Today we wanted to explore the ways that our careers interact with our relationships and families. This afternoon I’ll be talking about the process of preparing for self-employed maternity leave. So this morning seemed the perfect moment to discuss Kamille’s story of letting go of her military career for her marriage. As we’ve discussed recently, there is an idea that being strong feminist women means never sacrificing for our families. And I would argue that is not true. It’s about knowing when and how to sacrifice, and about making sure our sacrifices and burdens are shared, over many long years.
Today, I am at a point where I am so stressed, so overwhelmed, and so scared, that I burst into tears in my office. An office that I am leaving in less than a month. I’m leaving for lots of good reasons, the main one being that this job has kept me away from my fiancé for nearly our entire relationship, and we don’t want to start our marriage thousands of miles apart.
After exhausting our contacts and trying everything we could think of to get us stationed together, we came to the conclusion that the only way for us to be together was for one of us to give up his or her military career. And after weighing the options, we decided that I would be the one to separate. Or really, I decided. It was really my decision the whole time, but I like to say it was our decision. And at first, at least once the initial wishy-washy-ness wore off, I was deliriously happy about it. And then I was just okay with it, which was actually better.
I spent the last several months deployed, and I guess you could sort of call that my “last hurrah” in the military. I was busy and felt mission-essential, even though sometimes if felt like every day was Groundhog Day for a large stretch of time. I also managed to get a large chunk of wedding planning done in my spare time. Of course, I was also counting down the days until I would be done with the deployment, and the days after that until I would out of the military and reunited with my fiancé.
But in my last few weeks out there, an older female Reservist arrived. As we stood in line for chow one evening, we started what could have been a friendly conversation. Instead, it turned into an interrogation. When do you leave? In a few weeks. Where are you going? Back to Germany, but then to North Carolina. Are you PCSing*? No, I’m separating. WHY?
Because I’m getting married.
I was caught off guard by her questioning. I was even more caught off guard by her sudden rant about how women shouldn’t leave their careers just to have babies and how she wished she hadn’t left active duty as early as she did and oh by the way I damn well better be joining the Reserves because then you’ll have a job and a retirement and be better off than all of the other military spouses because how could you possibly want to ever stay at home and just raise kids?
I was already planning on joining the Reserve, and had been emailing back and forth with my home station recruiter. I’d also been browsing for civilian jobs. It was a tough search because honestly we don’t know where we will be in six months or a year. He’s scheduled to move somewhere during that timeframe. But what if I didn’t find a job right away? Shouldn’t it be okay for me to stay home and take care of the household? And so what if I just want to make babies?
It’s funny how much an individual that you don’t even care about can affect your thinking. She planted seeds of doubt in my mind that grew while I was still out there, then on my flight back to Germany, and over the past week while I’ve been working my butt off to get everything taken care of before I leave for good. One of those tasks was to finally speak with the Reserve recruiter that I’ve been emailing over the past several months. The recruiter who finally reviewed my records, only to tell me that I’m ineligible for a Reserve commission. That is why I broke down at work today.
This is probably the scariest transition I’ve ever had to make in my life. When I come home to my empty apartment here, it almost feels like I’m doing it alone. That is, until my Skype lights up. He’s calling on his lunch break, and even though we can only talk for a little while, it’s enough to remind me that the reason I’m doing it is because I’m not alone.
I know I’m doing the right thing, even though sometimes it feels like I am giving up my whole life. I have to remind myself that I may be giving that life up, but it is in order to gain an entirely new life. One that I can actually share with my future husband.
Anyway, what better way to introduce myself to the occupation of Military Spouse, a career that involves giving up so many little things, over and over, than to give up one big thing at the start?
*PCS = Permanent Change of Station, the military’s way of saying “moving”
Photo by: Jessica Schilling (APW Sponsor)