- Posted by marysastevens
- On May 10, 2017
- 1 Comments
*I am proud to sponsor with Blue Star Families for this post.
“Life is tough, but so are you”
This is a quote that I framed and hung on my wall above my computer screen. I see it every day that I’m working at my desk and it reminds me that I can do hard things. As a military spouse, business owner, and soon-to-be mother, this simple reminder inspires me each day.
May is National Military Appreciation Month, so I wanted to take this time to share some of what I’ve learned as a military spouse and the challenges that impact this community. The issues which I am most passionate about learning and advocating for are military spouse employment, and paternity/maternity leave for active duty soldiers. I’ve experienced my own career challenges, and now that I’m about to become a parent, my focus has also directed toward what child services and support are available to my family. At a moment’s notice, my husband can be deployed or temporarily relocated, leaving me to take care of all home matters and a newborn while living 2,000 miles away from family and close friends.
I used to think that I signed up for this lifestyle when I married an active duty soldier. But a mentor fiercely argued that sentiment. She said as military spouses we are serving our country and making sacrifices, but it doesn’t mean we have to give up on our career ambitions and being happy.
When we were stationed in Washington, we were surrounded by the bountiful and opportunistic Pacific Northwest. I was gainfully employed and had a very close network of friends – both from the military medicine community and the civilian sector. Since our relocation, I’ve put into practice my resiliency and independence.
The Department of Defense (DoD) and volunteer programs offer many resources for military families such as legal services, on-post housing, and the duty-free Commissary and Post Exchange (PX). There is also the employment priority placement program, which is far from perfect, but still offers the opportunity for spouses to find work at the DoD. But there are countless other road blocks that can only be torn down through policy by our elected lawmakers.
I believe it’s important for military spouses and families to be happy, successful and thrive. If the family is happy, the soldier is happy, which means better retention and work performance. Some may argue that it’s not the DoD’s responsibility to make sure the spouses and families are happy. But once that contract is up, who would stay if they were unhappy? Would they recommend it to others? If we want a strong and smart military, it begins in the family home.
Like many others, I’m determined to be more than just a military spouse and to thrive in my own career. However, according to the 2016 Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 79 percent of military spouse respondents felt that their military spouse status had a negative impact on their ability to pursue a career.
The greatest factors that affect a military spouse’s employment opportunities are: 1) living in small, remote areas where military bases generally are located and 2) employers fearful of hiring military spouses with uncertainty about how long they can be with the company.
Career stagnation was one of my greatest fears when I became a military spouse; my career has always been so important to me and I find fulfillment by using my education and expertise toward my passion and making a difference. The opportunities for me as a military spouse and public relations and marketing professional are rare, which is why I took the bold step to create my marketing consulting company.
But for spouses who find employment, their struggles are far from over. Consider deployments, where they have the additional stress of child care, taking care of the home and playing the role of two parents. For many of us, we are stationed thousands of miles away from family who could help ease these burdens. And then there’s just the stress the deployment puts on the marriage and on the children and their relationships with their parents. It’s a never-ending cycle of challenges; and we have no choice but to dig deep and display our strengths as individuals and families.
For me, not having control over these decisions ourselves is incredibly frustrating and anxiety provoking. Additionally, we have to learn a new community, find work, make new friends and finding a place to fit in every two to four years.
How could anyone who hasn’t lived this life truly understand?
But that lack of understanding is what Blue Star Families is hoping to fix with their eighth annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey. The purpose of the survey is to help identify and explore the issues that face service members, veterans and families. I took the survey in about 20-25 minutes while I drank my morning coffee and ate a bagel. I was pleased to give my input knowing that my answers will provide valuable insights that impact policy, educate military leadership and influence government decision-makers and the general public on the challenges impacting military families. What’s broken can’t be fixed if we don’t educate others.
Blue Star Families has many resources for family life, careers, moves and deployments. They offer free tools to help with your employment search, a how-to guide to help get through deployments, tips for PCS’ing, and bridging local organizations and the military family community. The more information they receive about our needs, the more equipped they can be to better serve military families.
I strongly encourage all my military friends to make your voices heard. The survey is open to current military spouses, active duty service members and veterans. Bonus – when you complete the survey, you can be entered into a drawing to win one of five $100 gift certificates! All information is anonymous; after you complete the survey you are directed to a new webpage where you can enter your information into the drawing. The survey is open until May 19, 2017.
As military families, we all have our unique challenges and it’s up to us to tell our story, advocate and lobby for change. You heard what I’m passionate about, now I implore you to take a few minutes to share what issues matter most important to you.
*Thank you to Blue Star Families for your partnership in this post. While I received compensation, the opinions expressed are my own.