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How to Be Working (Military) Parents

When I see friends that are not military complain or vent about the difficulties they face in “the juggle” I can’t help but judge, just a bit. Especially when I see people who took the type of jobs I moved away from (for the best reasons, of course), I think, "What if?"

Who wouldn’t? I know it’s not fair—trust me—I feel a lot of guilt about it, because every family is just trying to find a way to make it work. As a military family, though, that balance and the decisions that affect it have a whole new meaning and weight.

As easy as it is to look at others’ lives with rose-colored glasses, I make myself think about the experiences and benefits that we get from this crazy military life.

RELATED: Activities to Help Kids Through Deployment

Every experience in the military is different. My husband, for example, is in the infantry, and his entire career is gearing up for, going through and recovering from deployments. When we decided to start a family, we had a serious discussion about the importance of stability in our children’s lives, and the result was that I would be the primary caregiver—staying home (and working from home) and being a constant and available presence.

Our daughter does go to day care a few days a week so I can juggle conference calls and major projects, but for the most part I juggle my business and projects with her schedule. I turned down a variety of opportunities after graduate school that, while great, would have put me in a position to travel, work late and not have the flexibility to take on the double parent roles that occasionally occur when my husband has field exercises or is deployed.

I chose to make my consulting business a full-time endeavor, but without the support of my husband—and without a take-no-prisoners attitude about getting things done—the successes I’ve experienced would be nearly impossible. With my business and every other project I launch, I am reminded of the financial security and awesome health care that the military provides (current sequester aside). I have the opportunity to build a business on my terms.

Not everyone—military or otherwise—is so lucky

As my husband’s career develops and we grow our family, the dynamic will surely evolve. I am lucky enough to have a partner who supports my career and supports the choice to put our daughter in day care part- or full-time. Not everyone—military or otherwise—is so lucky, but finding a balance is still possible, especially as little ones start going to school full time.

One of the most important things for our family is to ensure stability, so we focus on spending the evenings we are all together, in fact, together. When my husband gets home from work, we play with the dog outside, go on walks around the neighborhood, play with those awful high-pitched musical toys and have dinner as a family. My work finds a way to squeeze into naptime, the time before she wakes up, after dinner and as many moments in between that aren’t spent playing with or feeding the little lady. Even though it is hard seeing the files and deadlines looming—literally as my office is visible from the living room—I love being able to divide my work hours up throughout the day while still building an exciting career and getting to absorb every moment of cuteness while she is growing.

RELATED: Cherishing the Holidays

Throughout the next few weeks I’ll be sharing tips, stories and experiences that help other military spouses (and moms) find a way to balance motherhood and still have a career that exceeds their expectations. Have specific questions or comments you’d like to share? Leave a comment below. There is no perfect way to create the life you dream of, but by having these conversations and sharing experiences, it might be a little easier than before.

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