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Spouses with Careers? Advice needed

Lynnssi

New Member
Good day,

My boyfriend of six months recently commissioned from NROTC for aviation, and at some unspecified point in the near future, he will begin flight school. We love each other dearly and plan to get married after he finishes flight school (we're estimating this will be about 2-ish years from now). In the meantime, I will be working at an economic consulting firm in New York.

I am willing to give up this particular job and follow my boyfriend around when we get married; however, I don't think I would be content as a career stay-at-home wife/mother. I am fairly flexible about what sort of jobs I am willing to work as a military spouse, under the condition that they are "engaging" (challenging, room for professional growth, and utilizes the skills and education that I have already developed). Is there a particular field or career type that would be more conducive to the moving requirements of a military household?

We are interested in children - he suggests that I could combine childbearing with an online master's degree program.

This being said, I would greatly appreciate insight and advice from people who have also attempted to balance a spouse career with a military career.

-- An Ambitious Navy Girlfriend
 

villanelle

Nihongo dame desu
Contributor
I am sitting at home, trolling the internet in Germany at 1:19 pm, in pajama pants, after walking to the local market for groceries and then strolling my neighborhood.

There's your answer.

The longer answer is that sometimes, it can work very well. Through some freakish luck, my husband was actually in the same place for about 9 years and 4 sets of orders. I was able to establish myself with an employer and work my way up. My employment was as stable as anyone without a military connection. It was wonderful. Then we moved overseas and I worked part time for very good money at a very interesting job--conversational English and culture classes. While it wasn't the self-supporting Big Girl job I was used to, it was enough to give me a sense of purpose and it was challenging and engaging. Then we moved overseas again, to a place where the only jobs are in the food court of the Exchange, and even those are hard to come by. I'm still considering an online graduate degree, but I'm not sure that an online degree is even worth the effort (if would be free via Husband's transferred GI Bill), and there are few programs I can find from the at least semi-repuatable online schools that would enhance my skillset.

So no, it isn't easy and you certainly can't count on being able to work at all, much less being able to work at something challenging and engaging. And the more you move, the more unstable your resume looks (and the more it screams "military spouse who probably won't be here in 2-3 years" to any employer in a Navy town), which can just feed the cycle. So go into it hoping for the best, but also being honest with yourself about whether you can truly accept working at whatever comes along, or at nothing at all. If you can't, then the boyfriend probably isn't the right choice. I truly believe that there is a difference between the right person and the right situation, and you have to make sure you have both if your relationship is to work.
 

PenguinGal

Can Do!
Contributor
Once you get access to the private spouse forum, there are several good threads in there to check out. I know the 3 letters of doom--PCS thread has multiple people talking about their work experiences as a spouse.

I personally believe that having a successful career as a spouse can happen. I preface this comment with the fact that I was already working and 'established' by the time I married PenguinGuy. I also want to say that he has not received OCONUS orders.

I am an engineer who works in the construction industry. I began working while living in CT (split time between CT and NYC). Eventually I was forced to leave that job as they shut down the office in which I was working. That meant I moved down to FL where PenguinGuy was stationed and we got married. :) I applied to just about every engineering firm in the area and eventually found a job. From that job I used a combination of networking (my boss in FL with whom I played poker used to play poker with the guy who eventually became my supervisor) and applying to any and every engineering firm I could in San Diego after PG got orders there. By the time we actually arrived in San Diego, I had a job waiting for me.

This was not as easy as it sounds as I had a TON of rejections, a lot of non-responses and a lot of stress. As stressful as all of that was, the worst was this past move. Moving from a large city like San Diego to a relatively small town like Monterey meant the list of companies with whom I could apply was cut drastically. I truly lucked out in that I was able to stay with my current company and now 'telecommute'. I can't say or type that with a straight face as i have spent more time away from home since starting to work from home than I did for the entire past year. lol Seriously though, you work in consulting which means there is a good chance you might be able to finagle a position that lets you work from home. That would allow you to carry your career with you.

There are always options. Heck, you might realize after a few years of working that you WANT to be a SAHW/M. You are so young that you have a lot of options open to you. I will agree with much of what Villanelle has said, especially concerning OCONUS situations. I firmly believe that if you remain CONUS that there are ways to stay engaged and in a challenging field. It might not be your first choice, it might take a lot of work and stress, and it might even mean periods of un- and underemployement but it can be done. As to OCONUS? Ask Villanelle and HeloWifey! :)
 

villanelle

Nihongo dame desu
Contributor
And keep in mind that just because you/he has no desire to go OCONUS, doesn't mean it won't happen. (If you don't know, OCONUS is "Outside the CONtinental United States", to is it mostly overseas, though Hawaii and Alaska are included.) Japan was not something on Husband's list, and yet we ended up there.
 

helo_wifey

Well-Known Member
I was a professional who swore I'd never stay at home. Then I had my daughter, and the thought of having someone else be there was out of the question. My husband was gone enough, she needed some stability in our unstable world. Now we have a son and will only go back to work if something drastically changes.

