I'd like to take a moment and introduce myself. I'm Tara Glenn. I work as a Member Ambassador at an amazing zoo in Albany, Georgia. I recently joined Civil Air Patrol to work as a Public Affairs Officer. I work from home as a Digital Strategy Specialist with a concentration in ghostwriting and photography. I have four children, 13, 10, 3, and 2. I am a Navy veteran. And, I'm a Navy spouse.
My husband has been in the military for 10 years now, and while he's not the most important guy at work, he's worked hard to get to where he is and I'm proud of him. He wakes up every morning before the crack of dawn, heads off to work, comes home late almost every day, and even works on the weekends at times. But, even though it's hard, my husband is proud of his work and his career and as his wife, that makes me happy. But, because he is in the military, there are times where I'm not just the primary caregiver for our children, but the only caregiver because he's on a TAD (Temporarily Assigned Duty) or deployed. And as a working mom that works from home most of the time, that is hard.
First of all, I don't have the support of the spouses at our duty stations. There are clubs, events, and classes aimed at spouses, but typically these are either meeting during the hours that I'm usually working or after my husband gets off work. When it comes down to it, I'd rather hang out with him than go drink coffee or see a movie and have dinner with a bunch of other spouses when I'm dead tired from wrangling two toddlers while also trying to ghostwrite an article for one of my clients, answering emails, or editing images. Before we came to this duty station, my husband was deployed for 9 months and missed the birth of our daughter, so time spent with him is currently usually ranked at a higher priority than others. This is especially true because we take turns taking the older kids to their activities that are not toddler friendly, such as basketball and Civil Air Patrol so we're lucky if we get 1-2 good hours of quality time spent together each day before we both pass out from exhaustion.
I'm also blessed enough to have a really cool job in the field that I actually went to college for and obtained a degree for that pays well and has great perks. The zoo I work at has events all the time that are 100% family friendly (unlike sit-down lunches and meals that are typical at my husband's work), and so we are more likely to attend those because no one will bat an eyelash at us if our 3-year-old has a meltdown or we have to leave early because it's nap time. The people I work with are also extremely cool and welcoming and also understanding when we can't make it to events, which is something that we haven't found at ANY duty station when it comes to commands.
Basically, as a whole, my time as a working spouse with a career in her preferred field is extremely valuable. It HAS to be. Our family finances cannot function on one income - we literally need my income to help pay for things such as school tuition, sports, summer camps, flight lessons, and other things our older children are interested in because they want to be pilots and engineers. I want them to be so busy following their dreams that they don't have time to do things that will get them into serious trouble. My income also helps finance help around the house for when we get too busy or my husband is deployed or TAD, which has been a Godsend in helping our house run efficiently without making me pull my hair out.
In our home, my career is equal to that of my husband's, and it has to be because whenever we go to our next duty station, I'm going to have to move up instead of down and I don't want to settle for something that's outside of my field, such as retail or food. Now, there's nothing wrong with working in these fields, but it really sucks when you have a degree or two and you're suddenly working for slightly over minimum wage doing something that you'll never be able to put on your professional resume because you can't find a well-paying job in your field at your new duty station. And while I don't believe that those jobs are beneath me, I do know that as a retail clerk, I was never excited to wake up and go to work in the morning like I am now for a day of working at the zoo or kicking back at the house writing a blog for a client.
Unfortunately, relationships with other military spouses can be tricky, especially if you're not often available for things like coffee and playdates because you have a job and a larger family and both need a lot of your attention. I've had many spouses take that personally and stop talking to me or say that I think I'm better than them because I don't want to hang out - and quite frankly, at that point, I feel like I've dodged a bullet because that's pretty childish behavior (...especially when you say it to half the base.)
Despite all the challenges though, I've been blessed to find a few good spouses and have the ability to build an outside support network, but in this whole professional military spouse it's hard to continue going up on the ladder when you're moving every 2-4 years. They always say, "you knew what you signed up for," but honestly, even after serving in the military for five years, I had no clue what it meant to be a professional, working military spouse.
Tara Glenn is a Navy veteran and single mom with four really great, crazy kids. When she's not kid-wrangling or napping, she's usually off working on a new project. She contributes regularly to ESME and also has bylines on The Huffington Post, Complex, Task & Purpose, and Guideposts.