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The MilSpouse Entrepreneur

What comes to mind when you hear the words, military spouse entrepreneur? I think of a military spouse who believed in themselves and their passion enough to build a business around it. Someone who was tired of explaining employment gaps reflected on their resume to future employers. I asked a couple of my friends who are also thinking of taking a leap of faith what they thought. One friend thinks of someone who is motivated, confident, flexible, persistent and resilient. I said, “Wow, she’s right!” At some point in this lifestyle, we all live up to those words.

Betting on yourself and starting a business is scary but we do scary things every day. What is one more, right? Once we set our minds on something we see it through. Once we make it through to the other side of that fear, there is nothing stopping us. Honestly, there is no better time than while your spouse is on active duty to pursue your passions. Take this opportunity and find what will sustain you, fill your cup, and allow the flexibility in your schedule to be what you want to be and who your family needs you to be.

The reality of entrepreneurship as a military spouse is that we essentially must start over every couple of years due to a PCS. Depending on the type of business, moving can mean starting from scratch over and over and over again. That is where the resilient and persistent characteristics come into play. We are lucky because the military has a multitude of resources available to aid us in finding success. I hope the following information inspires you to bet on yourself and provides you with a good foundation to take that leap of faith and go for it.

Step 1: Find your passion.

What does that mean to you? What questions do you need to ask to get the right answers? What do you do with those answers? Only you can supply those questions and answers. Luckily for us, the first two questions are universal.

  1. “If I had to wake up and do one thing every day for the rest of my life, what would that be?”
  2. “What could I do that brings me joy and makes me money?”

Discover those answers and go from there. If by chance you are like, “Nope, no idea,” that’s okay. Let’s say you are good at organizing and finding a place for everything. If that is you, and you are reading this, I will hire you! I have a home full of things that don’t have a place — help me! Maybe starting a professional organizing business is for you. That skill can travel with you everywhere your spouse’s career takes you. Maybe you like to bake, make handmade items, teach others how to do things, or even write.

Step 2: Utilize all the military spouse entrepreneur resources.

  • Military OneSource: Education and employment resources for spouses.
  • MySECO: Has an entire landing page for us! It has everything you need and will provide you with a wonderful foundation.
  • MyCAA: Provides financial assistance with obtaining training or certain credentials or certifications.

Step 3: Get out there and do it!

One year from today, you will be glad you took this leap of faith and bet on yourself. One year ago, I told my husband I wanted to start a blog to rediscover my passion for writing and help other MilSpouses at the same time. Look at me now. Not only do I have a personal blog business, but I am writing for a blog dedicated to military spouses. Like wow, all because I took a leap of faith and bet on myself. I am not saying it’s not hard and there won’t be days where you ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” Even when things are down, you can never go wrong betting on yourself.

Lizann and her children

Reunion Tips for Military Homecomings

After a long deployment, it’s finally homecoming month! You’re so excited for your service member to return! But… you also have a quiet fear that everything won’t be rainbows and butterflies after that first kiss.

Of course, you’re happy to see your loved one again. You’ve waited months to be reunited! Although both of you have grown and changed during deployment, sometimes that means living together again doesn’t go as smoothly as you would like. It’s natural for both military spouses and service members to have some hesitation or nervousness about the reintegration period after deployment. Some couples feel like they pick up right where they left off, while others report several weeks of awkwardness and frustration as each person adjusts to the big changes from deployment.

Both experiences are “normal,” and working through reintegration challenges doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship has long-term issues. It’s just another difficult stage in military life. Let’s talk about how to prepare for a military homecoming, so you set yourselves up for success and can enjoy reintegration with your service member.

How to Handle Differences in Expectations

When couples struggle to reconnect after deployment, the biggest frustration is typically a difference between expectations and reality. Maybe the service member expected to use their “extra” deployment money towards a new motorcycle, but the spouse had to spend money on car repairs and broken appliances instead. Perhaps the spouse expected to take a post-deployment cruise vacation to reconnect, but the service member wants to travel home and spend a week visiting their family. If these situations aren’t discussed early, they can lead to frustration, disappointment, arguments and accusations.

Communication during deployment is sometimes inconsistent or slow, so it isn’t always easy to have long chats about post-deployment expectations. Although couples who discuss major expectations and get on the same page before the end of deployment generally report a smoother reintegration period.

