It's Complicated

As you may recall, my last post wasn't exactly positive. I was feeling confused and angry and fairly stressed out about 2014. To be honest, I'm still feeling all those things, but at least John has been here in person for a while and we've been able to discuss our future a bit. A few people have asked me what we've decided to do this year, and as of right now, here's what we're thinking:

I most likely will not go back to Russia with John this summer. As much as I hate the idea of spending two months alone with a four-year-old (who isn't in preschool) and an infant, I hate the idea of traveling to Russia with those same two kids, by myself, just to be there for 6-8 weeks, even more. Not only would I have to adjust a six-week-old to a reverse sleep schedule (the 11-hour time difference is a real pain in the arse) and then readjust him two months later, but I'd have to somehow explain to Jack that we were moving AGAIN. As it is, the kid will have gone from Russia to Montana to DC in a period of three months, and will then go from being an only child to having a brand-new sibling. If I were to go to DC from March to June and then go to Russia with John, we'd have nowhere to come home to for home leave, so we'd basically be nomads for six weeks, and then we'd have to move again in September. Instead, we're going to try (operative word being try, because our situation is so bizarre) to find a place to stay starting in March all the way until we move to Peru next year some time.

How does that work exactly? I have no idea, to be honest. See, there's this thing called "per diem," and it's sort of complicated. Basically, Jack and I will get per diem for six weeks pre-baby, then Jack, the baby, and I will get per diem for six weeks post-baby, and then John goes back to Russia and the per diem goes bye-bye. So for the two months John is in Russia, plus the six weeks of home leave when he comes back, we'll have to pay rent out of pocket. Not the end of the world, although not ideal. Then when John starts training in mid-September, HE'LL start getting per diem on a sliding scale until mid-April when training ends (something worth noting if you're in the Foreign Service and haven't experienced this yet - if you're in the US for training, only the officer gets per diem, no matter how many people are in your family. Not such a big deal if you're only doing a few months of training and getting the max per diem that whole time, but if you're going to be there for six months or more like we are, the sliding scale could severely complicate things). The reason most FS families live in FS housing is because you don't have to deal with all this per diem nonsense - everything is free the way it is when you're overseas. BUT the biggest apartment a four-person family can get is two bedrooms, and I really, really want a third bedroom. Plus I can't stay in FS housing even if I want to for the two months John is back in Russia and the six weeks of home leave, so it would require more moving.

So yeah, I wouldn't exactly say I've got this all covered just yet, but the bottom line is: the less moving we have to do, the better. If anyone out there knows someone who's been in a similar situation, please let me know! I could really use some advice right about now.


  1. Our condo is available to rent starting in March. It is 1.5 miles from FSI and has three bedrooms. It rents for $2300 a month, but we can work with per diem (more up front, less at the end). If you are interested, you can email me at

  2. I'm sorry to hear about the not so great situation. I haven't been in a similar one but I thought I remembered reading on Trailing Houses that one could pay out of pocket and get the negotiated gov't rates to stay in Oakwood (which I know isn't ideal) to cover a gap before or after or presumably between per diem eligible periods. Don't quote me on this but have you thought about putting this questions on Trailing Houses? Or since you're in DC/NOVA for awhile is there an FSO or military family renting out their house that would work with you on rent to factor in the variations in per diem (esp. since Jack + baby get some per diem when you're on medevac). All the best with your search.

  3. Hey! My husband is also a FSO and I've been following your blog. We're currently in Dhaka, but we depart this June. I can totally relate with the housing issues you're having. We have two school-age kids now (and a baby due in August), so we're hoping to get a 3 bedroom apartment in the school district that we've chosen. But we've been told that they can't tell us anything until 6 weeks before our move-in date. Too close for comfort for us! Anyway, we're just hoping for the best. My husband will actually be in language training the same time yours will be, though he'll be taking French. If you're interested, send me an email and we can try to meet up. Good luck with everything! And try to worry, it'll all work out:)


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