As a freshman in college, I had my whole life mapped out. Fresh out of high school and on my own for the first time, I was eager to work hard and prove myself in a new environment. To my single-minded, career-oriented self, a husband and babies were good things, but I also viewed them as things that would hold me back from achieving all that I could. Because of that, they were the farthest things from my mind, at least until I had made enough significant professional achievements that I felt comfortable taking a break.
As it turned out, I met my future husband two-and-a-half years into school, and post-graduation, marriage and babies came much sooner than I ever would have guessed. But rather than inconveniencing or stifling my career, marriage and family life have proven professionally invigorating in ways that I never could have imagined.
Honing my career interests
When I first got married, I had just started my very first, full-time, 9-to-5 job. While it was an incredible opportunity (and I was fortunate to have a great boss and co-workers) I was surprised at how quickly I found a daily commute and an eight hour day in an office, at a desk, completely and utterly draining.
In my downtime, I started writing and found that I really enjoyed seeing my work published. Pretty soon, I was daydreaming about what else I might do with my life, and an opportunity to get creative with my career arose fairly quickly when my husband (who’s in the Navy) found out that we would soon be transferred to Guam—for two whole years. Admittedly, I panicked at first (I mean, look up Guam on Google maps—you’ll have to zoom in about 10 times before you find it).
I was doing well in my job and already making strides professionally. A move seemed highly inconvenient, to say the least. But my can-do husband helped encourage me to see this move as an adventure and to imagine what it would make possible for me. Together, we decided that it would be the perfect opportunity for me to go to grad school and to embark on a freelance-writing career. Both were things I had always hoped to do, but if I hadn’t been married to my husband and instead had been set solely on my own course and locked-in on my original career path, I may never have found the time or impetus to do either (not to mention the fact that grad school is a lot more affordable when you’re married to someone who’s working full-time). So not even one year into marriage, I was beginning to notice that my freshman-year beliefs about marriage holding me back professionally were not proving to be true.
Giving birth to new passions
Then came the babies. Pretty much universally, babies are maligned as career-killers for women—and that may be true if you’re striving for the corner office (I wouldn’t know). But after having each of my kids, I’ve seen exactly how they’ve pushed me to do things creatively, to attain some unique professional goals that I would have never dreamed were possible.
For instance, while pregnant with my son, I was working on finishing up my master's degree. I chose my thesis subject in large part because of my personal experience with my kids; the impending birth of my son had gotten me interested in breastfeeding, which wasn’t previously a topic I’d ever given much thought. But as I was writing my thesis while learning to breastfeed my son, I realized that it was because of him that I was so motivated to finish it. And not only did I finish it (with tons of help and encouragement from my husband and extended family), but it was actually published in a peer-reviewed journal—an incredible opportunity and honor. I don’t know that I would have achieved that particular outcome if I hadn’t had such a personal connection with my subject matter, which I can directly attribute to the birth of my son.
When my daughter came along, I gave birth to another career boost as well. It was while I was pregnant with her that I applied for a journalism fellowship and chose to explore the topic of underreported health risks of birth control—a topic that took on new meaning for me when I found out that I was pregnant with a daughter.
When I found out that I was a finalist for the fellowship, I initially panicked, thinking there was no way I could travel across the country for an interview with a newborn. But once again, my husband and my family encouraged me to seize the opportunity and helped me find a way to make it all work. So, I took my daughter (then three months old) along with me to the interview all the way across the country, and when I was awarded the fellowship, I took her all the way back across the country a few weeks later to accept the award. But bringing her with me was a very real reminder of why (and for whom) I chose the topic that I did. It gave me added passion in my interview, and it continues to motivate me in my work.
Of course, having kids wasn’t always a walk down easy street career-wise. Trust me, moving to Guam and changing my career seemed highly inconvenient at the time. Finishing a master's thesis with a newborn, and traveling cross-country alone with a newborn (twice), was absolutely exhausting endeavors. But none of it would have been possible without the love and support of my family—and especially my husband.
Along the way I’ve learned the truth in an observation by G.K. Chesterton: “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered." Having an exciting career as a wife (in particular, a military spouse) and a mother is not always convenient, but it is definitely an adventure.