- Posted by marysastevens
- On May 9, 2018
- 2 Comments
Search online and you’ll find a plethora of blogs and articles about the trials and hardships of military spouses. It’s not an easy life, and there are a lot of perspectives others share. We are driven by the same call our spouses have to serve, sacrifice, and persist through adversity to achieve goals. In this vein, a military spouse and businessperson or entrepreneur share a lot of similar qualities. During my husband’s nine-month deployment, I raised our newborn daughter alone, while our closest family was more than 2,000 miles away. The timing was far from ideal, but when faced with no choice, I dug deep into an inner strength I never knew I had. The challenges and lessons I learned along the way taught me lessons applicable to professional life.
- There will always be changes – the only certainty is uncertainty
When I was pregnant we discussed how life would change with our new baby. We talked about all of the exciting memories we would make as a family. When I was five months pregnant we learned that the first nine months of our daughter’s life would be spent away from her father. This was never my plan. But in business, you can always make a plan, but you need to leave enough room to be flexible. Mentally prepare that things just aren’t going to go as planned. I’m not suggesting you lower your expectations, however, you’ll be sorely disappointed if you aren’t prepared to accept that your path to success is going to have a lot of curves and roadblocks along the way.
- Inner strength and adversity is easy to find when you have no choice
One friend offered me advice that has stuck with me, “Imagine how strong you’ll be when it’s over,” she said. At the end of each day – when the baby is asleep upstairs and I’m walking downstairs to enjoy my magic hour of quiet and relaxation – I always exhale a big breath and reflect on the day’s challenges. I think about everything I did that day, and how I’m just a little bit stronger than I was in the morning. Because when you do something hard, the bar moves up even higher.
- Priorities become clearer
The amount of advice for new moms is staggering. Well-meaning friends say to “sleep when the baby sleeps”, and “don’t worry about the dishes and instead take that time to relax.” I did a lot of experimenting with this advice and found what works for me may not be what has worked for others. This is because I learned very quickly what was truly important to me. Of course, I wish I could sleep when the baby does during the day – but during those few hours, I get a surge of energy. I use that time to schedule calls with clients, work on a project, or brainstorm and write for myself (like right now, she’s asleep as I type). Also, having a clean kitchen is important to me. I know this because I would prioritize cleaning over relaxing. When you’re crunched for time, what’s truly important to you and your success becomes a lot clearer. The reward isn’t always instantaneous or obvious, but I listen to my gut and follow what’s most important to me.
- Networking reigns queen
As a military spouse, there are endless organizations and events to help boost morale, meet new people, or make professional connections. As a mom, there’s a mommy group available every day of the week. I took a risk and tried out a couple new groups and found some that I have continued to visit regularly. There are also those unofficial groups we form on our own with others who share similarities. My husband is a physician and our military experience is different from other servicemembers and faced with its own unique set of challenges. I fell into a group of other spouses married to the military medicine life, and we developed strong bonds. My connection with them can’t be matched. We share similar struggles, highs and lows, and swarm in the same social circle. As a business professional, there are niche organizations and groups that match your unique criteria. These organizations help you convert relationships into colleagues, mentors, friendships, and when you’re really lucky – customers. If I had to choose one piece of advice to offer military spouses and business professionals, it would be to challenge yourself to network. Breakthrough social anxieties and take a chance, otherwise you’ll never know what opportunities are waiting for you.
- Ask for and accept help
This may be the most difficult and important lesson I’ve learned. No matter how strong, independent or determined you are, there will always be a time you need help. I’ve taken friends up on offers of dinner and childcare and sought resources to help me around the house. When you open yourself up to asking for and accepting help, you’ll find invaluable mentors and colleagues.
Throughout the deployment I was able to continue working for select clients, build on my portfolio of work and earn income. I set weekly and monthly goals, and I trusted my gut when it came to networking and where I valued my time. These are lifelong lessons I’ll carry with me throughout my career.