by Julie Capouch, Guest Contributor
Should I work while my spouse is deployed or away on an unaccompanied assignment?
If you are a NextGen MilSpouse, it’s likely you will ponder that question at some point during your spouse’s career. Those recruiting videos don’t lie when they say service members can travel the world. But sometimes that world travel may not include the spouse and kids.
How you answer this question will depend upon your family situation, and no matter the choice you make, it’s important to keep one thing in mind.
“You don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.”
Those were the words of my brother when I called him to ask for his advice when I was thinking of leaving my job during my spouse’s one-year unaccompanied tour overseas.
Initially he was surprised I was even considering it. I’d worked very hard as a military spouse and mom to get a college degree, a graduate degree, and gain the experience that led me to where I am now – working in a position I love, with people I like, earning a salary that contributes substantially to our household income.
To Work or Not to Work: That Is the Deployment Question
When my husband first got orders for an unaccompanied PCS, I was firmly of the mindset that I would work throughout his time away. I love what I do, and I have school-age children, so it logically follows that I’d stick with it and enlist extra help when needed.
But as time drew closer for my husband to leave, reality began to set in.
I work in a very demanding position. As a teacher, I don’t “get off” when the school bell rings and students go home. I don’t get to clock in 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and call it good. I work “late” most days, and it’s not uncommon for me to bring home an hour or two of work on top of that.
I enjoy teaching, but it takes a lot of time, energy and mental space. And my children will need more of my time, energy and mental space while my husband is away.
After some stressful soul-searching and discussions with my spouse, I put in my notice.
I will not be returning to my position next school year. It was a hard decision for me. I felt as if I would be letting someone down no matter the choice I made.
If I continued to work, I might not be available to my children when they needed me. Think less “helicopter parent” and more “pragmatic parent.” With a demanding job and a total commute of 1 hour and 20 minutes each day, it would be hard for me to make it to school events, extra-curriculars and have quality family time with my kids.
But leaving my job brought along its own feelings of guilt. I was nervous when I walked into my headmaster’s office to tell him. I had already signed a letter of intent saying I would be returning. We are in the middle of some big changes and we have a number of new teachers coming in next year. I had an entire spiel ready to justify my decision.
But you know what? I didn’t need it.
He was very understanding and I will be leaving my position on good terms with the support of my supervisor and all my co-workers.
Ultimately, my decision not to work was best for my family.
My husband’s income is sufficient to cover all of our expenses and not working will allow me time to devote to my children’s after-school activities (soccer was on the chopping block when I was still planning to work).
It will allow me the time to prepare for our next duty station and take the steps necessary to transfer my teaching license to our new state.
And it will allow me the time to take care of myself – mentally and emotionally – while my husband and best friend is gone.
I think that’s something we as military spouses struggle with – in the midst of taking care of everyone else, how do we find time to juggle it all and still take care of ourselves? Sometimes the only way is to remove some of the balls from the air.
The fact is, there’s no “right” answer to the “to work or not to work” question.
It will vary family to family, spouse to spouse, job to job. Do what works for you. You may have some naysayers or those who don’t understand why you’ve made the choice you have and some will voice their opinions.
“But won’t your kids NEED you?” (If you do work.)
“But HOW will you pay your bills?” (If you don’t work.)
Here’s the thing…you know yourself better than anyone else. You know your family better than anyone else. You know your kids better than anyone else.
And you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.