It is a well known fact that many military spouses are unemployed or under employed. So many of us struggle to grow any sort of careers while our husbands serve. There’s a certain stigma about hiring a military spouse. Employers think, oh… they will be leaving soon and I want to employ someone long term. Or there are weird gaps in our employment history. Or there are random odd jobs mixed in there that have nothing to do with what we really want to do with our lives. Sometimes we have to take jobs that are more about the convenience of how it works with our lives and not about our passions in life. Here is a great article on the issue.
This has hit me in a big way recently. I have been employed for the last 3 years of my husband’s Navy career. I worked remotely and it was awesome to be able to take my job wherever we moved, especially since we were moving about every 8 months. But what I have realized is from almost the very beginning that remote job had become more about hanging on to a job than actually challenging myself and growing in my own career. I had lost focus. I should have quit that job 3 years ago, but I knew it would be almost impossible to find something else that provided me the convenience that this job did. I was full time, and then I was part time, and then I was somewhere in between while they tried to determine if they still needed my position to exist. I spent 3 years trying to hang on and trying to prove to the company that I was “necessary”. Every 3 or so months when they decided to revisit my status again it was terrible. I switched departments several times. I had 3 or 4 different bosses. It was awful. I deserved better than this but still I hung on because it was a job. It brought in a paycheck. It was usually reliable. I loved working part time and having so much extra time to take care of the household chores. It was flexible. I could take off almost any time if my husband had a surprise day off or we were moving again and I needed a few weeks to move and get settled.
And that’s why I stayed. It didn’t matter at the time that I wasn’t using my skill set to my best ability. I didn’t care that my design skill was going downhill and my web skills were stagnant. I had a job, I had an income and for that time it was all that I needed. Taking care of the house and my husband (and spending any possible time with him) was more important to me. But now that the job is done I have realized how crappy of a spot I have put myself in. I have virtually nothing to show for the past 3 years of work. I am moving backwards.
The real issue is that I want a career and not just another job to get me by for a few more years. I want to grow and learn and be challenged. I want to get promotions and feel like I am doing something with my life. Right now I am my husband’s cheerleader. I cook and clean and try to make life a bit easier on him after working a 14 hour day. And that is great, but I want more. I am struggling so much right now with what exactly that means. Part of me says it’s time to go back to work in-house full time and really focus on furthering my career. Part of me says no, part time rocks because I get to spend quality time with friends and my husband and that is more important than work. I want something that is super flexible and gives me time off for whatever last minute vacation time my husband gets. I want something that allows me to grow. I want to have lots of free time and I also want to work full time. I am torn in so many different directions and I just don’t know where I’ll end up at this point. Do I even want to keep doing design work? I don’t really know. I love working remote but I miss interacting with coworkers in an office.
Some days I get really motivated to really work on whatever is next. I’ll learn Ruby or I’ll make WordPress websites for sale or I’ll practice my design skills and go back to that. Then the next day I get comfortable again. I tell myself it’s ok to just be a cheerleader for a little while. Spending time with my husband is more important than working, and I know that if I go back full time I wont have that luxury anymore. We can scrape by on one income for now and I know that I want to do something to contribute.
All of my focus the past 3 years has been on my husband and trying to conceive. I feel like two doors have closed and I am just waiting to see what opens next. I know that it is time to focus back on myself a bit and that I have let it go too long. So here’s to all my military spouses who are trying to find a job or just find their path in life. It certainly is not easy but we will all figure it out in time.