Strategies for Balancing Military and Family Time
When you hear the expression, “Work to live… don’t live to work”, you probably agree that this is the goal, but do you always take the steps needed to achieve that work-life balance? Finding a comfortable, harmonious relationship between your job and your home life is challenging when you serve in the military. Erratic schedules, deployments, constant moves, and frequently changing roles tip the scales toward a very strong work focus, often to the detriment of a happy life at home. This isn’t a 9-5 job that you mentally walk away from when the work bell rings, but there are some strategies you can employ to achieve better harmony.
Be home when you are home. Sounds simple enough, but it is really easy to mistake physical presence for emotional “there-ness”. Make sure to truly be present for your family and fully enjoy the time you spend together. While it is normal for responsibilities at work to occasionally interfere with family time, it isn’t healthy to allow those occasions to become the norm. When you are with your family and friends, make sure that they are the focus and that the time spent together is enriching. Stay off the phone, make plans together, sit down to relaxing meals.
Develop outside interests. You might love talking about work whenever you hang out with your buddies, but your spouse and family members probably don’t find it as fascinating to talk about the newest Sig Sauer prototype weapons. When you develop interests outside of work, you’ll have more to offer those with whom you spend time. You’ll also have additional outlets for work related stress. Whether you try a new hobby or stick to your favorites, spending time on non-military related activities will be beneficial to your well-being and your career.
Develop friendships outside of the military. Broaden your horizons by interacting with the locals. You’ll get to know the best restaurants, coolest bars, best first-date spots, even how to correctly pronounce the name of your new town, just like a local. The larger your circle, the more well-rounded and able to assimilate you’ll be, no matter what the situation. These friendships can be just as important as those you develop with your comrades.
Check in with your partner regarding your PCS Dream Sheet. A two-year tour in Guam might sound ideal to you, but your newly pregnant wife might not be as keen on having a baby so far from home. Work together to ensure that your move is great for your career and that it also provides opportunities for the rest of the family. Are there good schools where you hope to go? Opportunities for your spouse to work or have a social life of their own? Places to go and things to do as a family? You don’t always get to choose your next locale, but the more you include your partner in creating your wish-list, the better the relationship no matter where you PCS.
You might love talking about work whenever you hang out with your buddies, but your spouse and family members probably don’t find it as fascinating to talk about the newest Sig Sauer prototype weapons.
Help your kids with any transitions. We’ve all witnessed two children in the same family handle the constant upheaval of military life in different ways and with varying degrees of success. While some children have no problem being the new kid in class every couple of years, others require a bit more hand holding- sometimes literally- to get them comfortable in a new environment. Prepare your kids for the next duty station. Work as a unit to ensure that all family members are thriving. Create adventures for all of you to share.
If you’re single, prepare your future spouse for the military lifestyle. Be honest about what life in the military will entail… for them. It’s a partnership, but your partner will often carry most of the burden of packing for every move, setting up your new home, getting the kids enrolled in school. While you have an instant social circle, your spouse might feel the strain of starting over (and over) in a new place full of strangers. Is this a lifestyle that will suit the person you hope to spend your life with? Make sure to paint an accurate picture of your future together to avoid problems later on. Remember the expression, “Happy (partner, husband, or) wife, happy life”.
Finding ways to be passionate about your career while being equally focused and present at home is essential in achieving balance. And while “balance” might not look the same for everyone, achieving this equilibrium while in service to your country will present personal and professional opportunities that most never hope to realize. Take a look at the leaders you’ve admired most during your time in service. Chances are that these individuals demonstrate the strongest level of dedication to the military and to the people in their units, but they also know that when the workday is over, they owe the same level of commitment to themselves and to the people they love. You and your family deserve an equally satisfying quality of life. At Provengo, we’re proud to help support your efforts in achieving this balance of work and play.