Never say never about anything, especially kids. They'll turn your life upside down in a heartbeat.

And definitely agree about the overseas thing. You can put down whatever choices you want but if the only option is to go overseas then that's what you'll get. How do I know? Since marrying my husband when he finished up the FRS out of 4 duty stations 2 have been overseas. We've never done a CONUS move as a married couple.

And, this isn't meant to be snotty but a lot can happen between now and when you're married. Just take it one day at a time.
 

Kaitydid

Member
It is challenging but can be done. I am in the medical science community-- namely I was interested in research. There are many factors as to how easy/hard it will be to maintain a professional career once your boyfriend gets his wings. A lot is unknow so you can't necessarily plan for it (what platform he'll get, where you'll be stationed etc).
Personally, I had to weigh my options and realize there would have to be sacrifices made... Be it living apart so I could continue my career/ education or take a job that was maybe slightly less interesting/ lucrative but that allowed me to live with my husband.
I was able to find a job that allows me to telecommute. Granted, I am not doing bench research however I am still involved in medical research and healthcare AND I get to follow my husband around, keep a job, and raise my son.
So some sacrifices were made however I knew that would happen going into this. As long as you know you made need to sacrifice some things and can do that without feeling resentful you'll be fine :)
Feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions and I apologize for any bad grammar/ typos I'm on my phone
 

Renegade One

Well-Known Member
None
Lots of good "first-person" responses up there. Read and heed.

From personal experience, think "easily transportable skill-sets". Some of these may sound too "womany-stereotypical" for your tastes, but they are "easily transportable":

1. Physician, Registered Nurse or EMT. Many subsets of clinical therapists therein…too many to list.
2. Certified educator (primarily K-12). I don't know nuthin' about college/university opportunities...
3. Licensed Realtor

I don't think I would be content as a career stay-at-home wife/mother.
Don't dismiss this temporary "segue" in life as a bad thing. My own dear former Navy LT, NC, USNR, BSN/MSEd did this for several years…when it was the right thing to do. It was simply the BEST option at the time.

We are interested in children - he suggests that I could combine childbearing with an online master's degree program.
I see no conflicts there…do you?

Here's the bottom line, from my experiential perspective: If you want to be a Wall Street broker or seek a partnership in some high-ticket law firm….Navy life might not be right for you.

If you love the guy you love…and want to bear his children…live your lives together...and make the probable moves required…and all the personal sacrifices that implies...this can be a marvelous ride for both/all of you. It surely was for us and ours!

P.S.: My lovely Navy Vet/BSN/MSEd bride variously worked…over several moves... at Blockbuster Video, the Harvard University Bookstore/Gift Shop, MCRD Exchange…you get the idea.

Now? She's back in her field… :)
 

jcj

Registered User
Lots of good "first-person" responses up there. Read and heed.

From personal experience, think "easily transportable skill-sets". Some of these may sound too "womany-stereotypical" for your tastes, but they are "easily transportable":

1. Physician, Registered Nurse or EMT. Many subsets of clinical therapists therein…too many to list.
2. Certified educator (primarily K-12). I don't know nuthin' about college/university opportunities...
3. Licensed Realtor

Of # 1 above, nursing is very transportable, as nursing is the most workable regarding transfer of license between states.. Medicine (physician) is as well, but the licensing issues changing jurisdiction are more complex and frequent changes in location interferes somewhat with "normal" career progression. EMT's licensure and employment is not very transportable between jurisdictions at all.

College/university opportunities are sometimes available on a temporary basis as adjunct or non-tenure track positions for those qualified to teach - but these positions are sometimes lower in salary, might be without benefits and are not guaranteed from term to term. Some are with online schools, which can obviously be done from anywhere there is online access. Traditional "tenure track" college or university faculty opportunities are usually institution specific and not easily transportable.

Also know that if you work for a federal agency (including civilian DOD work and the VA) in a role that requires a license (such as physician, nurse, attorney) you are required to have an active license in any U.S. state or territory, it doesn't have to be the state or territory you are actually working in. For example, you could work in a federal position (requiring a license) that is physically located in California with a Texas license.

Lynnssi I realize that these aren't the career fields you mentioned, but others may read the forum for advice as well.

We are interested in children - he suggests that I could combine childbearing with an online master's degree program.
There are some quality online MBA programs out there - U. North Carolina Chapel Hill and Oklahoma State University come to mind - but choose wisely as most are not of that quality. Many other good ones are hybrid - part online, part in residence (for example U. Arkansas - Walton GSB). It's usually best to select one associated with a recognized "brick & mortar" school.

Note that a quality online or hybrid program does not equal less work - a good online or hybrid Master's program might require more work and time commitment than an "in person" program.
 

