The Right Job Isn’t Always Portable
Today’s world of military spouse employment often focuses on careers that are totally transportable. We try to be a jack of all trades and aspire to find a job that is telecommute or in demand no matter where we go. But the right job is not always flexible. Together with her family, Navy spouse Daphne Lennox decided to stay in the Norfolk area for a decade, allowing her to grow in her practice as an anesthesiologist.
Reality Sets In
Daphne met her now-husband outside of Meridian, Mississippi. He was finishing flight school, and she was finishing her residency. Their paths then crossed again in Virginia when Daphne found a job that matched the goals she set for herself throughout school. During her third year of medical school, she found anesthesiology to be a nice combination of the variety of aspects she liked in medicine and wanted to find a practice that would allow her to explore a wide range of cases and work within a group of anesthesiologists. Her job in Virginia was the answer to those desires. After years of the tuition and stress that comes with a medical degree, Daphne finally started to feel settled.
“I naively thought that moving would be fine – I’ve moved a lot,” Daphne reflected. “But I thought in the back of my mind that he’ll probably just stay here.”
That’s when the news came that she and her husband might have to relocate to a remote town in California, with little to no job prospects for Daphne.
“I realized that it wouldn’t be easy to find a job similar to what I had in Virginia,” Daphne said. “I was disappointed, but I was willing to move with him because it wasn’t really an option to stay.”
The panic set in as she thought about all she had worked for through the years, not to mention the financial burden of student loan payments. As she reflects today, she notes that it would have been difficult not to resent her husband’s career if she had spent all of that time and money without the payoff of practicing medicine.
Fortunately, her husband was reassigned to a local squadron, and they did not have to pack up and move across the country to California. However, that scare opened up the reality of military life and the impact it could make on Daphne’s career. Contemplating that reality, Daphne and her husband decided they would strive to stay in the same area for longer, a decision that can seem taboo in military communities and could even be seen as detrimental to the service member’s career. But for Daphne and her family, staying in Norfolk was the best decision. It allowed Daphne to really explore the opportunities in her practice and gain a community both at home and at work that supported her when her husband was called away.
Growing in Her Career
“My greatest accomplishment has been finishing my training and being able to practice in a setting that I like,” Daphne explained. Some days on the job are easy and some are challenging, but she is in her field and blossoming with each new year in career she envisioned for herself before the military became a factor.
The hard truth is that her career wouldn’t have been as fulfilling if she had to constantly move. Daphne watches as other spouses are sent around the world without any consideration of home life, and emphasizes the benefits of going against the norm and staying in one place.
When Daphne’s husband was called away on deployment, his absence was hard on her family life. But she took refuge in her job each day, a luxury many spouses are left without.
“I had a real distraction during his deployment,” Daphne said. “I had somewhere to go that didn’t remind me that he was gone.”
Today, Daphne believes the military could be more understanding of spouse’s careers and allow service members to stay in locations longer, like Daphne’s husband was able to do. Taking constant moves out of the equation allows military spouses to relax and not only focus on what they really want to do, but have the time to pursue those goals.
“It’s not always necessary to move,” Daphne explained. “It costs a lot of money to move people across the country over and over again.” In addition to the cost, some people simply prefer to stay in the same place, but feel pressured to keep moving to progress in their military careers. Instead of accepting the status quo, Daphne advocates that the military give consideration for spouse employment and stability for children. Although it would be difficult to implement, there would be real benefits for the service member and his or her family.
For younger professionals contemplating marrying someone in the military, Daphne advises to really think about the impact the military will have on spouse careers.
“It seems like it’s no big deal to move around, but there are some options that aren’t going to be open to you,” she advises. “Think about what’s important to you and make the decision from there.”
Daphne and her family followed that advice, realized that staying in one place was important to them, and worked to make that happen. It’s not the traditional military spouse career story, but could be more common if we continue to challenge status quo and support families that wish to stay at one duty station for the sake of the spouse’s career.