Juggling Marriage, Military and Higher Education
By Rebecca Alwine
Alumna, American Military University
Military spouses support their service members through many things. In 9 years of marriage, we’ve had our share of deployments, out-of-town training and long hours. It is often hard for us to realize that college classes are just as important to career progression as military schooling.
The increasing pressure put on service members to acquire a civilian education and complete their degrees, coupled with the ‘extra time’ due to less frequent deployments, leads more and more active-duty service members to increase their course loads. Thankfully, there are schools that are designed to work with the military that make this time less stressful.
In fact, this is why both my husband and I chose to attend American Military University (AMU). I completed my master’s degree while we were stationed overseas and had no way of attending a brick- and-mortar college. AMU offered me flexibility and affordability. The professors were willing to work with me regarding time zone differences and both of my pregnancies. My husband chose AMU partially based from my experience, and he really enjoyed the classes.
Oftentimes, we see more time spent away from our families than with them, but we don’t stop to think about why continuing education is important during this time. I consulted with a few military spouses to get some first-hand knowledge on how they supported their spouses while taking classes.
Handling Time Apart
Samantha Dean, spouse of a Marine, remembers when she was pregnant and had a five-year-old. Her husband was taking classes online with AMU. She also worked full-time, including a lot of Saturdays, while her husband worked long hours. “It was a few months of barely seeing each other. I just kept reminding myself that my husband was smart, he deserved this, and he needed it. I tried to let him do his classwork when he needed to and I would take care of everything I could,” she remembers.
Her husband worked hard to get his associate degree done before the baby was born. The compromise was clear on both sides. Of course, there was the time when Samantha lost her cool trying to balance everything, but that is normal in any relationship. In the end, it was worth it for them.
It’s Only a Season
Rheanna Bernard and I share a lot of the same feelings about education. We both got our degrees done when we were younger and feel that we should support our husbands while they get their degrees. Of course, it is always harder when you have to balance more than just college. “It’s only for a season and it’s working towards a greater good,” Rheanna says. “He already realized how hard it was for himself, me and the kids. I wanted to really work to make it easier for him if I could.”
I’ll admit, I haven’t been as nice about it, but I’m getting better. My husband currently works 14-16 hour days and then comes home; he is trying to get a full semester of college done by the middle of May. So when I feel frustrated, I don’t always keep it inside. But I’ve found with some solid discussions and some suggestions on what kind of study tactics worked for me, we are fighting less over it. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven,” I remind myself. This is the season for me to make things easier for him while he balances full-time work, full-time school, and even a round of golf a month. That’s what marriage is about.
Another Marine Corps spouse spent a lot of time studying the material her husband was working on, choosing to spend that studying time together instead of apart. Katie Foley’s husband started his classes through AMU while he was an instructor and she was pregnant with their second child. His day mostly consisted of work, studying, and sleeping. After a move and change in jobs, he had more downtime and some things got done outside of the evening and weekend hours. “Despite long workdays and lots of time in the field, I found the time he spent ‘in school’ never bothered me,” she remembers.
In fact, she spent a lot of those evening hours studying with him. Career progression was always on her mind as her husband spent time studying. She would read the materials so she could quiz him; the materials opened up discussions about things like history and ethics that filled her need for adult conversation.
Marriage is about compromise, and supporting each other no matter what. Like all good things in life, an education isn’t easy, but it is completely worthwhile.
Check out Rebecca’s article on balancing graduate school on fellow APUS blog, OnlineLearningTips.com.
About the Author
Rebecca Alwine has been a military spouse for over 8 years, traveling the world and learning about herself. She’s discovered she enjoys running, loves lifting weights, is a voracious reader, and actually enjoys most of the menial tasks of motherhood. Rebecca earned her Masters of Disaster from AMU and a BA in Geography from the University of Mary Washington. Her writing has been published both in AUSA’s ARMY Magazine, Military Spouse Magazine, and multiple digital magazines and blogs. You can follow her on Twitter and at her personal blog.