This topic has by far been the most heavy on our brains since college. How can we make a relationship work balancing two careers?
Since I met Nikko, he has had a military frame of mind. He comes from a family of servicemen and women that have never thought twice about giving so much of their time and energy to defend this country. This made our relationship unique from the start. We cut a rug at countless military balls. I accompanied Nikko and his family to dinners with Nikko’s father on the ship when he had to be on duty. Summers were spent apart while he went on Tiger Cruises or at service academy summer seminars. “Running errands” was synonymous with the Exchange and Commissary. But it was normal to us.
Even in our high school days, I knew that if this was love, it would be tough. It would not be the ideal 8-5 job coming home to him and cooking dinner together. It was a different life I was signing up for but I was confident that if God put him on this earth for me, He made me strong enough to be in such an unconventional relationship.
In college, I was able to meet other girlfriends in the same predicament, including Jordan. I remember conversations bunk-to-bunk as sophomore year roommates about how we wanted to be professionals alongside our future husbands. We both felt that in our stubbornness we were just as deserving of a career as they were. We often found ourselves in this mind trap of “how could he be so ‘selfish’ to make me put my career on the backburner for life all the while being so completely unselfish giving of his life to keep me safe?”…(twisted, I know). We had found our passion in Food Science and had high aspirations for what we could be and achieve in the industry. We often thought about why we wanted to pursue Food Science as a career instead of professions like teaching or nursing that would make it easier to find jobs wherever we were. The combination of relationships driven by the military and a food science career seemed to us a path that had yet to be paved. But we just loved food too much…
Even after my four years in college, when I started to work at Nestle, I knew that I wanted to further my education, if not to go further with the company, then to build some flexibility around what jobs I could take in the future. I pursued an online MBA part time. It helped me two-fold; 1) It helped me cope with long-distance keeping me busy and my mind occupied and 2) it has broadened my understanding of the business that goes on outside of my “technical bubble.”
Today, Jordan and I are both military spouses and professionals – more specifically DINKs (double income, no kids). Some would say we are in the prime of our lives and it certainly feels that way. Up until this point, Nikko and I have discussed balancing dual careers numerous times. He has been gracious enough to let me “drive” for the first two years. He let me have a heavy influence in ranking the schools/locations for his stint in recruiting. We got our first choice, Georgia Tech in Atlanta based on me being two hours away in Spartanburg, SC. Shortly after he moved there, I got an offer for my dream job. He was so supportive and understanding saying that I HAD to take it, even if it meant moving back to 8 hours apart. He also let me have a heavy influence in ranking choices for our first base. He could have had his pick of the litter – anywhere in the world – after his year as a Gold Bar Recruiter. I asked him to put Scott as his first choice because I knew I could potentially transfer with Nestle. He did just that. He has sacrificed so much to allow me to have the career I wanted but soon it will be his turn to “drive.”
This may mean going abroad for our next base. This may mean a short tour and a year apart. And most concerning to me, this may mean that my career goes on hold indefinitely. I have been toying with this idea for what seems like forever. What does this look like? What will I do all day? Can I fill my time with volunteering at least? Does this mean we should start having kids?
I have had several conversations with colleagues and mentors and all of their advice has one common thread: As much as our careers are a sense of pride and accomplishment, true happiness ultimately comes from home life, not work life. The truth is only one person knows what putting my career on hold is going to look like and that’s God. Ultimately, my coping with this has been lots and lots of prayer and putting my trust in God knowing that whatever “it” looks like, I will be happy because I have my family.
Another method I have used to cope with these unknowns is to find a deep passion and hobby that has the ability to take my mind away and pass seconds to hours. I have found that in calligraphy and now in blogging. Whether these hobbies bring in a paycheck or not, they are bigger than me because they help and bring joy to others. Besides having my family, this also contributes greatly to my happiness.
Just like everything in marriage, balancing dual-careers requires a little give and take. If Nikko had it his way, he would be a 20+ year-“lifer,” no doubt. I certainly do not want to take that from him but I still want to maintain a career of my own at some time or another. We have promised to evaluate our situation at every base. Do we need to switch whose career is “driving?” Would we want to settle down here? Are there job opportunities for the both of us? Do we want to keep the kids at a particular school? I am certain that the decisions will get harder and the stakes will get higher as our life together progresses, but we are a team and we will make the best decisions for our family when that time comes. Until then, I will enjoy the present and having a career, and more importantly having my family and all of the blessings with which God has blessed me.