After reading Military Spouse Success- Just Survive, by Kaye Putnam of Successful Military Wife, I immediately knew I had something to add to the conversation. Even though Kaye “almost didn’t write this post,” I am ever so glad that she did.
She posed two questions to her Facebook community:
1. “Who are the most successful military spouses you know?”
2. “Curious! What is your dream job?”
Interestingly enough, the answers the first question didn’t quite get answered the way I, nor Kaye, expected. Where I expected to hear about military spouses who are paving the way in blending their military spouse identity along with their professional identity, respondents listed accolades about spouses like the happiness of her/his family or how graceful one is under pressure.
And even when Kaye pushed to ask about military spouses who balance career and family, she was rebuffed by a commenter that said “that is not a universal definition of success”.
Okay, I get that. Success means something different to everybody.
But I wonder, is it truly that we, as military spouses, don’t seek professional success or is it that we’ve resigned ourselves to accept a reality that we just can’t have it and have had to seek solace in other definitions of success?
Dare I say, it’s the latter. I think we gave up on ourselves. Because, according to her second question, “What is your dream job,” our dreams are still alive and kicking.
Which brings me to a bigger question that we really don’t like discussing.
What’s the cost we face, as individuals and as military spouses, when we choose to close the door on our careers, even if it’s just for a few years?
The Choice and the Risk: Staying at Home
I have so many friends, military spouses, who are facing their spouse’s retirement. I want to call it their retirement too, because they’ve sacrificed their own careers in support of their servicemember’s career. They’re finding themselves facing a new normal. And many are desperately trying to reenter the workforce after years of opting out.
These women are starting from scratch. It’s humbling and upsetting for them to find themselves at the bottom of the bunch …at entry level (even if they left their industry at the top of their game). Or learning that your only choice is returning to school to retrain.
When we choose to stay-home and sacrifice our career progression, there’s a very real monetary cost that goes along with that. Please know, I know how important and priceless it is to share those precious moments at home with your children nurturing your family. It is a choice I made for myself and for my family.
Despite my commitment to staying home, I know that every day I stay home…every year I’m out of work…has the potential to have a detrimental affect on my overall financial stability and marketability in the workplace. I choose to stay extremely aware that I am willingly and knowingly putting myself at risk.
Because I rely on my spouses income, if he were to perish, it would be on me to rebuild a life for ourselves. Or if we divorced (even though it’s never been something either of us would entertain), I would be at a disadvantage. If he were to get injured and no longer could work to support us, I’d be at disadvantage. My family would be at risk.
Even though we’ve taken the proper steps to insure ourselves in the event of the unimaginable, there are still steps I’ve taken to hedge my bets against the risks I face from choosing to stay at home:
- Maintaining a blog where I can contribute to the ongoing dialogue in my career field
- Stay aware of trends and new practices in my field
- Committing myself to continuing education in any way I can
- Cultivating and nurturing my professional network
- Reevaluating and modifying my professional goals
We give so much of ourselves to others. We must learn how to take time to grow ourselves and our dreams as well. As beautiful as the choice to stay home is, it comes at a price that we cannot afford to choose to ignore.