It happened again.
I found a great job in my field, education. My colleagues are great, my students are sweet and I was ready to finally get ahead. Even the grueling job of juggling a 50ish-hour work week with a preschooler seemed mostly manageable!
Then it happened again.
“Honey, my CO said that I’ll be up for TDY and extended field exercises this spring.”
Which is just perfect, because we’re also having a baby in late winter. And my maternity leave was scheduled to end right around one of those multi-week field exercises.
Once again, I have been forced to pick between getting ahead in my career and making sure my family is OK. Again, my family won the day, at the cost of my new job. It’s not the first time and it’s not the last.
I am getting very tired and very discouraged. It hurts to walk away from something that I have been working toward for over a decade.
I also know I am not alone.
The military spouse groups on social media are filled with other men and women questioning their career decisions. Military spouse blogs and magazines are chock-a-block full of posts and articles with advice about keeping a job, despite moves and deployments.
Even with all of that support, trying to carve out a career as a military spouse or juggling 2 active-duty careers is challenging at best.
At worst, it seems impossible.
We face huge obstacles: constant moves, recertifications and the endless struggle of reliable, affordable child care. And that’s just to get a foot in the door or an interview! When we have a job we love, walking away can be gut-wrenching. Even when a job can be converted into a virtual position, it loses something in the change.
For many of us, we give in. We are sacrificing our careers for our families.
That’s where I’m at right now. I’m surrendering, at least temporarily, to walking away from my first love: teaching. I fought a good fight for the last 8 years, cobbling together jobs here and there.
It stings, this walking away. I’m conflicted, as always, over this sacrifice of my career for his, for our family. Why does it need to be so hard? Am I making it this way? Other families make it work, why not mine?
I feel almost disloyal. Questioning, over and over, why his career takes precedence over mine feels wrong. After all, he defends our country, I just teach the children. I knew what I was signing up for, or I should have. The knowing doesn’t make it any easier to put my career in third place.
Even in this, I know I am not alone.
Talking to my friends, and seeing those posts on Facebook, has let me know that many military spouses feel this exact same way.
No matter what field we are in, we are all finding it challenging to balance the triple needs we are called to fulfill. A good friend put it this way:
“I want to be a mother, a military spouse and have a career. I can only pick two to do well, though. The trick is picking which two are most important to me.”
Another friend recently shared that she is also thinking of walking away from a job she loves. The balancing act of a job with children and a husband who is away all the time is just too much. A third friend has a more flexible schedule and a spouse who is mostly at home, but she can’t find reliable and affordable child care.
Even before children, making a job work through the moves and deployments was a struggle.
The common thread: we all want to work, but between military life (and children), we just can’t seem to make it happen regularly.
Basically, this life is HARD! When one spouse’s career dictates so much of the family’s life, making another job happen can be very difficult.
It’s OK to resent this fact a little bit or even to bring it up every single time you PCS. As long as it doesn’t consume you.
It’s OK to still want that elusive career, the one that lasts longer than a 3-year duty station. Walking away from that dream for your family is equally valid.
It’s also totally normal to feel conflicted about having to choose between the two, over and over again.