Why I joined the YMCA when there are free gyms on base
The urgency of the situation could be summed up in 2 words: Deployment Summer. Any part of a military deployment is challenging, but deployments that stretch over the summer mean that there is no relief for mom. I have 4 children, ages 2-8. During a Deployment Summer, I can’t send the kids to school, most of them are too old for naps, and half of them are still too young for any camps. Every minute of every day, they are with me. How in the world am I supposed to have any kind of fitness routine?
Since one of my deployment goals is to train for a 10K race, I need somewhere to run… preferably without pushing two in a stroller while following 2 on bikes.
At first, I tried going to gyms on base. I quickly learned that not all gyms are created equal. Some base gyms have a childcare center on base with professional caregivers, where you can pay for an hour of care. Others have a gated children’s area in a family room, where you can watch your own children from the treadmill. It was soon clear that going to the family room gyms was not going to work for me. My older kids are too big to sit and play with toddler toys. Confining all 4 of them to one small play area while I worked out meant that I spent more time breaking up fights than actually running. And paying for hourly drop-in care during gym time stopped being a good option 2 children ago. I was feeling a little helpless and frustrated, and finding a way to exercise was one of the only things that would relieve that stress.
So when my friend talked about the YMCA, I listened. She explained that she used it for a mental break. Once you have a membership, the kids can stay in the childcare room for up to 2 hours. During that time, you can go anywhere on the property—you can run, lift weights, swim, or just read a book and enjoy the free coffee and Wi-Fi. The choice is yours. This sounded like exactly the kind of salvation I needed during our deployment summer.
I visited a few local YMCA sites, and I learned that each county has their own rules. It may be worth it to ask your local Y. But in one local county, I discovered that military families do not pay any registration fee, and they get a discount on the membership fee! So our total monthly membership is $50. Members can attend any classes and use any equipment for free. They get discounts on all the children’s activities and classes, too.
If you don’t live near a military base (you moved ‘home’ for deployment), then you could benefit from the YMCA Military Outreach and respite program. This provides FREE membership and childcare options to family members of active duty military or National Guard, who live away from a military base for more than 6 months at a time. So it is a great resource to be used during a deployment, no matter where you are in the country. More info is available on their website. Or check out my giant list of deployment resources here!
How the YMCA Saved my Deployment Summer
Our local Y has an excellent pool with a special splash pool area for kids. The water is shallow, and there is a structure that sprays, squirts, and dumps water—like something you would see in an amusement park. Sometimes I check the children in to childcare, then swim by myself for an hour, then pick them up and take them to the Family pool for a few hours. This really takes up the whole day, and it wears them out so much that every one of them has been falling asleep on the way home! That alone makes it worth it!
Other times, when we have a slow afternoon, and I see that no one is going to take naps, I pack everyone up and drive to the Y. Then I can get 2 hours of peace—either running, or reading, or watching TV—before I have to pick up the kids and think about feeding them dinner. It definitely helps me to stay sane on some of those rougher days. The YMCA is an escape route for me if I start to panic with everything happening at home. And honestly, since the kids look forward to going, too, it’s a completely win/win activity.
So, if you are having a rough deployment summer, or if you just dream of spending a few minutes of uninterrupted time in the bathroom, then you might want to join the Y! Because 2 hours of free childcare is amazing. And hey, you might even lose some weight or get in better shape, too!