Military life can present many hoops to jump, hurdles to overcome, and punches to roll with that are often not so easy to navigate with a career in a STEM field. There’s nothing quite like the moment when you receive the life-altering news of your next assignment. Lasting anywhere from months to years, “geo-baching” occurs when spouses temporarily separate to work and live in different locations.
From moving down the road, to state hopping, to the epic overseas moves, as a military spouse, an immediate concern is job security. Will there be a job in my field? Can I find a job that is a step forward in my career? Or weather a step back in pay and responsibility? Can I go remote? Can I progress in my education goals?
The decision to live apart is a hard one to make. Its typically built on a multitude of reasons and is unique to each person and family.
It could be the move is a short-term training situation of just a few months before going on to a final location of 3-5 years. Some spouses may choose to stay at their prior home due to job security or to allow children to complete the school year. Perhaps their professional licenses won’t transfer, or in the event of an overseas move, finding a job may be next to impossible in a new country where you don’t speak the language.
Jacki LaFevers, a mechanical facilities engineer, found herself geo-baching in her first job after college.
I used to work for an oil company in New Orleans and when my husband got orders to San Diego from Pensacola, I secured an offshore 14-day rotation role, says Jacki. Essentially, I would spend 14 days living/working on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, and then when my ‘hitch’ was over, I’d fly home to San Diego for my 14 days off.
This schedule helped with balance as I essentially split my time between work and home. However, my schedule was rigid so I missed birthdays, holidays, squadron events, etc. It was tough to miss out on half of my life but I liked my job, says Jacki. We found success by texting/emailing daily and then also having phone calls when we could. And this schedule helped us to appreciate the time that we did have together. Plus, we didn’t have kids at the time and we were in our mid-20s so it worked for our life at the time.
Choosing this sort-of-geo-batch option when he went to San Diego seemed like an easy transition for us at the time. However, as we got a little older, we wanted to settle down. Plus, with deployments, we agreed it made sense for me to get a job here where we lived.
I think the lesson that I learned from it was that I was glad I was able to chase my career for a while, but over time my priorities changed and I wanted to put our family and relationship first, says Jacki. I don’t think I would do it again with where I am now. But I am certainly glad I did it when I did and gave myself that time to put my career first for a bit. My husband fully supported me in keeping that job and was very understanding of me not being home half the time. But he was very happy when I finished my last hitch and got to come home for good.
I think it all comes down to your own personal situation and what your priorities are, says Jacki. They can change over time so it’s always good to re-evaluate! And as always, communication is key!”
In 2019, the Society of Military Spouses in STEM surveyed over 200 members and found that 47% spent 6 months searching for a new position. 71% felt that being a military spouse hindered their ability to secure employment in their desired field.
SMSS is working to bridge these gaps through member networking, mentorship, advocacy, and supporting military spouses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields to reach their full potential. To learn more, check out the 2020 SMSS Spotlight on Military Spouses in STEM now available!
- Society of Military Spouses in STEM Peer-to-Peer Support group
- Military One Source’s “Tips for Communicating in a Long-Distance Relationship”
- Military One Source’s Spouse Education & Career Opportunities
- Military.com’s Military Spouse Employment resource