The Naked Truth: Tanya’s Story


The Naked Truth: Real Military Spouses Share Their Employment Stories - Tanya's StoryTanya is staying home with two toddlers and has mixed feelings about her experience. She wants to work and get out of the house, but doesn’t like the thought of childcare. She’s proud that she’s been there for her children, but says it’s been the worst three years of her life. The following is an excerpt from my interview with Tanya in Germany.

If I actually had a career, I would make sure it was in something that I’ve been studying for, which is essentially a glorified secretary. Every business in the world needs a secretary of some sort, so I know I won’t have a shortage of opportunities to find a job. It’s just the way my mind works. I can focus on weird menial tasks – stuffing envelopes, typing, stacking, collating, and organizing. That’s just the way I like to work. I don’t have any opportunity to do that right now. I mean I can organize my kid’s clothes into color-coded stacks but that’s about all I get right now.

This has been the worst three years of my life.

I mean, I love my kids, but I’ve basically been pregnant and/or nursing since we got here. And I love my girls, but I want to get away from them for a few hours every day at least. And if I get a job doing the Exchange or the commissary, my paycheck’s going to pay for their daycare. So I’m doing one thing to pay for another.

When I initially got here, I had about a month left in my classes, so I didn’t really look for anything at that point. I’d already been awarded a clearance, so I was thinking, “Ok, I’ll try to get a job, maybe at the hospital, or just any kind of secretary job.” It didn’t have to be anything fancy. But I was waiting until I finished my schooling so I could say, “I have an Associates’ degree.” At that point, I found out I was pregnant and thought, “Do I really want to do that to an employer? Do I want to get in, get trained and have all these appointments that I’m going to all the time?” So I said, “I’ll wait. I’ll have my kid, get through the maternity leave stage, and then I’ll look.” And by that time I was so tired from my daughter, and my husband was always at work. He’s a typical dad. He’ll change a diaper, he’ll feed them, but when they cried it’s, “Go see your mother.” My expectations of what I thought I would be doing over here definitely have fallen through.

It was a choice between staying home and taking care of my kid versus working.

It was an easy call, because I didn’t want to let somebody else raise my kid and throw them in the CDC or whatever. Then you get to see all those moments. I get to see the first steps or the first tooth, all that. I didn’t want to give up all that and give the moments to somebody else.

That first three months when you nurse and the child will get all the anti-bodies from the breast milk and everything. I wanted to get through that without having to worry about having to pump and everything. And once I got to that stage, I started filling out applications online and submitting resumes. I just never got any call backs.

I went on USA Jobs and the Services website and I just did anything clerical, office automation, administrative assistant, anything in that generalized category. Either they hired other people or I wasn’t clicking all the right boxes to get the spousal preference. I don’t know. I never got any notifications back on any of them, so I never got a reason why I wasn’t selected.

I was very discouraged.

I thought, “Hey, I already have this clearance. That’s $5,000 they’re not going to have to spend on me to get it covered. That should give me a little boost up, and I have this degree…” And nothing, so it was just, “Ok great. I feel worthless.”

About the time I just kind of gave up on it, I found out I was pregnant with my second child. And then we were also trying to move out of our off-base house because our landlady was not being pleasant. So I was searching online trying to find houses, trying to take care of my first child, and it just consumed my time. Plus I was trying to finish up a second Associates, and starting to work on my Bachelors. So everything just had me preoccupied, and I didn’t really have time to think about trying to find a job.

Right now we’re looking to get my oldest signed up for German preschool in the fall, and then the following year my second daughter will be able to go into preschool. Hopefully at that point, I’m going to try and get my resume looking really nice so I can start submitting it for jobs.

For the most part, knowing that I’ve been there for (my kids) and that I’ve been there through everything makes me feel good.

But there are just those days where I want to say “Somebody come take them.” I’ve been getting a little stir crazy, sitting at home when they’re asleep. I don’t want to make any noise, because then they’re going to wake up and then I’m not going to get anything done. So I just sit there and quietly type on my homework right now. Stir crazy would probably be the best way to describe it.

What is that you feel like you’re missing?

Just the constant work flow, something that I could always be doing. Whether it’s typing up the minutes from a meeting, typing up a report, proof reading somebody else’s paper, or email. Just something that I could be focused on for five or six hours out of the day, where I’m helping people helping get tasks done that need to be done that nobody else wants to do. I know I’m crazy for it, but I like that kind of thing. I like the hard tasks that nobody else wants to do. The one that everybody goes, “Oh, I have to do that again.” Those kinds of tasks.

I think for me it’s the same as when people jump out of airplanes and go bungee jumping or ride roller coasters.

That’s their kind of thrill. For me, it’s taking on those jobs that nobody wants to do. It’s not exactly a thrill, but it’s the same kind of a feeling. I don’t know a better way to describe that.

I like it because then I know I accomplished something. I can see the physical results of the work, especially when it’s stacking, organizing, and everything. When you see the mess, and then you see the organization, everybody can find everything. That just makes me feel better, which is good. Everybody can say, “Oh, I need a…” And it’s there. They don’t have to dig through a drawer, look in a box. They can find exactly what they need, right in front of them.

When I organize or straighten things up at home, then my husband comes home and can’t find anything. And then he and I get into an argument about why I put this there when it should go here. So I don’t get the thanks at home that I would get from a job. I don’t know…For whatever reason, if I’m outside of the house the tedium and the repetition doesn’t bother me.

When I’m in the house, it wears on me more because I’ve been stuck in the house for the last three years.

It’s like, “Great, laundry. But I just did laundry yesterday, and I don’t want to do laundry today. Now I have to do dishes.” It wears on me, but if I had a job, I’d have that break from the house and the dishes and the laundry and the tedium. So I could switch back and forth between the two.

It’s kind of the way some grandparents feel about their grandkids. They love to have them but they’re so glad when they get to give them back. Same thing at a job. You love the work, but you can leave it there and take a break from it. I need the break from the house. That’s what I’m looking for.

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