When you're a military spouse committed to staying home with the kids, do you need to think about professional employment at all?
Being a stay-at-home mom was always Army wife Jenny's dream job. "When we got married, I told him I wanted to have children right away," she said. "I always dreamt of being a mother."
Her husband shared her passion for family. Very quickly, they started to grow a family of their own. "It started with one, Nate, and then we got pregnant almost immediately. I had two under two."
SAHM years, too, shall pass
The younger years were crazy, Jenny notes, but that's in retrospect. "Now, I have two kids in college and bills to pay," she said.
"You go through that stay-at-home mom experience thinking it will always be like this. The crayons and naps and Buzz Lightyear. The early years. Then they're in school, and you're rushing around from drop-off to volunteer as room mom for one and reading coach for the other and to pick-up and drop-off for sports. You barely catch your breath, and they're gone."
It is a universal, if slightly terrifying, truth for all stay-at-home parents: This too, shall pass.
"I just never thought I needed to prepare for it," said Jenny. "But all those moms who had small, part-time jobs? Maybe they knew something I didn't. They have something to do today other than the laundry."
What is a Mom Job?
The Mom Job: Those small, part-time jobs a stay-at-home parent can commit to while still putting the family's daily needs first. For some moms, it's an obvious choice. For others, a matter of necessity.
For many moms, the idea of a Mom Job is still a new one. "I'm a stay-at-home mom and I have no idea want a 'mom job' is," said Marine Corps wife and mother of four, Andrea.
Andrea is not alone. When you make the decision to dedicate your life to raising your children and sustaining them through the PCSs, the deployments and all the other upheaval military life brings, thinking of an outside-of-the-home job at the same time seems counterintuitive.
But in the last year, Andrea's familial status quo was shaken up. "My husband was not retained," she told us. Her husband's job, like many others, was on the chopping block. Half of all of his age-and-rank peers were let go, and his name was with them. "I still can't believe it," she admits.
They had five months to figure out their next step, and while money would certainly be tight, they knew where their family priorities would be.
"The plan was still for me to be the stay-at-home mom," she said. "It's that important to us. The kids need me now more than ever."
While her commitment never waivered, the financial reality of their situation posed a new challenge.
How to make ends meet?
Her husband's steady military income had been enough to support the family alone, but without it, they were unsure how they would make ends meet. For many military families feeling the squeeze of budget cuts and personnel downsizing like Andrea's, the choice to be a stay-at-home parent is becoming more constrained.
"If being a SAHM actually paid me for what I'm actually doing, I wouldn't need a job," she laughed.
But suddenly, her family's need was real, and so Andrea found herself looking for work.
Stay-at-home moms a generation apart, Andrea and Jenny were now in the same boat: devout caretakers trying to figure out what a mom job is -- and how it might work for them.
"What's a mom job? For me, it's any job I can do while being home with the kids," said Mandi. Mandi is a Coast Guard wife who has been lucky enough to be in one station for the last -- count 'em -- 10 years.
"On the one hand, that could have let me build a career," she said. "But the career I chose was Mom. To do that, I needed a little extra income, so I found work I could do while the kids were at school."
'Something to do that is all mine'
Mandi accepted a position working part-time in a childcare center that offers state-funded free preschool to all four-year-olds. "I love the kids, and I get the same days off as my children. It's perfect."
For many moms like Mandi, that "mom job" fits the bill. "It adds to the coffers and lets us take vacations. It's how we dig our way out of car emergencies. And it's also something for me to do that's all mine every day," she said.
Whatever the reason for finding one, many military spouses find that making room for a mom job during their day can make being a stay-at-home parent all the more fulfilling.
"I think it makes me better when I'm back with my kids," Andrea said. "I could never work full time. I have to be there for my kids when they need me. But this gives me a break that can be refreshing. And it is for all of us."
Spouse X SAHMs looking for balance
At our Military.com Spouse Experience events, we have spoken with military spouses nationwide who are trying to figure out how to balance their stay-at-home parent responsibilities with their budgets, personal desires, and hopes for a One-Day career. For many, the mom job is the perfect solution.
These military spouses are bank tellers, Etsy creatives, bakers, physical therapists, school counselors, librarians, fitness pros, life coaches, substitute teachers, call center reps (even those!), and small business owners. The options are almost endless, as long as they meet the strict standards of being workable within the time constraints of being a mom.
"The thing about a mom job that is so appealing is it doesn't interrupt your life as a mom," Mandi said. "It exists around it and supports it. But it's second -- not number one. That's still your kids."
Would a mom job work for you?
Even if you are not thinking about working any time soon, it is important to start looking down the road.
"One day, your kids will grow up and leave home, and you'll be remembering when you had to tie their shoes every five minutes," said empty nester Jenny. "You don't have to think about it right this very minute. But you should start thinking about it for when they're gone. It happens fast. Believe me."
Andrea agrees. "You never know what's going to happen, so keeping your options open, just being willing to think about a school-day job, that kind of thing can make a big difference for your family. The military is full of surprises. We need to be able to handle all of them."
And for that, you have the Mom Job.
If you are considering learning more about a mom job, start here:
** How to craft your resume as a stay-at-home parent (real tricks from real stay-at-home military parents like you)
-- And let us know: Are you trying to balance the budget and be the stay-at-home parent? Are you considering going back to work? Are you trying to make the mom job work? We want to hear from you. Your experience counts and we want to hear the wisdom you have to share.