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Choices

September 20, 2009

Last week, my boss offered me a promotion. Her job, to be exact. Yay, right?

Not really. Managing a team remotely wouldn’t be impossible; I could do it fairly easily now, because I’m telecommuting from the same time zone as the home office. But next year I’ll be overseas, which would make this a swing-shift job. Given that I’m moving so I can be with my husband – enjoying his presence, talking to him without Skype, and exploring Europe with him – a workday that ends at midnight or 1 a.m. for me sounds like a bad idea for both of us. He’d come home at night and I’d still be working (and most likely snapping at him to be quiet). He’d be leaving for work and I’d still be trying to sleep (and most likely snapping at him to be quiet).

I turned down the offer. It was flattering to be asked, and it gave me heart that telecommuters can be taken seriously. But even though I’ve almost convinced myself that I didn’t really want the job anyway, I felt sad in saying no, because it didn’t feel as if it was my choice to make.

Technically, I had a choice. I could stay put while my sweetie follows his career and I follow mine, and hope that we can meet up again after his retirement without having grown too far apart. Maybe some couples have done this successfully (if you’re out there, I’d love to hear from you!). But for us, I don’t see it working. He’s at war right now, and we already know about the next deployment. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us, but with a loved one in harm’s way, I feel especially strongly about making the best of what time we have together. If anything happened to him, I would never forgive myself for doing it any other way.

So why do I still feel uneasy about my decision? Is it because this could be only the first of many job choices that aren’t really choices, as long as my husband’s in the military? Is it because I’ve iced my career and will be lucky if I’m working at all in six months? My boss has been an awesome advocate for me and extremely understanding of the quirks of the military lifestyle; the chances are slim I’ll have another manager who’s so great. Or am I just a spoiled baby who had it good for a lot longer than most milspouses, and now needs to suck it up and drive on?

Probably all of the above. I hate to complain without offering ideas on how to make things better, but right now I’m stumped. What could I have done differently? Am I going to be resentful despite my best efforts not to be? Is my husband ready for twice the wife and half the income? I’m not sure I am.

Readers, I’m asking you. Do you see these types of situations changing anytime soon? If so, how? Is there a point where we just give up, make our spouses’ career ours, and hope we get more autonomy after retirement? How do you keep fighting the good fight? I would love any and all feedback.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Ashley permalink
    September 20, 2009 7:20 pm

    what is your job that you can telecommunte? i am working on a transcription certificate, and babysit- only because i feel it is my only choice. i would love to hear what other women do.

    • September 21, 2009 5:41 pm

      Ashley, I’m an editor. Since nearly all of the stuff I work on is published straight to the Web, I’m all right as long as I have a (reliable) broadband connection.

  2. September 20, 2009 10:08 pm

    I worked for a company in Barcelona for a couple of years, while I lived here. The team was multinational, so literally I could go onto ICQ at any time of the day or night and find someone working.

    It was a lot of fun, however, it wreaked havoc with my sleep. It also meant that my mind was constantly shifted to what was going on online rather than in my real life.

    So this being said, and despite what the Pulitzer Prize journo said about me, I’m afraid for writers our choices are diminishing. What newspapers what paid us to research, draft, and write ….along with the benefits is gone. So we’re all chasing after the same jobs, and most of the time because of the sheer competition and who knows whom, we don’t get them. That, and the blogosphere and offered up a lot of bloggers who are willing to espouse an opinion for free. (And often what’s served up is repetitive or globby).

    What’s next? I’m not sure. Is this blogosphere really going to be the big moneymaker it claims? Or are people going to make money by using it sell goods and services? Will a cadre of investors approach us and offer us untold riches, or will we be –like so many other good writers hoping someone hits the “donate” button and wondering if we should return to waitressing?

    I just don’t think in terms of relationships, there is any pat answer. Economics are a reality –and without those needs being met good will gets tested.
    Anyway, I think you’ll find something. You’ll get at the starting line with the rest of us writers and run like hell when the bell goes off …for the next job.

    • September 21, 2009 5:49 pm

      It also meant that my mind was constantly shifted to what was going on online rather than in my real life.

      You verbalized something that has been eating at me. Given all the effort I’ve put into living in the moment, I don’t want to unravel it all for the sake of a job.

  3. Wishful Bohemian permalink
    September 21, 2009 2:25 am

    This is such a tough one! My experience was leaving my job for personal but important reasons, and then not being able to find another one in my field when the economy tanked. After 8 years before marriage as a single-parent with COMPLETE autonomy, this was a heavy brick in the marriage-load that I had to adjust to. Add to that husband’s serious dissatisfaction in his job (pulled from his regular MOS for a 3.5 year stint as a recruiter) and our house was not a happy one. Now I’m back in school, redirecting my energies to a different career path. Challenging, but also good for the focus it provides. Focus being key in keeping me from getting depressed around the house. If the $$ for school dries up before I finish my degree and another job is not immediately forthcoming, I’ll turn to volunteer work. Wish I had learned the “focus” lesson earlier, probably would have saved myself a lot of moping and 30 lbs of stress-eating!

    • September 21, 2009 5:54 pm

      The focus lesson is an excellent one. Like a border collie without enough exercise, I could see myself becoming destructive without *something* to do, be it learning, volunteering, or really focusing on parenting (assuming I were a parent!).

  4. September 23, 2009 3:04 pm

    you’re all a couple of steps ahead of me. i’m happy to be taking a breather from my high stress career. having a baby has been soooooo cathartic from the cumulative toll a job can take. that said, i’m already itching to find my way back into the game.

    “online” (whatever that means) seems the most viable option, given my now-husband’s profession, but I have the same reservations, same fears, especially seeing how seductively the online world detracts from my life in real life.

    let me know when you figure it out, eh? (wink) i do/too want to get back in the game, sooner rather than later, and i don’t know where to find the movable career ladder.

  5. JennB permalink
    October 20, 2009 2:44 pm

    First time poster, so hello everyone!
    I struggle with this stuff a lot, and I worry that as tough military spouses we are used to figuring things out and making things work, and so we also blame ourselves when they don’t. I don’t want to absolve the military of its responsibility in this area. The model we are stuck in is so gendered and not economically viable. The structure needs to change, not us.
    The $6k mycaa scholarships are a start. But what about the idea of tax breaks for employers who accommodate the milspouse lifestyle? Or a couple Universities who offer flexible programs that don’t cost an arm and a leg? I would totally get behind something like this.
    I don’t think that milspouses with “real” careers is optional, but rather critical to a strong military. I have talked to officers who truly feel that the current structure will eventually come back to haunt the military because it’s just too hard, psychologically and economically, to have a single earner household.

    • October 21, 2009 1:40 pm

      Welcome, JennB!

      Your point about how this structure will eventually hurt the military is spot on, I think. How many seasoned, talented senior enlisted and officers have we already lost to the private sector because their spouses want careers too? And how many will we continue to lose until we/they figure out more and better ways for this to work?

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