all day, but are now out of school. Their energy is through the roof (a.k.a. your upstairs neighbor’s floor). And, on that note, you’re also worried about the people below you and your own sanity. So, set the standard early. “We are instating quiet time as soon as the clock strikes ‘X’ time.” Maybe they don’t have to fall asleep, but maybe you tap out and the free Disney channel taps in.

Get Out While You Can

If you’ve ever denied rides around base…in the pouring rain, you’ve lived in a TLF with kids longer than desirable. It is one thing to have a lazy day at home where there are multiple walls, plenty of doors to go around, and a coffee maker that makes more than that little pouch of complimentary coffee, but it is another thing entirely to survive daylight in a single room with your little cherubs.

No one is going to have a good day stuck inside those four walls. Get out while you can! If you are PCSing out, take your friends up on those dinner or playdate invites. Hit your favorite local spots one more time, or try the places you’ve been meaning to try for three years that you never got around to.

Surviving the TLF with Kids

If you just arrived, find a park, splash in the pool, chip away at those first errands, or meet up with friends (even if they’re friends of friends).

Get You Some Free Breakfast

You know how hotels operate. Breakfast buffets expire. If you’re up anyway, you might as well snag some fresh fruit, cereal, muffins, or — whoa, is this five-star — Belgian waffles. If you aren’t up in time (you lucky dog), sleep in and milk the sheets and blackout shades you’re paying for, but make it a point to step out for breakfast…or brunch…or lunch.

Learn to Love the Stuff within Walking Distance

If you’re coming to or leaving an overseas installation, chances are you don’t have any wheels at the TLF (flashback to freshman year of high school). The good news is, you’re on base; nothing is far away and the whole thing is a safe neighborhood. Walk to the library. Walk to the token fast-food restaurant. Walk to a park, then another park, then another; walk to all the parks. Walk to the pool. The point is, go somewhere and burn the maximum amount of energy and time getting there and back.

Be the Mooch

We all offer, “Let me know if you need anything.” TLF life is when you need stuff. Don’t feel bad about taking people up on their offers for playdates, dinner invitations, meetups, and favors. Just pay it forward when you can.

Pack Toys with Fewer than 4,000 Pieces

You know how a toy with multiple parts clutters up your living room? Picture that same toy cluttering up the only room you have. Keep toys streamlined. Keep pieces to a minimum, and make nightly tidying up part of your routine. No one wants to step on a Lego on the way to the bathroom in a dark, foreign room at 1 a.m.

Buy Fresh Meat

So not literal meat, although the commissary is probably a stone’s throw away — instead buy fresh things to entertain your kids. This could be a new box of crayons, a new stuffed animal, some stickers, etc. Whatever it is, make sure you have room to move it or you (and your kid) won’t miss it if it’s trashed when you check out. New is exciting. New grabs attention. Not to mention, new means you also had to spend some time shopping for said new activity, which means you escaped your TLF room.

Don’t Write Off TV

It’s a weird time to be alive. We all know fluency in technology is vital to our kids’ success in the future, but we also restrict screen time. PCSing is an exception, ladies. It’s guerrilla warfare. It’s vacation from the norm. When it’s TV or pull all your voluminous locks out, choose TV. You aren’t a bad mom. You didn’t fail. You survived, and your kids had the time of their lives. No shame, no regrets, no unnecessarily bald scalps.

Embrace the Dream of Housekeeping

How many times in your own home did you think to yourself, “I either need a live-in housekeeper, or it’s time to move and start over?” In the TLF, you get to live out both fantasies at once. Don’t let your kid go all destructive-rockstar on the place, but don’t lose sleep over them dropping cookie crumbs on the floor, and, for heaven’s sake, don’t delay a morning out of the room because you’re in a standoff over who is going to make the bed on the pullout couch. Just be courteous and gracious. If you can do that, just enjoy your stay and don’t feel guilty about letting someone else make the beds.

TLF with Kids: It’s Temporary

It may seem like a long string of the longest days of your life when you’re trying to close your eyes at 9:30 p.m. and there’s a child jumping on the bed on the other side of the nightstand, but just remember, like all things you’ve survived in the military thus far, your stay in the TLF with kids is temporary — they even put it right there in the name, temporary lodging facility, to remind you.

Need to figure out how to survive the journey before the destination? Check out Surviving a PCS Road Trip with Kids.
Surviving the TLF With Kids

Photo Credits: Renee Slusser

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