“All Work and No Fun” – Learning to Thrive as a Career-Oriented Military Spouse

“All Work and No Fun” – Learning to Thrive as a Career-Oriented Military Spouse

You know that old proverb, “All work and no fun makes Jack a dull boy?” If you have a full-time career, and are juggling kids and military life, finding time for fun may be an elusive thing. You might think fun is in those small moments with your family or in those precious few minutes you get to yourself at night when the house is quiet. Or maybe the workout you squeeze into your busy day. But no, that’s not really what I’m talking about. Do you really give yourself the luxury to play? In her book, Overwhelmed, Brigid Schulte writes about the experience of being a stressed out working professional and admits that she reached a point when she could not remember the last time she just played.

I can relate to Schulte’s story.

I pride myself on someone who was born serious, always a hard-working achiever. As a military spouse, I’ve always sought out others like me, people who cared about their careers and meaningful work. I tried to steer clear of that stereotypical military spouse who seemed to live for bunco, lunch bunch and shopping trips.

I remember coming face to face with this traditional carefree spouse stereotype when I attended a new spouse orientation at my husband’s war college. At the time, I owned my own consulting and coaching business, but I made time during my workday to attend the event and meet my peers. I was flabbergasted when the orientation speaker (who also happened to be the only man in the room) launched into a speech about how lucky we were to be there. As he described it, our husbands were being groomed to become the next generation of military world leaders, yet we were incredibly lucky to be the spouses because our only care in the world was “to have fun!” I doubt I was the only employed person in the room, yet the stereotype was made clear. If you are a military spouse, your life should be about frivolity, fun, and socializing, while your partner does the serious stuff. I quickly decided this group was not for me and went back to work.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself in Hawaii. When we arrived last summer, I was prepared to set up shop and start coaching and consulting again, which I did. But I also found that every person I met would routinely ask, “What do you do here?” And they didn’t care about what I did for a living. They wanted to know what I did for fun. Do you sail, surf, dive, paddleboard, hike? When I introduced myself at a spouse event and mentioned my business, I heard someone in the group mutter, “Work is over-rated.”

Was this that stereotypical military spouse speaking to me? Or was it my shadow self whispering in my ear? Is it possible to find time for both work and play?

Recently I read a great book by Beth Cabrera that helped me make sense of all this. In Beyond Happy, Cabrera says that the key to thriving in life is finding both happiness and meaning. Happiness comes from feeling good through play and joyful activity or relationships. And meaning comes from doing good through living your purpose, doing good work, and making a contribution to the world. Both feeling good and doing good are essential to thriving.

So now I’m experimenting.

I work a little less in Hawaii than I did in Washington DC. And I set aside every Monday morning to play golf. At first I felt guilty about golfing on a workday, but I’m getting used to the idea that fun isn’t something to apologize for or be embarrassed about. And it is pure delight to wake up on Monday morning and head to the golf course instead of my desk for a change.

So you might be thinking about now, “Must be nice, but I can’t do that.” You may not be able to change your work schedule or move to Hawaii, but if you are a stressed out professional with plenty of meaning but not much pleasure, stop and think about what you can do. How can you embrace that inner military spouse who just wants to have fun and be a little more like her? Find one fun thing you can do for yourself each week, and do it without apology. You’ll be glad you did.

Michelle offers individual and group coaching for career-oriented military spouses. Contact her for your complimentary coaching session.

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