By Rebecca Alwine, Army Spouse

The military spouse world is full of great ideas, advice, and support. We share intimate details of our professional and personal lives with each other after only a few days. We support each other when the going gets tough.

No Break while PCSing

But sometimes, we aren’t 100% truthful with each other. Sometimes, we tell each other what we think we should, not what we actually want to.

Here’s an example:

Each spring we see military spouses rally to pack boxes, clean houses, drive across the country, and start over. Frequently, we see friends put in their two weeks notice and pretend not to worry about finding a job on the other side. We see those with their own businesses close up shop and focus on the move. Sometimes they start again and sometimes they don’t.

We often hear those who work remotely say something like, “I took about six weeks off for our last move, so I could get everything settled.” And while I’m sure some of my reaction to that is jealous because I can’t take six weeks off from work, I also tend to believe it’s not entirely accurate. Nor is it helpful.

Military spouse working

My Story

Before I go lumping all military spouses into one category, let me focus on my personal experiences working while moving.

As you may remember, I moved twice in seven months. We have just hit the 3-month mark at our current duty station, with a (very) slim chance of moving again in 3 months. I work remotely, and 75% of my work is freelance. Which means if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. So, taking six weeks off for each move would have allowed me to work just 9 of the last 12 months. You can see how well that would have gone over.

Here’s what I did do in an attempt to keep the balance while moving:

I reduced my hours.

We had enough notice for both moves for me to work slower months into our budget. I knew that maintaining all of my hours was not going to be a good idea (especially with a baby who was still not sleeping all night). I wanted to be able to enjoy some downtime and being on the road all day would not make me want to sit at night and work. So I worked ahead on deadlines I knew were coming, and  I cut back on a few projects. Things I could quickly pick back up when we settled.

I worked unconventionally.

I kind of always work unconventionally, and I’m sure you do too. Sometimes I woke early to work, sneaking out of the hotel room while everyone else slept so I could get an hour in before breakfast. Or sitting by the pool while the kids played. Or at the playground. Other times I worked late, or on the weekends, or put on a movie for the kids to watch. It’s not ideal, but it’s necessary.

Mil-spouse employment

I took advantage of my spouse being around.

Both of our last two moves had us “camping” in our house for about a week before our things came. And both of those times my spouse was on permissive TDY. So, I’d go to a coffee shop and work, or I’d go into the bedroom on a beach chair and work. It was beneficial to have the extra support of a spouse that was home and not working for a few days.

I communicated with my clients.

Of course, the only responsible thing to do is communicate with coworkers, bosses, and clients in advance. I do this as much as possible as it allows for schedule juggling and managed expectations. While not all of my clients are military related, they certainly could understand the stressors of moving. While some things still popped up and were last minute, they were so few that I could usually handle them.

I, sometimes, said no.

Saying no is the hardest part of anything! But sometimes, it’s just not a good fit. A pending move or being in the middle of the move is a great reason to say no. Let me reiterate that you don’t need to justify your no to anyone, but if you want to, you can say something like, “I’m not taking on any new projects right now as I’m relocating, but I’d love to stay in touch!” This is something I would start about a month before the move and then stop doing a few weeks after.

But one thing is sure, throughout the past two moves, my business has grown. I’ve seen more opportunities come in than I can handle. And, more importantly, my consistency and reliability have never once been questioned. I’ve had clients specifically tell me that they admire and appreciate how they can assign a project and not ever worry that it will be done on time.

So while I understand taking a break from working (and certainly do feel some envy that I can’t), I want you to know that you don’t have to. You can continue working through the packers, in the hotel rooms, and as soon as your desk is assembled. I mean, if we can withstand all the other things the military throws at us, surely we can handle this.

freelancePCSgrades AuthorRebecca Alwine is a freelance writer, army wife, and mother of three. She’s also a contributing writer for ARMY Magazine, a regular contributor for several publications including to Homefront United Network, PCSgrades, ESME, and has also been published in Ms. Magazine and The Atlantic. You can follow her online at www.whatrebeccathinks.com.