Lizann holding up a welcome home sign

Things to Discuss Before Homecoming

Whether you send text messages, emails, or have multiple phone calls, try to bring up these topics before the service member returns:

  • Finances: The household budget will shift when the service member’s pay changes after deployment. Make sure both parties are aware of changes and how much is in savings.
  • Vacation or Leave Time: Service members typically get some time off after deployment, but it may not be when you expect it. Learn the approximate dates and what each person expects from that time.
  • Household Responsibilities: During deployment, the spouse at home probably handled 100% of the household management tasks. They are likely eager to give that up and share the burden, so it’s helpful to discuss who will do which chores and when that process begins.
  • Major Changes: During the months the service member was deployed, things probably changed at home. The spouse can help speed the adjustment along by filling the service member in on new routines, schedules, hobbies, etc. This is especially important if the spouse started a new job, went back to school, or if young children are in a new developmental stage.
  • Make Space: If the spouse has taken over all the spaces in the house, this can make a returning service member feel uneasy or unwelcome in their own home. Remember to create space for their return. This includes physical space in closets, but also space in the schedule, space in the evening routine, and emotional space for them to feel connected during reintegration.

There’s no need to discuss these all at once, but if you can each voice your opinions and discuss compromises before homecoming, there will be less tension when the service member returns.

How to Help Kids Adjust After Deployment

Remember to prepare your kids for post-deployment changes. Discuss any big plans you and the service member have made for the family ahead of time and talk them through anything that will be different when the other parent returns.

Kids often save up a long list of things they want to do with mom or dad once they come home. Instead of them asking everything on Day 1, when the service member is tired, write all the ideas down and put them into a jar, so the service member can pull them out one at a time when they are ready. This is less overwhelming, and the kids know their requests won’t be ignored.

Talk it Out

Whatever relationship challenges you face after a military homecoming, it’s helpful to talk them through with each other and with a counselor. Don’t let frustrations fester and make things more difficult. Instead, discuss them calmly. You can reach out to free, confidential counselors on Military OneSource to get your relationship back on track after deployment.

Child in driveway

Parenting Through Goodbyes

The days are long, but the years really are short when it comes down to raising kids. They grow like weeds. Each PCS seems a little bit different as they grow up. Goodbyes just seem to get harder and harder. Maybe it’s a compounding effect or maybe it’s that their relationships with friends grow more and more important. Either way, goodbyes are difficult. Watching your kid say goodbye to their best friends is heart-wrenching. Remember it is the 21st century after all! Here are five creative ways to help your kiddo continue to feel connected with their friends even if they are continents apart.

  1. Exchange a small gift with their best friend as a reminder of how much they mean to each other. One of my daughter’s best friends gave her a necklace for her birthday. We have just moved to a new state, and this week she is attending a new summer camp. Every day her necklace has been an important item for her to wear. It has brought her a lot of comfort in this new environment. I think the necklace more than anything reminds her that she is not alone. This simple gift has really done more than I ever would have thought for her. She feels a close connection with her bestie every time she puts it on.
  2. Keep connected through technology. I just think about the deployments we have been on as a family and how technology kept us included in each other’s lives even when we are away. Technology can be a great resource for kids to keep up with each other. Even if they live on the other side of the world! Fortunately, there are several kid-friendly apps and hefty parental controls that ensure we know exactly who our kids are talking with.
  3. Start a journal. It seems like every health and wellness article I read advocates for how impactful journaling can be. I think as our kids ride the PCS roller coaster of emotions a journal can be beneficial. I also think that writing about their favorite memories with their friends can be a powerful tool. It is something they can always go back to when they need to feel connected. A great goodbye gift would be giving a journal to your best friend with a few first pages already filled out with your favorite memories of them. They would always have the journal to reference and remember.
  4. Create a photo collage as a daily reminder of their friendships. Before we moved, we made sure to have conversations with the kids to ask them what was important to do before we left. For my daughter, it was to get a picture of all the neighborhood kids so she could print it out and hang it in her new room. She ended up getting several prints and handed them out to all the kids in the picture with a small note on the back. That way they all can have the picture and keep it in their room. It’s a small thing, but just having the knowledge that it is something they all have and share can be really comforting in lonely times.
  5. Become good ole fashioned pen pals. There is nothing like running to the mailbox and seeing a letter from a friend. In today’s world, a handwritten letter seems so personal in a way technology just can’t be. The thoughtfulness of the other person also feels more touching somehow. It’s something tangible that they can read as many times as they want. Just make sure to continue updating the address book!

In conclusion, as parents, it is hard to see our kids have to say goodbye over and over again. However, having friends all over the world can be cool, especially if you stay connected. I hope these ideas can help a few kids feel less alone after a move. I would love to hear from you about the creative ways you have helped your kids stay in touch with their friends!

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