September 10, 2015, by D.M. McCauley – For servicemembers and spouses across the globe, striking a balance between family, education, and the military can seem like a true triple crown challenge. With a growing number of responsibilities filling our busy lives, it will require careful planning and assessing your priorities to pull off successfully.
Building a Support System
The first and most important step is building up your support system. You have a lot on your plate, and finding a work-life balance will be easier with loving family members and close friends cheering you on. They can help you stay positive and remind you of what matters most. Don’t be afraid to reach out and spend some quality time with those closest to you. Even a simple phone call home to your child or spouse can help. You could also turn a battle buddy into a study buddy. Perhaps someone in your unit is attending the same group or college course as you, and you can help each other succeed. Keeping in contact with your support system will help you cope with stress and anxiety both at home and during a deployment.
You will probably find yourself spread thin by heading back to school, but remember that every decision is a family decision. Be sure to communicate clearly with your partner so that they understand your availability and responsibilities. Building and maintaining a family is a team sport, so try not to lose sight of what is important. If you have any children, speak to them about the “quiet time” that you will need for studying.
Don’t forget to set aside time to spend with them too. There are a tremendous amount of resources specifically directed toward military members and their families. There are many scholarships available, as well as programs through NACCRRA (National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agency) that will cover your childcare if you are enrolled for at least 6 undergraduate course credits. If you are a military spouse, the Department of Defense has reopened Spouse Tuition Assistance, known as MyCAA (Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts).
Permanent Changes of Station (PCS) can be stressful and interrupt your life, but they don’t have to put your education on the back burner. Many traditional Universities are offering online courses, and this can save you the trouble of beginning again after a big move. Natasha Perez is an Army wife who chose to take online courses because of the flexibility and mobility it provides.
“When I finally started back in 2010, I had a family and we were living a military life. I ended up having to quit the school I had just started because my husband got orders for us to move again,” she said in an interview. “I knew I needed a school that could move with me, and I found the answer through the ASU Online Spanish program.”
The Bottom Line
The day will come when the uniform will be worn for the last time and one of you will leave the service. Remember to be deliberate with your priorities, because commitment to your family lasts longer than 20 years. The experiences you have and the bonds you maintain will last a lifetime.
About the Author: D.M. McCauley is a former U.S. Navy sailor who worked in Intel. After the service he has dedicated his time to writing and traveling with his significant other.
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force/Justin Connaher