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Milspouse Employment: Having it All (pt 4)

April 9, 2009

One final issue before we start talking about options and opportunities.

I had meant to discuss the bugaboo of children/family but never quite got around to it until a private discussion among the Left Facers got me to circle back around to this topic.

Again, since I’m being a sexist in this topic, I’ll use she/her even though it’s clearly a dad in some instances. Sorry again, guys!

When a service member has a family, often he doesn’t have the ability to be involved in much of the caretaking duties of that family. I’ve seen my own husband refuse to give one of his guys (a father) any slack since none of his childfree guys would request that slack. It’s not fair, but the military owns its service members, and there’s not much we can do about it.

During deployments, underways, travel, etc., milspouses become the only caretaker. When the guys are home, we’re still primary caretakers more often than not – once again, the military comes first, and if he needs to be at work/well-rested/unhindered, then the responsibility falls back on us.

For those of us who want or need a job, this can become a problem. Our employer isn’t going to want to give us any slack, and some women have even had complications at work because of the time off required when they find themselves single moms during deployments. It sucks, but that’s how it goes. How do we get around this?

Obviously, we need to find a good network of childcare, but that can be expensive. Child development centers on base are good options, but there’s often a waiting list, and they usually close on federal holidays (when a civilian employer might not). We can have backup childcare in case the kiddo is sick or the daycare center is closed, and we can track down babysitters as extra backup in case of late nights at work.

Two issues pop out at me here:
1. The cost. Luckily, there are programs out there to offset those costs. One that NeverApartInHeart pointed out to me is the NACCRRA. They provide a monthly supplement directly to the daycare facility. Some child development centers, including one I heard of in Montgomery, AL, will provide a certain number of hours a month for free to children of deployed service members, which is helpful if you work at home and just need some quiet time to get your work done.

2. The toll. The toll to our kids, who see their deployed dads never and their working moms a few hours a day but for weekends. The toll to ourselves, as we shoulder the entire responsibility – and sometimes burden – of a full-time job, family, home, and marriage.  Yes, I said burden. You know those moments I’m talking about.

Yesterday, Butterfly Wife said:

Tucker asked about having it all. After having been fed that line by society and believing it, I nearly went mad out of my mind…. You can have whatever you want. It all comes with a price. We need to prioritize things in our lives. Something has to give to something else.

And then LopsidedMom said:

I like to tell myself that I can have it all, just not all at once.

Exactly. What are our priorities? In the face of the military’s demands on our family, do we give up our dreams to be stable rocks for our children, even if that means we’re left unemployable, overqualified, underpaid, unfulfilled? Or do our kids suffer one more loss at the hands of this lifestyle – one more parent sacrificed because of personal needs clashing with the needs of the military?

It’s a hard situation, and many choose to find those work-from-home jobs, whether it’s direct sales, medical transcription, or virtual assistant as a result. Are these jobs fulfilling? I guess that depends on priorities and whether you’re still making room to pursue your dreams even as you fill your employment needs with a temporary fix.

How do you balance the needs of family with the requirements of military life? How have you faced the challenges of single motherhood while still pursuing a career?

(My apologies to the childfree crowd since today’s post doesn’t apply to you. )

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2009 3:14 pm

    I grew up in a single mom household where my Mom was gone a lot because she had a career. Unlike the military lifestyle my husband and I now have, my Mom had her entire family around her. I know her pursuit of a career meant a lot to her and her apologies for not being there were responded to with a it’s completely okay from my brothers and I.

    That said – I don’t know how others do it! I looked into childcare when we were at our first duty station because I’ve worked since I was 14 years old and wasn’t about to stop just because we moved to a new place. Then I was told I could commute over an hour a day and pay over $400 a month in childcare costs. Um, no thanks.

    Now my kids are older and school age (though we (I) homeschool) and I am wondering how it will work. We are moving and I’d like to get a job – one that I know will be great for my someday career – which means putting them in school and finding daycare. My plus – I’ll have family around like my Mom did. That makes a huge difference.

    Outside of that, I’m looking forward to the comments because I know it can be, and has been, done.

  2. April 9, 2009 11:32 pm

    Having children involved always puts a twist on the career discussion – thanks for this post.

    I’ve mentioned that my own career was derailed by a civilian related move rather than a military related one. When my husband deployed I felt very strongly that I needed to put my rentry and my needs aside so that the kids had at least one solid source of stability. Now that he’s home I’ve managed to find a great balance between work and kiddos – I honestly don’t know if I wouldn’t make the same choice if he were to leave again.

    And I will admit that this issue of career/kiddos and the military is one of the biggest reasons I put my foot way, way down when there was some talk of my husband leaving the Reserves for Active Duty.

    I was also raised in a family where my father spent 8 years commuting for his job, living in one city for the week and coming home on the weekends. It happened when I was older and in high school and my siblings had left, so honestly, I enjoyed the solitude and time with my mom and I was incredibly grateful that I was allowed to graduate from high school with my friends. But I do think it has left me much more willing than most to leave my husband and seek stability for my children. For better or for worse (and within reason of course) their needs are more important to me than my husband’s and certainly the military’s.

    Oh, and NACCRRA….I had NOT A CLUE. I’m still working on that post about the deploying Reservists and sucky, sucky volunteer ombuds(wo)men.

  3. April 15, 2009 2:12 am

    I am a very lucky lady in that I found a day care provider who is off post in a FCC home environment and is registered with both the military and the state. Therefore she is open on federal holidays and actually cares for a child with a mommy who works for McDonalds.

    As for the work/life balance well just read my blog and you will see I am struggling. I took on work, a second graduate degree, a nut for a boss, a 20 month old and a year long deployment. It took to month five before I finally lost my mind. I’m leaning on family who is helping me out and getting on track again but yeah priorities are very important when a part of the “military” life.

    • snarkynavywife permalink*
      April 15, 2009 2:53 am

      Thanks for all your thoughtful comments, Household6! It sounds like you got even crazier than I did last year – I also started my grad degree with two sprogs and my husband gone on back-to-back deployments. I looked for a job, but I’m glad I never found one, or I do think I’d be locked away in the rubber room right now. You’re lucky you’ve got family near enough to help you out. I ended up traveling across the country to stay with mine after I realized I couldn’t do it alone anymore. Kudos for being able to do it all and survive it. Wow!


  1. Milspouse Employment: Making a Living Wage «
  2. Milspouse Employment: Portable Jobs (pt2) «
  3. Milspouse Employment: Career Growth (pt3) «
  4. Milspouse Employment: What to Do (pt 5) «

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