by Alison Maruca, Guest Contributor
Personally, the military spouse label has never hindered my job search. In fact, it’s helped it, which I know is an uncommon experience related to military spouse employment.
My biggest challenges have always come after I’ve signed the contracts, hung my coffee cup in the breakroom and attended my first staff meeting.
Military Spouse Employment: What About After You’re Hired?
I’m not sure about you, but I always seem to come into a new job already asking for time off. Pre-deployment leave, family events, vacations and such are already on the calendar and so I’ve either gone “into the hole” or taken leave without pay.
Add to that, I’m also a drilling Reservist and often come into new positions with drill weekends or my 2 weeks of annual training scheduled. And while legally, they can’t keep me from asking off for those commitments, I’ve never been able to accrue enough leave to take a paid vacation or sick day. While this isn’t a challenge unique to the military community, we do often come with significant scheduling hurdles like deployments, time at sea or in the field, sick children, etc.
Not having to wait 6 months or an entire year to earn those benefits, when you may only be in the job for 12 to 18 months, would increase family-work life balance, as well as make for a much happier employee.
Our service members earn an incredible retirement that most Americans dream about. The new Blended Retirement System has even afforded service members the opportunity to take advantage of a good retirement without having to serve the full 20 years.
But in the civilian world, you typically need to work somewhere for a long period of time to fully reap the benefits of the company’s retirement option, if they even offer it at all.
However, our transient lifestyle and lengthy resume can create a need to set-up retirement accounts outside of our employer or manage a smattering of smaller accounts sprinkled around the country. Not ideal for a financially stable retirement.
With the rising costs of living, a dual-retirement income is almost necessary to ensure you maintain a comfortable lifestyle or else you may wind up working until you’re 70 years old. And nobody wants to do that.
In our Navy family, my husband rolls every few years from sea duty to shore duty. We’ve recently finished a pretty challenging 3 years of sea duty that included 2 full deployments and lots of time at sea in between birthing 2 babies and moving twice. Bottom line: he was gone a lot and life was stressful.
Now that we’re on shore duty, we’re focusing on family time and I’m making a conscious decision to not work outside the home, which allows us to have the flexibility to go, do and see all the things in our new duty station.
When I began to interview for positions, I didn’t find too many employers that were willing to allow me the flexibility and support I know I need to ensure that our family is our top priority right now. Yes, it’s a choice I made. However, balancing the demands of a new job while also trying to put family first is a challenge that most civilian families don’t have to endure quite like we do.
This small window of time in our lives doesn’t come often and so we’re trying to soak up as much family time as we can before we return to the constant stream of watching the ship pull away from the pier.
Having an employer understand the importance of family time in our crazy lifestyle is not very common and only adds to the stress of a dual-working military family.
While only good things can come of more legislation in favor of hiring military spouses, there’s still so much work to be done. And while organizations and politicians can fight to get us the jobs that are equivalent to our education and experience, there’s so much more to the entire concept of “military spouse employment.”
So let’s expand the conversation and start talking about not just finding jobs, but finding and creating jobs that work with our military lifestyle.
NextGen MilSpouse discussed Sen. Tim Kaine’s newly introduced Military Spouse Employment Act of 2018 on Happy Hour Episode 67. Click here to listen to the full episode.
Alison is a busy mom, Navy wife and Naval Reserve officer. She is passionate about supporting other military families and raising awareness of the unique challenges associated with military life. You can usually find her planning her family’s next big adventure or binge-watching Netflix with a glass of wine.