by Kim Robertson, Guest Contributor
It’s a well-known fact that when you marry into the military, you marry the good, the bad and the ugly.
But this time, I didn’t.
It’s not that my husband and I have fallen out of love or our relationship is over, in fact, we’re stronger than we ever have been. It’s that we’re thinking of the long-term investment and 4 years across a whole lifetime is really not that long.
Why would any sane person choose to break up her family and not move 1,200 miles away to sunny California?
I wanted a career too.
I married my husband at the bright, wide-eyed age of 19. Not long after, our daughter was born. Most people would say, I pigeonholed myself into a stereotypical spousal role. I was cared for and could easily have been a stay-at-home mom, but that’s never what I wanted for myself. I always had big city dreams of a corporate job in a large sky rise downtown.
These dreams were nearly squashed when I fell in love with a military man and found out that life as a military spouse was not conducive to a corporate position. Early in our marriage, we moved every 2 to 3 years which wasn’t easy on my career. As soon as I would get to a solid state in a company, I would end up moving and fall behind again. My most recent move set me back with a 40% pay cut, and a lower position than I was previously at.
I knew this move, to Colorado, was going to be different though. I was in a major metropolitan area and I finally found that corporate position I was dreaming of. I started to rise in my career and was able to slowly recover the pay difference as the economy recovered. I gained trust within my company and was promoted back to my former level.
Within 4 years of being stationed here in Colorado, the longest we had been anywhere with the Air Force, I was also able to network with peers and build my career. While I was doing that, my husband was standing beside me, like a strong spouse he was, cheering me on. He believed in me and my career path.
So many times, military spouses are the ones told to support their spouses above all else. The mission comes first. That’s great and all, but too often, a military member’s career lasts 20 years, if that.
If an average person works 47 years in their lifespan, a military member doesn’t even work half of their life within a service organization.
If I were to spend 20 years of my life supporting my husband’s career, sacrificing my own, what should I do for the next 27? Why would I want to waste that 20 years before I started my career?
Instead of waiting on the sidelines, my husband and I both knew that in order for us to take care of our family for the long run, we needed to make sacrifices in the short term to propel my career, in preparation for his retirement in a few years.
We began to make arrangements to settle down completely, after receiving word that our orders had been extended and we would stay here in Colorado for another few years. Great news, especially for my burgeoning career.
My husband and I bought a new house, in preparation for our daughter going into middle school and I took a position at a new company which solidified my career path.
But, you know what they say about best-laid plans in of mice and men? They often go awry. This is how I feel about the military.
Just when you start getting comfortable and you start making plans for the future, you are given a curve ball. Our curve ball was hand-delivered 3 months after moving into our new house.
Orders to California. Four years controlled tour.
These orders were amazing, a great opportunity for my husband’s career and we couldn’t turn them down.
However, I couldn’t leave Colorado.
I was just elected board president of a large organization, I had a new job and our daughter was just about to start middle school. All of these exciting things were happening at the same time. We couldn’t just leave them all behind.
I will admit, my husband and I argued over several months about what to do.
If he turned down the orders, that was the end of his career and he is only 5 years away from retirement.
If I moved with him, that would be the temporary end to my career.
If our daughter moved, it would be the most.tragic.thing.ever., according to her.
No one could be happy with any solution.
How does a family decide to break up?
You don’t. We decided by not fully deciding. We decided to give it a go for 1 year. To try it out and see if we could make it work. I could get through my board organization commitment, our daughter could get through sixth grade, and it could give our family a year to decide if we wanted to do 3 more years.
This has been one of the hardest decisions to make, to be selfish for the sake of my career. To break up my family because I am a rising star here.
In the long term, my husband and I believe that even if we are separated for the full 4 years, there are still many more years that we will be together that outweigh the short time 4 years really is.
Our family has had to be flexible with this new arrangement. I work from home most evenings and drive carpool several times a week. My husband joins in on homework through Google video so that I don’t have to conquer sixth grade math.
We have learned to be resilient to all of the questions, the concerns, the sideways head turns when we explain our situation. My daughter has to deal with the question “are your parents divorcing?” more times than she would like. All three of us experience levels of loneliness daily, because we are not whole without each other. However, it’s also made us stronger, as we are communicating more and appreciating what we have now that it’s gone.
I know that the popular vote was for me to quit my job and follow my husband like a “dutiful wife.” I married into this life and I knew this would happen. But as a family, several years ago, we chose to put my career before his for the long-term. The military chose to change our plans as they sometimes do.
Until we are united in 3 years, we will live 1,200 miles away.
Kim Robertson is a marketing executive in Denver, Colorado. She is Wonder Woman by day and Super Mom by night. When she is not wearing her gold headband driving through the Starbucks drive-thru, she is rocking the white go-go boots at soccer practice or sporting a red cape to bed. Her biggest challenge in life is conquering the work-life balance thing. When she is not taking on the world, she is blogging about her adventures raising her daughter while her husband lives 1,200 miles away. You can connect with Kim on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.