Spekkio

He bowls overhand.
Children changes everything.

With the cost of daycare or a nanny, you need to be making at least $40k/year (>$20/hour) before your income will actually contribute to anything more than the cost of child care. This isn't a difficult barrier to break when you stay in one spot and can build a career, but it becomes difficult when you potentially move quite often, even with a "transportable" career.

I always said that I wanted to marry a woman who worked -- and I did. But once we had kids it became obvious that one of us needs to be home with them after we crunched some numbers and considered the benefits/drawbacks to a parent raising kids vice a babysitter. Considering that she has limited career building potential while I'm in the Navy, we just decided that she'd stay home vice hopping between entry-level/admin assistant type jobs.

Lynnsi, your husband mentioned graduate school with little ones...you can forget it until they start going to school, unless you're one of those people who don't have to study at all. The kids will drain you out, you're going to effectively be a single mother while he's on sea duty, and the last thing that you'll want to do is watch lectures/study/write papers for 3-4 hours after you put them to bed at night.

One thing I can do is shut up the single guys who bitch about the extra $200-300 I get for BAH when I say that "yea, but if I didn't have to move around the country my wife would be making $60k/year working in Manhattan, and has gotten offers for $35-40k/yr, so we're still losing $17-20k/year on her income potential."

Just some food for thought.
 
Have you given a thought to medical transcription? I’ve been thinking of it seriously ever since I got engaged and being aware of the fact that we’ll be on the move every now and then! It’s a great job that offers work-from-home flexibility, so you needn’t bother about “quitting” even when you relocate once you’re married! I heard about it from a friend who did her training at CareerStep in Canada, one of the reputed schools offering courses in medical transcription.
 

picklesuit

Living the GeoBachelor dream...
pilot
Contributor
Have you given a thought to medical transcription? I’ve been thinking of it seriously ever since I got engaged and being aware of the fact that we’ll be on the move every now and then! It’s a great job that offers work-from-home flexibility, so you needn’t bother about “quitting” even when you relocate once you’re married! I heard about it from a friend who did her training at CareerStep in Canada, one of the reputed schools offering courses in medical transcription.
Hey Mav,
Did you get the number of that truck driving school? Truck Masters I think it is?
 

Renegade One

Well-Known Member
None
Hey Mav, Did you get the number of that truck driving school? Truck Masters I think it is?
U.S. Marshal Service? Think fugitive apprehension, prisoner escort, Federal Witness Protection/Relocation. Nappy. Plus, you get a badge and a CCW permit good in all 50 states.

Federal Air Marshal? Great travel bennies…and the badge/CCW thing.

Bounty Hunter? Think there's a badge, but probably no guns thingie...

Private Investigator? I'm sure any Navy catchment area is rife with infidelity/divorce issues, rent-jumpers, unsolved murders/abductions/disappearances. I think this also comes with a badge (probably store-bought) and a CCW permit if you can qualify.

Since pickle suit already mentioned truck driving school, I'm just spit-balling some other non-traditional thoughts here…which I wish my wife had considered about 40 years ago…along with truck driving school.;)
 

Kathy

FTS Pilot Wife
Super Moderator
Contributor
I've been married for nearly 8 years and most Navy spouses I can think of that maintained a professional, full time career have telecommuted to a job they picked up along the way or had before they were married. I worked in IT and telecommuted for a few years to the job I had before I got married. In order to make that happen, I lived apart from my husband for the first 18 months of our marriage while I worked to convince my company that I could perform all of my duties remotely. They allowed me to telecommute for 1 week each month for part of that time as a kind of trial run. It is doable, but like everyone else has said, expect to make sacrifices along the way.

Once you add children to the family, the game changes. It is pretty tricky to have a professional career once you have children when your spouse is in the military. Even when your spouse is home (sea duty or shore duty), his schedule will likely be very unpredictable. You would not have much help in terms of drop off/pick up from day care, staying home with sick kids (which will happen A LOT once the kids are in day care/preschool), etc. Add on doctors appointments, dentist appointments, swim lessons, soccer practice, etc. that you will pretty much be solely responsible for and it's tough to figure out how to squeeze in work. You would have to have a very understanding employer. It can be even trickier depending on your location. I looked into day cares when we were in Whidbey Island and could not find a single day care on the island that took kids under 18 months, and the child development center on base had a 6 month wait (I'm sure I could have found an in home day care but decided to stay home before going that route). And if your job requires travel, things get even trickier. The only person I can think of that made it work had to fly her mother in to town every time she had to travel so that her mother could take care of her kids - and this was during shore duty.

I'm not trying to discourage you, just trying to give you an accurate picture before you decide to jump into this life.

And, just to echo helo_wifey... I was once an "ambitious Navy girlfriend" myself and was quite consumed with my career. I was making six figures by the time my first child came along... and I gladly gave up that career to stay home with him. So never say never. :)
 
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