by Melissa Schoonover, Guest Contributor
Alarm. Lunches. Work. Kids. Dog. Spouse. Activities. Weekend. Repeat.
When you signed up to become a military spouse, you found that on top of keeping your full or part-time job, military life has its responsibilities and may seem like an additional full-time gig: (including but not limited to) keeping the house from imploding, maintaining a close eye on the human and animal children, financially contributing to bills and groceries so said children will not starve, making appointments for you and your family and being on your “A” game when your service member is deployed, at training or simply working too late to help out the way you might need them to.
Although you love your crazy-beautiful life, you might often find yourself overwhelmed, stressed and in need of some “you” time.
As an Air Force wife balancing a full-time job (teaching high school and volunteering), with maintaining an organized lifestyle at home for my husband and my dog AND making time to focus on my interests and on graduate school…I’ve found that there are 13 solid ways to balance my work schedule with my military spouse responsibilities without spiraling downward into a life of monotony:
13 Sane Ways to Maintain Balance in Your Crazy-Beautiful Life
1. Leave work at work. This sounds crazy, but I know from experience that teachers are famous for bringing work home. Your contract hours are probably from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or in my case, 7:15 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. This means: get off of Facebook and Pinterest on your breaks to grade those papers or send those e-mails and work with your lunch at your desk on those days-where-the-pile-just-won’t-go-away.
If you bring work home, your stress levels will increase and you won’t be able to focus on the most important part of your day: being with your family.
2. Don’t grow up. Remember how you played the violin in high school? Or took karate class when you were a kid and loved it? Or liked to finger paint with your sister? Find grown-up ways to do these things.
Sign up for a music lesson or take a kickboxing class at the gym and go once a week. Round up your friends, print a Groupon and go to one of those trendy drink-wine-and-paint-pictures places.
For us cheap nerds: join a book club, a Bible study or a trivia team (my personal favorite). Your calendar has room for your interests too!
3. Have a routine. In addition to toting the kids around to their activities all week, have a set time to schedule a daily chore for the house, a day when you’ll bring the dog to the dog park or to day care, a day you will go grocery shopping and a day where you’ll cook for the week.
4. Make lists. Speaking of grocery shopping, keep your shopping list saved on your phone. Chances are you’ll be buying some of the same groceries each and every time you go. Have the kids or your spouse help out with it to show that you value their input.
Lists aren’t only for shopping. As a family, compile a bucket list of free and fun things you’d like to accomplish by the end of the summer or during the weekends throughout the year and stick to it.
5. Make friends at work. As much as you like to pretend that you dislike where you work, chances are there are a few people there that you could roll with to get you through the day. Work friends understand your 8-hour daily struggle and they will be a great support system when times get tough inside and outside the workplace. They’re also great for coffee runs and happy hours.
6. Make local friends outside of work. Attention all military spouses: make friends with other military spouses. Find the spouse Facebook group for your base or post, communicate with other spouses in your area and don’t flake out when someone plans an event and you are available to attend.
The “worst” that could happen is that you play Bunco, make a new friend, drink wine, eat cheese and crackers and play with the host’s dog. If you choose to follow through with your friendship, you’ll find that other military spouses will understand your struggle, support you when your spouse is deployed or TDY and offer assistance with your kids when you need it.
Speaking from a completely unbiased standpoint: Military spouses make some of the most amazing friends.
7. Date your spouse. This goes back to Marriage 101. Never stop courting, never stop flirting, never stop setting time aside for you and your spouse.
Call the babysitter, send flowers, go to your favorite Mexican restaurant that has the jalapeño queso that you both successfully destroy with 2 refills of tortilla chips, wear perfume and makeup or simply take a walk to view some pretty scenery on a Saturday afternoon.
Dating doesn’t always mean spending tons of money. It means take time out of your hectic schedule to remind each other why you have stayed together throughout your spontaneous, hectic and unpredictable military marriage.
8. Plan ahead. Save time and money. Cook all of your meals to freeze or put in the refrigerator on your free day (for me, it’s Sunday). That way, you’ll have an extra hour or two each night to spend with your family.
Something that works for us is to make 2 different types of lunches and 2 different types of dinners and rotate lunches and dinners each day, so it feels like you have something different each day. Also, plan to splurge once a week on takeout Chinese or pizza.
9. Unplug. This one might be the most difficult for all of us. Our lives can be held captive in our little electronic devices. If your spouse and kids are home, try to take an hour (minimum) out of your day to place your phones, iPads, and laptops in a drawer somewhere on silent. A bright screen cannot replace quality time and you will regret not doing this if your quality time is taken from you due to your spouse’s future assignments.
10. When you ARE plugged in, call your family. FaceTime and Skype are brilliant inventions for the military family. Staying connected to your family members and friends aside from social media and email is a great way to display the importance of communication, love and support for your children and your spouse. I’m 99.9 percent positive that it will brighten the day of the family member you call, as well. They miss you more than you know.
11. Take care of your body. This statement appears on almost every ways-to-a-happier-life list and here’s the reason why: BECAUSE IT IS IMPORTANT.
Get sleep, take a multi-vitamin before bed, work out or go for a walk 2 to 4 times a week, go to the doctor (hooray for Tricare, amIright?) and stay away from fast food and soda as much as you possibly can. Add some of these to your routine, and your entire family will thank you later.
12. “Treat Yo’ Self.”
Get your nails done (you too, fellas!), drink that glass of wine in your sassy wine glass, buy that extra scoop of chocolate ice cream, go on a drive with the windows down without a destination while blasting ’90s dance music and for all that is good and holy, buy those shoes that you’ve been eyeing.
13. Breathe. When I was feeling helpless and overwhelmed with work and life, a friend (see #5) told me, “You’re doing the best you can.” Sometimes, we don’t give ourselves enough credit for the effort we put into every aspect of our lives and for the lives of our military family.
Take a step back, breathe and have confidence that you are simply doing the best you can to balance your busy, exciting and fabulous milspouse life!
What ways do you keep your life in balance? What do you do when you feel like your life is out of balance?
Melissa is a proud Air Force wife, a former NFL cheerleader and a high school English teacher and dance coach. Aside from working and training in dance, she is completing her master’s degree in rhetoric, writing and digital media studies. Melissa and her husband met in Atlanta, GA, and currently live in Colorado Springs with their black labrador puppy, Brooklyn. You can follow Melissa on Twitter, Instagram and check out her favorite pins on Pinterest.