Military Spouse and Mom — A Career in the Making


Posted by Robin C. Terronez

My Story –

When you’re young and newly married, you truly never know where your life will take you, or how it will all turn out….. you think that you may want “x” number of kids, a great job that sets your career on an incredible path, a perfect marriage. You yearn to discover the secret of finding the balance between kids, family, and career and that you will have enough money to travel to all the places you’ve only thus far dreamed about. After 29 years of marriage, 13 military moves, and three kids who have turned out beautifully and are now grown and gone, I look back and realize, I have lived and experienced all of those desires and my life has given me all of those things I’ve ever wanted – it just all happened in all different kinds of scenarios and absolutely not in the order I had them all planned! It happened one move at a time, one day at a time, without me even realizing that this is exactly what I had envisioned! How did this happen? I lot of positive thinking, a great attitude, flexibility, hard work, and the people we met along the way. I could write a book; however, the focus of this blog entry is about my career as a military spouse, and I hope that those reading will find comfort in knowing that it doesn’t all happen the way we have it planned – sometimes it’s better!

My college and career were put on “hold” due to the birth of our first daughter at the age of 20. I worked full time to put my husband through college (what was I thinking?) even though I had the better grades and maturity at that time. We were poor, lived in a trailer in Oklahoma where we are both from, and plugged along until graduation, when there were no jobs to be found (early 1980’s). A Navy Supply Corps recruiter offered my husband a position in the Navy, and off he went to OCS, leaving me behind with daughter (5), second daughter (3 mos.), and I had just found out I was pregnant with #3. NOT the way I had envisioned my life. I was working full time as a secretary through these first years of marriage to keep necessary health insurance and a steady pay check flowing. I was exhausted all the time with working and the kids – there was no balance – only survival.


Through the years, and as we moved each time to some magnificent places within the US, I learned life’s most important lessons from my children. As they grew, I grew. I evolved. I volunteered everywhere, the schools, the Officers Wives Clubs, and I worked when my husband was on shore duty, and reinvented myself with each move, remaining in a non-working status when he was at sea, as my children always came first. They needed the stability of at least one parent at home. I became a renaissance woman of sorts. I had finished my Associate Degree in Monterey, CA, and by the time my youngest two were in high school in Naples, Italy, I pushed myself to get that Bachelor’s Degree. I had attended 6 universities, had supplemented work experience for college credit, and I was the busiest I’d ever been, but I did it. 
Preparing for the “empty nest” was where I was when we moved to Naples, Italy. What would I do once the children left home? Who was I? Of all the odd jobs I had taken, what did that amount to in the real world? Who would hire a military spouse with volunteer work on her resume? I had been the best mom I knew how to be, and I had “no regrets” which was my own secret motto for raising the kids. They had been my mission, my focus. Now what? I hunted for jobs for months. I substituted at the high school, I talked to everyone, I applied for GS jobs, I took classes to apply for federal employment…. Nothing.

Until…… someone took a huge chance on me, and to this day I am forever grateful to her. She saw something in me, that I did not even see in myself, and she hired me over others much more qualified with much more education and experience.  I had no real computer skills, did not know how to “make a folder” (I came from the old school of filing actual papers in a manilla folder), and was not savvy with anything electronic.   The job was a program manager for one of the overseas college offices on base. It paid $11.00 an hour, it wasn’t with the government, but it allowed me to develop the skills needed (and those I didn’t know I had) and to develop my resume. I worked hard, and I wanted to prove to myself that I would be successful, having been given this chance. I tripled enrollments within the first term, and set record enrollments for the college. I invested in great instructors, and was able to put two new career fields on the schedule for others to obtain their degrees overseas. I was assisting military personnel, and the job produced a great personal gain for me in being able to use counseling, and customer service skills (which I learned from being a mom!)  When we returned to the states, I was able to quickly gain employment with a local government contracting company making more than I imagined.  The first question they asked at the interview was “Do you have a degree?” and a beaming “Yes” was the response.  After a year, I was able to land a government position (my resume had grown) and within another year, I was a GS12. And I’m still moving forward…..

I wanted to share these experiences with those of you who are wondering about your career and trying to balance your life. Make priorities and listen to your heart. If you are able to take a chance on someone, do it – you may just change their life. Talk to everyone – let them know many times you want the job. Learn from every experience (even the hard ones) you are given – it may turn out better than you ever imagined it would! You already know what your talents are – use them however you can! Attitude is everything – and a great attitude will take you farther than anything else. Believe in yourself. Put into practice what you teach your children – that they can be anything they want to be, and so can you!

Thank you for sharing in my life and career.

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