If you’ve ever rushed out the door to get to an important meeting only to find that your shoes don’t match or there’s a sour-milk sippy cup in your purse where your business cards are supposed to be or you find syrup on your shirt from a sticky hug, welcome to the working parent trenches.
The only way out of the trenches? Having a village. No one should (and let’s be honest, no one can) do it all alone.
Here are 7 people every working military spouse needs in his/her life:
1. The mentor. Personal development often takes a backseat to, well, everything, and a mentor is the perfect answer to keep you on track. Identify the areas in which you’d like to grow and go from there.
Harvard Business Review recommends you go beyond that and have a personal board of directors – it’s like a village inside your village. You set the table for your board of directors. You get to pick the people and the areas in your life where you want to grow.
2. The cheerleader. Every working military spouse needs someone cheering for them – to get the promotion, land the client, nail the briefing or sometimes even just to go to work. Don’t we all feel like sometimes we’re failing at something (or everything…)?
Whether or not your cheerleader has first-hand knowledge of your job, having someone outside of your parents and spouse affirming your decisions and genuinely wanting to see you do well is powerful.
Even more powerful? When you’re able to mirror this role right back. Having a friendship built on encouragement and authenticity is not only beautiful, it’s rare. When you find your cheerleader, make sure they know their value.
3. The best friend at work. Obviously having a BFF to grab lunch with at work will make your day more fun, but did you know it also makes you a better employee? According to a survey conducted by O. C. Tanner (a global employee recognition company who boasts such clients as Home Depot) and reported by Inc., 75% of employees who have a best bud at work say they feel they are able to take on anything and they also report 18% higher job satisfaction than those without a bestie.
Plus, sometimes they bring you coffee.
I found my BFF at work by confessing to the HR woman who had a cute baby pic on her desk that I was pregnant with my second. We spent the next hour talking about being working mommies and 6 years later, it’s still a match made in heaven.
4. The understanding boss. Having a supervisor who “gets it” makes everything better, but it’s especially critical for the working military spouse. There will come a day where you will have to choose between leading a high-profile meeting or going to your service member’s homecoming.
Sitting down with your boss at the beginning of your working relationship and talking about the challenges and the expectations that are your unique reality as a military spouse lays the groundwork for him/her not only to encourage you to make it to the airport in time for your big reunion with your honey, but also understanding why you need a few days off when it happens, too.
5. The nanny. If you have kids, you understand the importance of reliable child care. You’ll figure out what works best for you – whether that’s the child development center or having someone in your home – but having a nanny has been key to me being able to work outside the home. Mostly because I never could quite get it all together to get out the door at a reasonable hour after labeling bottles and clothes and diapers and my sanity, and also because being able to have some flexibility around my hours is really important to me.
Additionally, when my husband was deployed, I paid our then-nanny extra to do laundry. And that was a beautiful thing.
6. The stay-at-home parent. Every village needs diversity, and it’s important that yours isn’t filled only with people that are exactly like you. Having stay-at-home moms (or dads!) as friends are equally as important as your working ones. It seems these folks thrive in every area where I am lacking. My SAH friends outsource very little, meaning they are incredibly organized, managing multiple schedules, housework, volunteering, school boards, family readiness groups and so much more, often flying solo.
Consequently, these buddies have tried-and-tested tricks for handling deployment, give wonderful (solicited) parenting advice, the longest, most gracious hugs, and, when booked in advance, make the best coffee dates when you get a day off work.
7. The supportive spouse. Finally, my friends, life is so much easier when you have a spouse who is supportive of you working. So often, our spouses are gone and our careers have to take a backseat. Having your person encouraging you, helping you out whenever he/she can so you can stay late one night a week at the office or take that work trip or hang with the kids while you go for a work dinner, is key.
Years ago, I had the chance to take a TDY to somewhere I really wanted to go. It just so happened to coincide with my husband’s work ups. Without family close and no real option for me to leave for over a month, it was a no go.
So, when the chance arose for me to take a week-long class a few weeks ago and my husband was home, he was not only OK with me leaving town, he encouraged it because of what he knew it meant to me. Knowing he would go above and beyond so that I could do something career enhancing meant the world to me.
Whether you’re years into your career or just starting your journey, don’t wait to build your village. These 7 people will make all the difference.