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This is what it’s like to be a working military spouse

2 1 0
29.04.2019

The hunt for a steady job can be daunting for military spouses, a quarter of whom are reportedly unemployed. All military spouses are faced with unpredictability, which often makes them less attractive to employers, but wives–who account for more than 90% of military spouses–are also subject to the issues that all women contend with in the workplace, from the gender pay gap to the motherhood penalty. Even among military spouses, men are more likely to be gainfully employed: According to a recent Blue Star Families survey, about half of male spouses work full-time, while just 27% of female spouses do. Women’s earnings potential is also compromised, with just 19% of female spouses making more than $50,000, as compared to 44% of male spouses.

But working, period, is a challenge when an active duty spouse can be deployed for months on end. “You’re not a single parent,” one military spouse told me. “But you’re a sole provider for your children, and your spouse has no predictability. They can’t control anything about when they’re there or not. Sometimes you’re in the middle of breakfast, and they leave, and you don’t know when they’re coming back.” For some spouses, entrepreneurship or remote work is the answer, but that brings its own challenges. We talked to three military spouses about what it’s like to find work while juggling unpredictable schedules and childcare responsibilities.

“I think being a military spouse is the privilege of my life thus far,” says Maggie, who is now an entrepreneur. “But it’s really hard.”

Maggie, who has been a military spouse for eight years, has lived in more than seven states; her husband is usually gone about six months out of the year. She started her own company about three years ago, after working in a number of tech roles. “One of the things I’ve found really wonderful about being an entrepreneur is that it’s allowed me to have a high degree of flexibility,” she says. “But I wouldn’t say that my story is necessarily typical.”

For military spouses like Maggie who are parents, juggling work with childcare is even more of a challenge, since their spouse may have to leave at a moment’s notice. “It’s not just like a business trip,” she says. “They’re out for weeks or many months, and you’re not able to anticipate when they’re going to depart or come home.” To prepare for a recent weekend work trip, Maggie had to put three nannies on hold to take care of her four-month-old and two-and-a-half-year-old.

And yet many military spouses gravitate toward jobs in, say, education or healthcare–roles that don’t necessarily offer flexibility and require different licensing by state. In dual military families, Maggie says the woman may often choose to........

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