Does anyone else feel like they’re constantly going a mile a minute? I know I’m not the only one, and in this year of incredible uncertainty and volatility, finding a proverbial balance in this storm has seemed crazier than ever before. I read a military spouse meme when COVID started peaking in the US that said something to the effect of, “Clearly a lot of you aren’t used to things screwing up your plans.” Truer words have never been spoken. In the military, we’re pretty used to plans constantly changing. Nothing stays the same, and there’s a proverbial lack of balance all. the. time. But we make it work and, over the years, we’ve found ways to adapt. I’ve had a lot of questions lately about how I balance work, motherhood, and the military, and I found it interesting to take a step back and sort of write it all out to share how we make it work. It’s not always easy, but we do it, and I’m grateful for a challenge!
How I Balance Work, Motherhood, and the Military
One of the most important things I learned when Ryan and I got married is that no military journey – whether as a family or as an individual – is one-size-fits-all. Everyone’s experiences and journeys will be different, and what works for one person may not work for the next. However, a lot of the snippets of wisdom I’ve learned along the way have been adapted from others’ experiences, and they’ve helped establish a way for us to make it work.
1 // Set Boundaries
This may seem like a no-brainer, but because I work remotely, it’s absolutely imperative to set boundaries between work, marriage, motherhood, and the military. All of these facets of my life and my identity can bleed into one another if not properly managed, so I make a real effort to ensure that, while one may impact the other, each is its own entity. For example, my work day is my work day. Yes, it may be interrupted by sick children or days off of school, but when I sit down to work, that is my work day, and I treat it like I would any other day in the office.
2 // Establish Priorities
This is one that Ryan and I have learned together through our last six-plus years of marriage. There has to be a hierarchy in all the madness, or everything will gradually descend into chaos. Ryan and I learned early on that our marriage and parenthood need to come first – above all else. Likewise, I’ve learned that beyond our marriage, motherhood trumps both my work and the military, so that will always be my priority…then work…then the military and its varying obligations.
3 // Be Flexible & Adaptable
Inevitably, something will change during any given week or month, and flexibility and adaptability are absolutely crucial for this balancing act to work. In addition to learning to establish boundaries, I’ve had to learn that not everything will go exactly as planned. If I’m rigid and unwilling to bend, I set myself up for failure because I don’t have any sort of contingency plan. By embracing flexibility and change, I’m able to better shift from one plan to the next without too much upheaval.
4 // Manage Expectations
I can almost see Ryan smiling at this one because it’s something he’s encouraged me to do. Rather than set myself up for failure, I like to manage expectations by under-promising and over-delivering. Now, I’m not saying that I lowball everyone I see about everything. Rather, I see how much I think I can accomplish in any one facet of this balancing act, then I find the low end of the spectrum and promise that. Then, when I accomplish more, I end up over-delivering and things start coming up roses.
5 // Incorporate Self-Care
I used to think this was a little bit frou-frou, but I’ll be honest – it’s something I need. Self-care looks different for different people. For me, more often than not, it’s getting out and running, or going swimming. It’s making sure I get fresh air and a bit of quiet in all the chaos. I always joke that a big reason I run so much is because it’s cheaper than therapy. But seriously, self-care is needed, and it’s a good way to fill your cup and, in turn, pour into other areas of your life.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned, however, is to let go of perfection. Nothing has to be perfect and unattainable standards of perfection are far more debilitating than you might think. Instead, I focus on bite-sized snippets of progress. Setting attainable goals that encourage, rather than defeat. I believe in hard work across all facets of my life, and investing time into structuring how I balance work, motherhood, and the military has given me a much better perspective and outlook as a whole
Tell me – what sort of tips and tricks do you have for balancing life and all its many moving parts?