Being a mum can be a challenge, but when you’re married to an RAF technician and both your boys are in the military the challenges can be a bit different from the ones you face in civvy street.
Though Mandy works for the MOD, she is the only one in the family who’s not in the military.
Mandy with husband Mark, and sons Alex and Liam (left to right).
Travel and separation are common themes in military families. Outside of deployment, there’ still the possibility of going on training exercises or being sent overseas. Mandy and Mark were transferred to Holland when Alex was just a baby.
“We moved around a lot,” says Mandy. “Mark and I got married and then had Alex, our first son, a year later. Quite soon after he was born we went out to Holland.”
It wasn’t long before they were on the move again, first back to the UK and then out again to Cyprus. It’s clear that the time the family spent in Cyprus was a very positive experience.
“I feel incredibly proud of both of them.”
“We were in Cyprus for three years, which was amazing, absolutely amazing for us as a family. The boys had just turned three and five, so they were at lovely ages to live in a sunny place where they can go to the beach and the water parks.
“Everyone is in the same situation when you’re overseas. You’re away from your friends and family so you rely on each other more. They what they called a babysitting circle in Cyprus, so all the wives in Cyprus would go out once a month and you’d make friends through the babysitting clubs.”
Back to the UK
After Cyprus they came back to the UK. Though Mark kept getting posted round the country, Mandy and the boys were able to stay in one location.
“Once your children get to secondary school you can apply through the Children’s Educational Advisory service to stay put, so that’s what we did.”
It was about this time that Alex started thinking about joining the military. Despite his family connections to the RAF he decided to join the Army.
“I don’t know why he wanted to join the Army, as he was growing up in a completely Air Force household and living on Air Force bases.
“But he always wanted to join it from quite young, and he went to Army Cadets and really loved it. He was never a boy playing out in the dirt and mud but he loved the outdoors lifestyle. But our boys played lots of sports and I think his love of outdoors came from that.
“When I was in Cyprus I realised how young our soldiers are. They’re our front line and they’re giving up their lives for our freedom.”
“Liam was different. His hockey career as a junior was coming to an end and he wasn’t sure about his future with the seniors. He decided to join the Air Force, but then his senior hockey took off massively and he’s now playing for England. We’ve been astounded by how much the RAF have supported him.
“I’ve seen them grow up so much since they joined the military.”
“I feel incredibly proud of both of them. When I was in Cyprus I realised how young our soldiers are, and they’re our front line and they’re giving up their lives for our freedom.
“For me as a Mum, the biggest gift we can give our kids today is independence. They’re happy, their living their lives and that’s all you want for your kids.