Military Spouses: Doing the best we can with the resources that are available.

I recently requested professional advice from professionals in the field of medical education. I contacted professors (whom I know) who currently hold my dream jobs, as well as a few medical-professional family friends who are affiliated with universities.

I asked these professionals how I should go from Point A (working on my Masters in Anatomy & Physiology education) to Point B (a tenured professorship at a major University). Overall, I received a harmonious chorus telling me to use my Masters to get an adjunct job at a community college first, and work on an online PhD as we move around with the Navy. Everyone was very supportive of my circumstances (being a military spouse who moves around with her husband every 2 – 3yrs), and unequivocally told me that employers SHOULD understand that I do not have the luxury of living in one place long enough to do a traditional PhD program. My husband and I are going to try to make a traditional PhD happen for me so that I can (hopefully) teach at the university while I’m a PhD candidate, but the moving-thing will probably prohibit me from any traditional, in-person PhD program.

Though I received many similar responses, I received one outlier response that floored me.

First, let me quickly explain a very difficult moment in my life: 1/2 way through nursing school, my boyfriend received an opportunity too good to pass up — a chance to move to Japan for a great career opportunity. For those of you familiar with the military, you know that passing up Orders to go to a particularly amazing job isn’t done lightly, but my boyfriend checked with me first to see if I’d go with him. I said yes, we got engaged, and then we got married. Per the original timeline, we were to leave for Japan after I graduated. But, like all things with the military, the timeline changed, and I had to choose nursing school or moving with my husband to Japan. If I didn’t go with him when he moved, I wouldn’t see him for a year.

I chose my marriage and my husband. I left nursing school 2/3 of the way through the program.

Not everyone would have left nursing school, but I did because it was the right decision for me and for us.

I don’t expect everyone to like my life decisions, but since it’s my life and not theirs, I do expect others to respect and accept my decisions as the best decisions FOR ME and MY LIFE. I don’t respect others’ opinions when they second-guess or belittle my decisions, especially one as big as leaving nursing school.

I am just one of the tens of thousands of military spouses who sacrifice their career in order to support their service member spouse. I consider it to be a small service to our country and a big commitment to our marriage. My husband is deeply grateful for this sacrifice and understands that I sacrificed for us. It’s a big deal, but I’ve never once regretted leaving school. Our marriage is worth it. HE is worth it. And, eventually, he will retire and it will be my turn to dictate where we live and I will be the breadwinner.

Well, this morning I received a very disrespectful email from a family friend whom I had contacted for advice. The friend is a great guy and someone I admire so I don’t think that he intended to be disrespectful, but I. Am. Floored. And flabbergasted. And angry.

In the email, I was told that leaving nursing school “SHOWS A LACK OF COMMITMENT ON [MY] PART.”

WHATTHEFUCK.

Leaving nursing school shows the highest commitment to my marriage, my happiness, and the life that I’m building with my husband — THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS IN MY LIFE.

Later in that same email, he belittled the online masters program that I’m doing because it’s not a traditional, face-to-face program.

Never once did he acknowledge that the fact that I’m DOING this program shows a strong desire to better myself and my education while living with my husband during an overseas tour. I don’t have the LUXURY of living in the United States, where I could attend a traditional program. I don’t have the luxury of living in one place for more then 2.5yrs, which is barely enough time to finish a masters degree.

I AM DOING THE BEST THAT I CAN WITH THE RESOURCES THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO ME AND FUCK YOU IF IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU.

These kinds of comments and attitudes are examples of the discrimination that military spouses do, in fact, face in the workplace. Employers don’t realize how much we sacrifice or why we do it. Or, they realize and don’t care. They don’t see how much we give or how hard we work, all just to keep our family together. All they see is a non-traditional path, and don’t give any thought (or care or fucks) to why that path was taken.

Everyday we give and give and give. We wait +250 days through deployments, playing wife, husband, mom, and dad. We sacrifice our careers so that our family lives under one roof. We take low paying jobs because that’s all we can find. We struggle to make ends meet on shoestring budgets. Nothing in our life is linear, except our spouse’s career.

We strive to do the best that we can with the resources that are available to us.

If our best is not enough for you, then you need to reassess your attitudes and opinions.

In case you’re interested, this is how I responded to the email:
“All great points to consider and thank you for your reply. I appreciate your time!

I will say, though, that leaving nursing school so that I could live with my husband while on his overseas tour shows a great commitment — to our marriage. If a future employer belittles my commitment to my husband, and doesn’t view this masters program as a means of bettering myself and my education while living as a military spouse overseas, then I don’t want to work for that employer.

Thank you again!”

2 comments

  1. I hope it’s okay if I jump in with my two cents as I work in academic medicine at a major university. The older generation faculty (people who got their PhDs before 1975) place a lot more emphasis on where one went to school than the rest of the faculty. What matters more in the hiring process (at least in out dept) is a history of published papers in peer-reviewed journals, and a successful history of grant applications. So you didn’t finish nursing school. Who cares? Universities won’t if they see you as a potential asset (and especially if you’re good at getting grants!!).

    And in regards to getting your degrees online, I suspect in the coming years there will be more understanding of the need to do that because of the military lifestyle. As more people who served move up in the civilian workforce and become hiring managers, I think “we were military and moved a lot” will become more commonplace and not seen as any better or worse than anything else.

    Incidentally where are you getting your masters? I have a friend who may be interested in an online masters in anatomy.

    1. Thanks for your 2 cents!! I think that you’re right with your assessments. Heck, I’m going to pay for my PhD with my husband’s post-9/11 GI Bill. There’s not much more “I’m military” then that. The professors who I spoke with were so supportive of my choices and working with my lifestyle, and they’re the real experts. If THEY told me that I need to do a specific thing, I’d do it … but they didn’t. They told me to just start teaching. I found my masters program by Googling “anatomy PhD” programs. A state-by-state list of schools came up, and I chose the only online program, which is, in fact, through an actual college in NY 🙂 I hope that helps!

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