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Life with a Career

The military spouse community is a melting pot of diversity. We are all unique; we have different goals and dreams. We all figure out who we are inside this community. We represent so many different versions of what family life looks like. That’s a beautiful thing.

I have now experienced two very different lifestyles within my family dynamic. It is certainly an experience worth reflecting on. My job over the last decade was child rearing and household management.

I recently procured my first full-time career. As a spouse who thought about having a career for a decade, I want to talk about what I’ve learned since I got my first job as it pertains to life and my expectations and comparisons over the years.

Firstly, for the decade that I stayed home with my kiddos, I would fantasize about what it would be like to be a ‘career woman.’ It was a fantasy that I had as a child. I knew I was capable of great things, and I wanted to prove that to the world.

As the years went on, that fire to prove it to the world waned. I questioned if I was capable enough to enter the workforce about a decade later than my peers. After my children started school full-time, I knew I needed to pursue a career for myself. I just assumed that once I got the role, I would morph into the career woman I always envisioned myself to be.

Things fell into place for me when I got serious about finding a job outside of the home. I landed my first job, and I’m lucky it aligned with the only world I know, the military community. I was proud of myself, and while I did question how capable I would be of delivering, it quickly became clear that I would have no problem figuring it out. That’s what we do as military spouses: We morph and adapt.

What surprised me is that the fantasy woman I had always envisioned never really showed up. I was the same woman, and I didn’t drastically change because I got a career-orientating job. That surprised me.

My identity as a woman has been mother and spouse for quite some time. That was all I had; that was mine. I attached myself to everyone else in my house except for myself. I believe a big part of that was getting married and pregnant so young. I didn’t have a chance to be someone else, but my career job gave me an identity all to myself.

I truly love this part of being a working spouse and mother. I have my own professional life and I learn so much about myself in it. I also genuinely love having a job. To me, it is fulfilling. However, with a spouse in the military, I know it will be second fiddle.

I am still responsible for the kids most of the time. My spouse is super supportive of me, and he is my true partner in every sense of the word, so we split cooking and cleaning and all the maintenance of the home. But because of his job, he can’t pick up the kids from school and take them to all their activities.

So, my schedule has drastically changed and become incredibly chaotic. This has been a big adjustment for me, but I’ve learned that I love a bit of chaos. I have had to pick the convenience of life over home-cooked meals every night. I’ve had to revisit the expectations of my home and being ‘put together.’

My favorite realization came as a surprise. The biggest thing I’ve taken away from these diverse lifestyles is how much value I added to the family for a decade before working outside of the home. The ability to just be available for whatever pops up in our family and in life is truly such a blessing and adds so much value.

I had known all these years that my spouse was so thankful for what I did as a stay-at-home mom, but the truth was it was hard for me to see it. Now, I look back and see how much of a gift it was for my family.

I feel proud of all I did and accomplished during that time. When I was a stay-at-home mom, my kids would occasionally ask me why I didn’t have a job. At times, they would mention other moms and what kind of jobs they had. They thought it would be super cool to have a mom who worked outside of the home.

Now, however, while they are proud of me, they sometimes make comments about whether I will have to work and have noticed the inconvenience that this lifestyle can bring. I find that interesting. All in all, there are many differences in my life now that I have a different day job. I haven’t changed at all. I see how powerful both lifestyles are, and now I truly appreciate them.

As I reflect on these thoughts, it doesn’t quite surprise me because all the different choices we make paint our lives in different lights. In this community, we are all represented by so many unique lights.

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