I’ve been thinking about this topic for a couple of years now, about military life and being a wife of a career military man and what that means for me and the women around me. This post was sparked by a friend who had found a job last week that was perfect and written just for her. She could have been hired and worked there and it could have fit like a second skin. A lot of factors go into a decision like that, but in this particular situation it boils down to being relocated often enough that employers see military wives as a negative in the workplace. I generalize, of course. I know there are a lot of places that are proud (or say they are proud) to hire us, but not many businesses love the idea of hiring someone that will leave sooner than most.
Let me back this up a minute and start at the beginning. My husband joined the military right after college and as soon as I graduated a year later I moved with him. At that point I really didn’t think that much about a career or where I would work, I just moved and figured it would work itself out. And it did for awhile. I worked random jobs here and there until I got my teaching degree and then I taught until my daughter was born. I chose teaching because it was a career that would work with moving and was fairly easy to be hired in different locations (which isn’t totally true when you factor in certification, but that’s another post for another day.) Is teaching my true calling? I enjoyed it and liked going to work every day and adored the children, but is it what I want to do forever? I’m not sure.
I notice a theme in military wives when it comes to careers and working outside the home. Most of us don’t. Between constant moves and kids and life it just isn’t always feasible to work in a traditional work environment. Most of us end up creating jobs that work for us in non traditional ways (hello, blog!) Which brings me to the thought: is being a military wife hazardous to our own ambitions? Before you jump all over me for that statement I need to say that I adore being a military wife. Staying home and being with my kids is my main ambition. I don’t care if that makes me sound like a 1950’s housewife, being a mom is the only thing I ever wanted to do for sure, everything else is a bonus in my opinion. I could never work in a traditional sense again and be okay with it. What makes me feel safe in this decision? I have an advanced degree and could work tomorrow if I wanted. I could support myself and my children if I needed to. I like having that as a back up, for myself and my family.
I know that when I signed up to marry this man, I didn’t think that far ahead about how my life would be impacted by his life. I loved him and wanted to be with him and by choosing him I ultimately chose to put my career on the back burner. I chose to miss out on job opportunities and a way of living that is different than most. I chose my husband and his career over mine. Does this sound old fashioned? I think so. However, I am satisfied with my choice because I like this life we’ve built and it works with how I envisioned myself at this point in my life. I think when most think of a military wife they don’t think of the personal sacrifices we make, the sacrifice of consistency in job and career.
I think the real joy of being a woman in today’s world is being able to choose how we want to be. I’m friends with stay at home mama’s, career women and those that pave their own way and create a business that works for them. We are happy working OR staying at home OR a little of both. We can choose. At this moment I am happy being home with my children and may or may not go back to work when they go to school full time. Maybe I will stay home so I can be there for them, maybe I will get a traditional job, maybe I will create a new niche for myself. Who knows. Until then I will move again, and again and support my family by staying at home and perhaps someday it will be my turn to shine in a different way. I don’t think I can be defined by a career. My definition of success comes from my children and family and the happiness of those around me. And myself of course. I’m paving my own way and creating opportunities for myself with what I have to offer, and I couldn’t be happier.