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Finding my work-life balance has been an adventure. A workaholic before children, I never thought twice about picking up an extra shift or volunteering for assignments. Now I am truly torn between wanting to progress in my career (and volunteer for really cool assignments) and spending time at home.
Just like my sisters who work in the civilian health care, medical operations personnel in the active duty military get assignments in hospitals working eight to 12 hour shifts, on an ambulance with 24-on/24-off shifts and in clinics with eight hours five days a week. The only difference is that I may need to grab my gear and go to a foreign country, leaving home behind. After having our twins, my spouse and I made the decision to transfer to the National Guard hoping for a more “mom stable” situation.
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I know being in the same zip code with my family is preferable, but old habits and a gypsy heart die hard. I need to work to feel productive, for the structure of a time clock and to be challenged. Another obstacle was that, for the first time, I wasn’t the primary earner. My husband always worked, but after figuring in housing allowance, no premium health, dental or vision coverage and getting a little rank under my belt, I made more money. Adjusting to being the parent who calls in with a sick child or needs a schedule flexible enough for dance, soccer and art was hard. I joined a web-group of other active guard/reserve mothers and found that I am not alone. I am not the only one who has a hard time passing up a course or mission or being the grocery-getter rather than the alpha.
I love to be with my children. They are the most amazing, funny, wonderful people I know. Every time I do leave them – even for the two weeks a year you hear on the radio ads – it’s hard. It seems that they are doing something outstanding with every breath. I struggle with a million questions; are they getting fed, did everyone brush their teeth, who is picking up Boo-Boo Chicken from Pre-K? But I love my military job equally; I can build a hospital from the ground up by putting tents up, connecting the AC generator, setting up computer systems, planning the bed-to-service member ratio, calculating the number of on-hand medications based on mission type, location, number of individuals, and duration, and have financial call on all of it. It is a rush that I just don’t get from working in a clinic doing the same vitals collection day in and out. But I know that the joy I get from my superhero boots is less than the joy I get from my superkids.
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It has taken a long time to find my balance, but finally I have position that allows me to do lots of smaller stateside missions with natural disaster relief and community outreach and found a flexible contract position that allows me to choose my schedule with a mobile clinic. I can ensure that my tiny dancers and mini Hope Solos get to the right place on the right day. I get to keep my superhero boots, pulling them on every now and then. It’s just enough to keep that gypsy heart happy but I also get to be the mom my girls deserve.
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