Military spouse careers are a unique balancing act. We are always teetering between what is best for ourselves, our military members and our families. The military lifestyle means many things are out of our control. What can spouses control in this uncertain, often stressful, amazing adventure called military life?
Control Over Our Careers
We do not envision ourselves pursuing an education, vocation or degree to land a job and work our way up the ladder, only to have it fall apart once we marry into the military. None of us plan for our careers to take a back seat to that of our beloved member of the armed forces. We have our own career aspirations. We do not aspire to be underemployed or unemployed. Unfortunately, this is often our reality. When do military spouses get to put our careers first and submit our "dream sheet" for life?
Luckily, there are many resources available to enable us to have more control over our careers, despite the challenges presented by the military lifestyle. Organizations and publications exist to tackle the military spouse employment issues identified by recent Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Surveys. Specific resources encourage educational, mentoring, advocacy and entrepreneurial opportunities for spouses. There are work-from-home, flexible, telework and remote work options available if we know how to search for them appropriately. We can take control of our careers by utilizing available resources and researching our options. Included below is a list of a few available career resources specifically for military spouses.
- Blue Star Families
- Hiring Our Heroes
- Military Spouse Employment Partnership
- Hire Heroes USA
- Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs
- American Corporate Partners Active Duty Spouse Program
- Department of Defense Spouse Education and Career Opportunities Program
- Military Spouse Advocacy Network
Balancing our careers with our family’s well-being
Like all working parents, we must consider what our career options mean for our families. Our goals and aspirations may not be the best thing for all parties involved. We are always balancing our happiness against what is best for our children. The military lifestyle means deployments, long periods away for one parent, and frequent moves. These types of challenges compound the need for us to focus on others above ourselves. We want to provide stability for our families when the military cannot.
As spouses, we do have control over recognizing and prioritizing the needs of our family and ourselves. We can have honest, open discussions with our military members and families about our career goals, needs, and dreams. Our children learn from watching us as parents. As military spouses, we have a unique opportunity to show our children how to develop a strong work ethic, appreciate career and gender equality, set goals, and pursue dreams.
Our service member’s careers can benefit ours
In a perfect world, the military member's career and that of the spouse always align. The reality is, the service member's career always comes first. The active-duty opportunities dictate our location, home choices, our children's schools, and, ultimately, our career opportunities as military spouses. However, we can control how we advocate for ourselves regarding the service member's career. Perhaps if we compromise, the next duty station can provide options that benefit both careers. The following location might hold additional educational opportunities for spouses. If childcare is an issue, we can advocate to move closer to our support resources.
We are not that different from our career-oriented civilian spouse counterparts. Any families with two employed parents struggle with similar balancing acts. However, the military lifestyle brings an added layer of complexity. There is a lack of control over one's own life that comes along with the military. They are called orders for a reason. Military members, spouses, and families do not have a choice.
However, as spouses, we can choose how we deal with the orders. We can make career choices that allow us to have less uncertainty and anxiety in our lives. We can pursue our dreams and passions. We can determine our career destiny separate from that of our military members. We may not have control over what the military hands us, but we do have control over how we handle what comes our way. Perhaps, we can find more life balance and career satisfaction if we focus on what we can control.