I actually get this question quite a bit when other military spouses meet me. Immediately followed by, “But you don’t NEED to work.” While it is true that having a job where I can work from home, or a flexible one that allows me to take off any time I want to is a nice luxury that some can afford; I require a career to be fulfilled. It’s just how I function, and everyone functions differently.
I started my career path before I met my husband. Long before we even went on our first date, I had a life plan. A life plan that included working in marketing and doing all of the fun things that young professionals do: networking meetings, happy hours, serving on committees…you get the idea.
In fact, my drive to succeed in my professional life is one of the things that attracted my husband to me. We had a drive to pursue our own career paths and be involved in our own activities.
We fell in love. I advanced in my job. We got married. He advanced in his job. Picture perfect.
And then it happened: Our PCS assignment came through. I knew it was inevitable, but I had almost blocked it out of my mind as something I’d have to deal with “eventually.”
Eventually came, and I was faced with a choice: quit my job and have a setback in my career to follow my husband, or stay where I was and continue with the career in which I had spent so much time and effort to advance.
It was a tough decision, but in the end, I chose to move with my husband and attempt start over in the job market.
At first it was difficult. I did not play the “housewife” role very well. I was simply not good at it, especially when I was used to working 50 to 70 hours a week (and having a steady paycheck) doing something I absolutely loved. I found a few volunteer jobs that passed the time, and some freelance work to help me contribute financially to our little family, but ultimately, I longed for the office and responsibilities that I gave up at our previous location.
I eventually found a new job and it’s almost perfect. I didn’t settle for something that didn’t fit with my life plan. It took a lot of searching (repeat… A LOT of searching) but I feel that I’m back on track, professionally. While it was important to me to be a good wife and to be supportive of my husband, it was also very important that I not lose myself and give up on my goals.
By not giving up my life plan, I am a better wife and friend. I am happier.
It works for me and it works for us. In a few years, I know we’ll face the same dilemma—the PCS. I’ll end up starting over again, but I will have more knowledge and experience, an amazing portfolio, and a pretty good referral helping me along the way.
So, to answer the question: Yes. I do work outside the home, because it is important to me. I feel compelled to work, because that is part of what fulfills me. It is possible to have a career and work toward my goals and dreams while supporting my husband and moving every few years. It is difficult at times, but manageable.
I know I’m not the norm, but I’m also not alone. Many spouses juggle careers, families, and the stresses of military life. Finding what works for you is the key. Finding what makes you happy, fulfilled, and the best person you can be is key. For me, that is working “outside” the home.