You are are a new graduate from college with a significant amount of debt. While in college, you met and fell in love with a someone wearing the uniform. You get married upon graduation, and move with your service member, whose hours are unpredictable at best.
As you settle into your new town and begin job searching so you can contribute to your household income, you and your soldier find yourselves expecting a little bundle of joy. You eagerly anticipate this new arrival, but the job search is difficult because the local economy is poor. After a few months of job searching, perhaps with a couple interviews but no job offer, you suddenly face another obstacle – you are starting to show your pregnancy.
And, while no potential employer can legally discriminate against hiring you because of your pregnancy, you recognize odds are pretty slim you will be offered a position if an equally qualified candidate presents themselves at the same time.
But, an employer takes a chance on you!
You now have a job offer, and begin the requisite training!
Your spouse comes home with some exciting news – they have been selected to go to a special assignment in four months’ time! You and your spouse take a good, hard look at finances, family, and determine you would like for your spouse to be there for the delivery of your baby, and to be with the baby for all the “firsts” – first smile, first roll-over, first crawl, first steps, first words.
So, the next morning, you walk in to your employer and let them know you have three and a half months you are able to work with them; but, since your baby is due within weeks, you will have to take some unpaid maternity leave, leaving that employer with only several weeks of you on hand.
You get to the next duty location, and you are told you’ll be there for at least three years. Within a month of settling into your new house, bills staring you down, you begin looking for childcare.
There’s no room at the installation’s child care center (you’ll learn there never is) – and, in order to move up on the wait list, you are required to have both spouses employed and have proof of current employment. That is easy for your service member, but not for you – because you need someone to watch your child to get a paycheck. You put your child on the wait list, and then begin searching for alternate day care options.
Eventually, you find a provider whom you hope will treat your child as their own, or at the very least, know you can catch up with them on cameras their facility uses. Then, you begin your job and interview search. Like the previous duty location, the economy is tough, but you are resilient, and within three months post-move, you’ve been offered a job!
You get trained, you begin work, flu season hits…
Your child gets every bug under the sun…
Your spouse can’t take days off, due to their job. So, you lose all of your annual sick days within the first few days of flu season. Then, you begin taking unpaid sick leave…
Flu season ends, and thankfully, you and your spouse haven’t been ill. The sun is shining, everything is going swimmingly.
Then, your spouse comes home and says they are deploying – only for six months.
But, that is a 6 month stretch that you are parenting and working… alone… without a second pair of hands to help.
Thankfully, you’ve made some friends through work, and you’re able to go out and blow off a little steam occasionally while your spouse is gone. Five months in, your spouse calls and says they’ve been extended an extra ninety days. Three more months past the initial time you thought they’d be home.
You’ve got this! You’ve got a plan, a rhythm, you’re rolling with it, you are in a groove. What’s another ninety days?
As your spouse gets home, they inform you – they have orders. Across the country. In three months’ time.
The installation childcare calls one month before you leave – they finally have an opening!
You were diligent in squirreling away money, knowing the move would happen eventually. It always does.
But, after the move, you would like to stay at home with your child. You feel guilty – your student loan debt is pretty extensive, so you decide to continue to contribute to finances.
And, wait, when was the last time you had a cycle?
Surprise! You and your family are expecting a “deployment baby”!
New to the area, feeling guilty about your loans, one child under the age of three – the second on its way, and beginning the daycare search again…
But this time, you are looking for two slots.
Then, your spouse comes home, and informs you this paycheck next week? It could be your last, for a while…
What about the civilian employees in the building? Being asked to clear their desks and go home until further notice. Your spouse, because his job as a service member deems him “key and essential,” will still be reporting to work…
…with bills staring you down…
…needing the money now, instead of when your service member (eventually) gets paid…
Sounds like a slight horror story, doesn’t it? Perhaps one of those recurring bad dreams. Especially to people who like to have everything planned in their lives, right?
It’s not a horror story at all!
I hate to inform my readers, but this is real life…
The government is scheduled to shut down at midnight tonight if Congress can’t get its act together and pass a budget.
Congress will still get paid, but federal employees? Will not be allowed to work on Monday. They will be allowed to come in for a couple hours, collect personal belongings, and then they will be allowed to return to work only after the government is operating again.
Service members? They will remain working – unpaid.
Congress members will still report to work – paid.
The families of federal employees? Will try to figure out how to make ends meet.
My family is blessed – we have the ability to not live paycheck to paycheck, and since the shut downs have been happening since I was employed, we have a rainy day fund set aside.
Many service members’ families, however, do not!
Congress needs a severe wake-up call. They need to not go home to their families until their squabbling ceases directly impacting federal employees and their families’ livelihoods.
They need to change their own policy on the books which states they can’t impact their own Congressional pay, and ensure that following legislative sessions understand that failure to reach a budget agreement before a shut down deadline will impact Congress’ own pay, as deeply as it impacts the federal employees’ pay.
Congress should still report to work, but it should be unpaid… starting on October 1st… whether there is a continuing resolution in place or otherwise. They should work for free until there is a budget. During times of government shutdowns, they should hold sessions every day, including holidays until they get their job done.
Our service members deploy and work seven days a week for a year or longer under the worst possible conditions. Surely our intrepid representatives in Washington can pay some small measure of the price our men and women in uniform pay each and every day, paid or otherwise.
In other words, it’s time for Congress to grow up. It is time for those in Congress to remember they they are there To Serve, not be served; it is time for them to remember they are there for the good of the People, not the Party.
It is time for Congress to understand their inaction directly impacts government employees and their families, including those in the Armed Forces. It is also time to remind them that their inaction ripples out to harm the American People – denying services to countless numbers of Americans who depend on their government to provide essential services each and every day.
It is time for the American citizens to recognize and understand the impact of their elected officials’ decisions.
I hope you will go back and re-read the story at the beginning of this post.
Perhaps it will enlighten you as to the plight of so many military families – and, explain why so many spouses are unemployed, or underemployed.
Perhaps it will explain why so many military families struggle to make ends meet, or why some are living apart from their service members in order to have hands-on assistance.
I hope it will explain why, as a faith-based blogger, I so heavily rely on my faith.
Because our government doesn’t provide what God always finds a way to provide.