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Military Spouse and Working Mom: the Struggle is Real

Momming ain’t easy. Being a military spouse ain’t easy. Having a career ain’t easy. Add all three together, and let me tell you, the struggle is real.

Now please don’t read this as a pity party, table of one. Please don’t read this as me saying one without the other(s) is easier.

What I’d like to offer is a clarification of MY personal struggle when it comes to being a military spouse and a working mom and the things I wish those around me on a day-to-day basis might better understand.

I’m Tired.

My work days start around 5:30 in the morning as this is the only time that I can get a workout in, a shower in peace, and be halfway ready before my two children are awake. Any mom of school-aged kiddos understands the chaos that ensues from the minute those little feet hit the floor until you’re on your way out the door. It’s exhausting. I have a short commute from school and daycare to work, but it’s sometimes the most relaxing part of my day. 

This short commute is the only time I drink my coffee hot. After an 8-ish hour work day, I am off to pick up kids, run any necessary errands, make dinner, do any said weeknight activity and then bath time and bedtime. Rinse, lather, repeat. Factor in taking care of our two dogs and any household chores or laundry that needs to be done, and on many days, I feel that I have literally not sat down until well after my kids are in bed.

I function like a single parent.

I want to emphasize function as a single parent because I do not want to take away from the strength that is an actual single parent. They do it alone. All day. Every day. No ifs, ands, or buts. Let’s be honest, they deserve the parenting MVP!

My point is that my husband is gone. A lot. When he is home, he often has a crazy work schedule where he leaves before kids are up and gets home long after even I go to bed. I simply cannot rely on him day to day like a “typical” working dad. He never very, very rarely takes kids to school. It’s a very rare occasion that he is able to pick them up at the end of the day. Often, he misses dinner and/or bedtime. When a kid gets sick, there is no way that he is the one calling into work the next day to stay home. That is our reality. It’s hard. At no time during my day/week can I say, “Oh my husband can do that” — not because he is not a great husband and father but because that is just the nature of our circumstance. On a side note and shout out to my husband — when he IS home, he is HOME. He is present. He plays with our kids and he helps out as much as he can.

I can be antisocial.

A little fun fact about me: I’m an outgoing introvert. If you read that and you’re like, huh? Google it. When I finally understood this as my personality type, my whole life made a lot more sense. In a nutshell, an outgoing introvert likes being around people but also is very selective about whom those people are. We have a smaller “circle.” We also only have a certain capacity of “outgoingness,” if you will. Once our tank is empty, we need that typical introvert alone time. So given all that I do in a week, by Friday, I am usually D.O.N.E. I just don’t have the energy or desire to whip up a casserole for that squadron potluck. Wednesday night coffee is not even on my radar. I’d rather just drop my kid off at your kid’s birthday party and go for a run than socialize with the other moms for that hour. If I have a day off, I’m probably not going to be the one to initiate a get together or play date. You get the picture.

Military Spouse of the Year is not in my cards. I’ll never be your Key Spouse. But, I love my job. I spent many years earning degrees and certifications to get where I am. I give 100 percent to my career and 100 percent to my family. Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave much for anything or anyone else.

I’m not going to ask for help.

This is fairly cliché of military spouses in general. We’re fearless and fiercely independent. We do things and deal with circumstances many people can not even fathom. And we do it with a smile and very little complaining. (Unless we’re complaining to each other over a glass of wine.) That being said, because I also work outside the home, I personally feel even less inclined to ask for help.

After all, I’m super mom right? I HAVE to do it all. Why would I ask for your help mowing my lawn during my husband’s deployment when I can just strap that toddler to my back? Of course that midnight trip to the ER during my husband’s temporary duty assignment is totally doable with both kids in tow.

Insert eye roll.

I’ll be honest, there are times I want need your help. There are times I have humbly asked for your help. The rest of the time you’re either going to have to just do it for me or accept my stubbornness.

So how do I keep it all together and “do it all”?

  • I let myself say no. I know my limits. I have to choose which activities my children do and don’t do. I have to choose when to say no to an invite or another project. If I go 90 miles per hour all week, I’ll burn out fast.
  • I allow for me time. Easier said than done though, right? For me, this can simply be a glass of wine (or two) at the end of a long day and some mindless DVR time with my Bachelor/Bachelorette addiction. It also can mean taking that extra 30 minutes before I pick up kids and getting a quick pedicure if I have time.
  • I plan ahead. I meal plan. We eat leftovers. I’m an Amazon Prime junkie. I do one grocery trip a week and do a pickup option as much as possible. Can I get an amen for this rise in grocery pickup services?
  • I keep routines. When daddy is home on some days and gone on others and his schedule is about as predictable as the weather in Texas, the one constant for me and our kids is our routine. And yes, it includes early bedtime for my own sanity.

I love being a military spouse, I love being a mom, and I also love my job. It’s a balance I’ll be perfecting until the end I’m sure.

What tips and tricks do you use as a working mom and military spouse? How do you do it all?

 

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4 Responses to Military Spouse and Working Mom: the Struggle is Real

  1. Bethany August 7, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

    Oh my gosh girl, preach! I was mentally checking off all the points in my heads saying “That is spot on”, “So true – routines are a must!”, and “I’m an outgoing introvert too!”

    I am a mom, a military spouse, and have a career. One difference I have is that I get to work from home. This may sound easier to some people, but trust me it is not. (You see the pile of laundry out of the corner of your eye distracting you!)

    I feel like I have mastered the work/life balance to fit MY life. Planning is critical, breaking projects into smaller components make it more digestible, and you are absolutely right on the “me time” (which is something I am still learning to do.)

    Thanks so much for sharing! I feel like we would fit into each of our “circles.” 😉

  2. Michelle August 8, 2017 at 6:15 am #

    Thanks Bethany! I love all the outgoing introverts coming out 😉
    Working from home is definitely not easier! I’ve taken on a few projects this year that I “get” to do from home and I always end up cleaning or doing laundry before I sit down to work, telling myself it’s multitasking.
    Thanks for reading and sharing!

  3. Lindsay
    Lindsay August 12, 2017 at 10:01 am #

    Such a great post Michelle! Another outgoing introvert here. I’m discovering one of the biggest advantages to getting older is that I rarely care what anyone thinks of me which gives me a ton of freedom to be selective in my friendships and my time. I work from home part-time with 4 kids and the struggle to get it all done with a husband who travels a lot is real. Thanks so much for letting us working military spouses know we are not alone in the joys and challenges!

    • Michelle
      Michelle August 13, 2017 at 7:31 pm #

      Thanks Lindsay!
      I feel like we outgoing introverts need to unite! Always thankful to know you’re not alone in this crazy journey!