According to the 2015 Annual Military Lifestyle Survey by Blue Star Families, 60% of spouses reported that employment was a top stressor in their life. This is not surprising, as our culture of spouses includes those who want a sense of purpose inside and outside of the home. Blue Star also reported “military families with employed spouses experienced greater financial security, better mental health, and higher satisfaction with the military lifestyle.” This doesn’t imply that you need to have a job to have better mental and financial health, but for those who have a longing (or need) to work, the path to employment can feel like the American Ninja Warrior Games.
I remember sitting at my kitchen table in tears grieving the loss of a job. I was exhausted at the thought of interviews and transferring my license to a new state. I remember feeling the seed of bitterness grow in my heart towards the military, and my husband was the target. I love him, it wasn’t his fault, but I had no where else to direct it. My guess is that some of you have felt those same feelings! If I could go back and sit down with my discouraged tearful self, this is what I would have told her.
1.Your family is more important than your career. At the end of the day, the question we ask ourselves is not how much money did I make, but was I who my family needed me to be? If this falls apart, everything falls apart. Your marriage is the one “home” you will take with you everywhere you go. Invest in this first so that it is a place of peace and strength that you both want to come home to.
2. Know which “itch” you are scratching. There is a difference between having a passion or talent that you want to fulfill and feeling restless about life in general. A job can provide community, accomplishment, and build confidence, but it is not a cure-all. It will not address deep insecurity, marital conflict, or general dissatisfaction with life. Ask yourself what the longing inside is and what you are missing. Some of what you are feeling may be a call to address what is at home, first.
3. Be patient with your stage of life. Looking back, what I wanted to do in my 20’s and 30’s was not possible, even if we weren’t in the military. To be honest, I don’t think I could have handled it! Don’t underestimate the wisdom and maturity that is building through these years. It makes you patient during stress, experience (inside and outside of the home) to call upon in your career, and trust with the people who will provide references later. Enjoy what is in front of you- whether it is on the playground or the entry-level assignment you have been given.
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Serving families in my career has brought so much joy, but I would walk away from it all if my spouse or children needed me to. What is it that you are longing for today? Take time to journal it out, then take the next step that is most wise– and don’t forget to ask for help if you need it.