Monday, March 10, 2014

Joining Forces Against the Trailing Spouse

"With a little push from first lady Michelle Obama and her military family-support initiative, Joining Forces, many states have enacted license portability statutes designed to make moves easier for military spouses. Some states honor out-of-state military spouses’ licenses while others grant temporary credentials or expedite the re-certification process. But the rules are not uniform and do not include every kind of license.  
Such barriers are especially overwhelming when spouses’ partners are deployed or absent. The vast majority of military spouses say they either “need to work” or “want to work,” according to the Military Officers Association study. 
“Work was the thing that kept me sane,” Putnam said. “It gave me a chance to work on improving my life even when my personal life was on hold.” 
Read more from this excellent ABC News article by Erin Dooley 3/1/2014 in the picture link below. All credit for the photo and quote above to Erin Dooley, ABC News.
ABC News Story on Military Wife Un/der Employment
Let me tell you something 'bout me. In a dark and secretive way, I look forward to the next Base Realignment And Closure process. Point of fact, I have the perfect military installation picked out for the DoD to focus on: Fort Polk, Louisiana. Why Fort Polk? Aside from showing heart by scrolling the sexual assault hotline number down the right side of the homepage, Fort Polk is by its location 10 miles east of Leesville, LA, something I inherently can't accept.  I have nothing against the great state of Louisiana or its (in)famous gumbo. But LA is the goddamn middle of goddamn nowhere in goddamn southern 'Merica. And if we goddamn PCS there I'll goddamn divorce the dude.

He's been informed of this fact. But it's not about him or even about the PCS. It's the fact that I have zero chance of getting a job east of Leesville, LA. When I moved to Fayetteville, NC to be with him I lucked out with a networking cold-call career connection. Sequestration put the cabash on that opportunity just under a year later. Thanks, Congress! So I went to "work" to find another opportunity. Of course, I volunteered and I secured an ad hoc consulting gig...I am a professional afterall. But I was scrambling looking for full-time, salaried position in a company with a mission and responsibility I could be proud to own. I never intend to enter into employment for <1 year at a go. My goal is to make twice my husband's salary per year at the minimum and with a Master's degree and a damn fine resume that ought to be (laughably) easy. 

It isn't. Not here in Fort Bragg, located 1.5 hours of solid drive time south of Raleigh, NC. And at Fort Polk that salary expectation would be impossible.

Now to quote the great Barden Bella's "it's not about the money..." but we do need money. Let's lay it on the line- my husband doesn't make money. I'd say he doesn't make much money but we agreed to be honest; he barely makes any money. Happily, he doesn't work for that reason; he's a soldier because he loves his work. I love my work too. And neither of my degrees came for free. Like most military families, we have school loans and credit card debt, car payments, utilities, mortgages and rent. All due between the 1st and 15th of the month. If I don't work, 80% of that doesn't get paid. 

My soldier has been in the US Army for the whole of his professional life. He is making the Army his career and intends to stay until retirement. That's great for him and there are certainly benefits for our family. He toys with the idea of staying home with our future children and being a house husband in his retired 40's. That is not the life for me. I neither want to join the military nor be a stay-at-home parent. 

Joining Forces is an interesting concept. Like the (awful) DoD "online employment portal" for MilSpouses, however, the assumed audience is not me. What do professional MilSpouses need, #JoiningForces? We need commuter rail service to existing urban hubs so we can live near our spouses' work but find our own opportunities. We need more DoD spending on the quality of life, specifically the enhancement of culture and professional industries in communities surrounding military installations to attract "our" type of employers. We don't need basic employment skills counseling. We need professional networks to plug into and to promote us; what us ivy leaguers call the "Old Gals' Club". Or go a step beyond that and give us access to headhunter services or MilSpouse employment tax breaks to provide incentives to employers in the same way the US Department of Labor helps with veteran employment.

This is a short list but as a guide for effective assistance, it goes a long way. As a military spouse, I need your help getting hired at Google, not Sykes or Walmart. My soldier husband needs your help to grow public art, support locavore brunch places, and entice hotshot job opportunities in order to keep me. Whether we end up in Louisiana or not. 

1 comment:

  1. Having a career if even you are married to military or any man is very important for me as well. We, spouse should have our own effort and career to pursue for our personal growth and individuality but the thing is, being a military spouse with so much movement to different location we need support from the government most especially.