Balancing Military Work Life


Military work life balance

A study done with 1000 civilians showed that 1.9 percent of them were divorced. A study of 1000 military service members showed 3.9 percent were divorced.

The day began at 0430 with rigorous workout and cardio session. This is actually my time of peace and mental restoration. Nothing like pushing yourself to the edge of exhaustion to provide you energy for the day. After a quick shower and breakfast it’s to the office to prepare for a full calendar of events. I will start the work day off teaching a class on spiritual fitness and how this is key to our success to a group of young impressionable Airman. Then I switch gears, focus my mind and heart to ensure I am ready to provide care to a family who just lost their son to suicide and today will be the day I conduct a memorial service in his honor. I normally take a breather after these type services but on this day, a short lunch will have to do. Finally, I shift all attention to the 32 newest graduates of Airmen Leadership School. My duty at this formal event is to open the ceremony with a heartfelt and motivating invocation. Finally, the duty day for me is over. Lastly, I spend time preparing for Sunday service. As I make the 15 minute drive home I reflect on the day and utilize the short drive to transition from Airman, Chaplain to husband and oh yeah, father.

I wish I could pat myself on the back and say this is abnormal and one meant for the “books” but to be honest, it’s just another day. My name is Chaplain, Captain Matthew Spencer and I am proud to be a part of the less than 1% of U.S. adults to be currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The military life is one of service before self, and mission is priority. It is a life I chose, however with that choice it also comes with great sacrifice and responsibility. It is a life where I go into it realizing that I will be absent more than present, however, have to learn to be “present” even though I am absent.  The stressors are high and so are the divorce rates amongst our Airmen.  A study done with 1000 civilians showed that 1.9 percent of them were divorced. A study of 1000 military service members showed 3.9 percent were divorced.  Why is the rate higher? One reason is the difficulty in transition from “The Mission to Marriage”. How do military members transition their lives from the roller-coaster of duty to then be a husband, father, or son?  This very thing is something I have struggled with but thankfully through some simple key changes was able to pivot my life back in to balance, direction and fulfillment.’

How do military members transition their lives from the roller-coaster of duty to then be a husband, father, or son?

Align Priorities


The key to a solid work-life balance is aligning your priorities. The number one issue I notice in counseling sessions is the misalignment of priorities. You would think it would be the “Big ones”, Sex, or Finances, however the Miss-Alignment in Priorities is what leads to the issues in Sex and Finances.  I cannot tell you how many times I have uttered the words, “How do you expect to end your day right if you don’t start it right?” Priorities are crucial to work-life balance. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of starting the day in prayer and quiet time. Your faith must be the number one priority. By placing God first you are then able to have clarity in designing the rest of your priority list. The priority list for a Christian family looks like this. It starts with your personal relationship with Christ. Once that is in place then you can be the best spouse, father, son or daughter. This can be extremely difficult for military families due to the fact the military priority is of such importance. As Service members we take a vow to Serve Country over Self.  In God’s perfect design, we serve Him, place Him first, then we can properly align everything else.  It can be challenging to reverse at first, however if we will do that we will be amazed at how God enables us to serve all areas in a much more graceful capacity.  If we put God first, we can handle the duties and responsibilities and not become as overwhelmed.  Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek ye FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and ALL these things shall be added to you.” 

All these things, the Mission, Husband hood, Fatherhood, it all comes as overflow to placing God as the first and foremost thing in our lives. Placing God first shows that we are fully independent of ourselves or others and fully dependent on Him.  We are saying that we acknowledge the tasks we have on a daily basis are too much for us and we need Him as our help.  Lastly, it is a great encouragement to us in knowing we don’t have to do it alone, because He is our help.

As a Chaplain, I cannot properly be the encourager to our Airmen, support to that family in need, shepherd to our congregation, and be the husband and father my family deserves without God as my source of help.


What you feed grows, what you starve dies


If you are like me you have somewhat of a commute to and from work, I recommend you make the most of it. I learned a long time ago that what you feed grows and what you starve dies.  You need to feed yourself positive things and your commute time is a great way to do that.  I find that listening to sermons of something that uplifts me, de-stresses, me and gives me that chance to unwind before I walk in the door.  I find that if I do that I am more apt to greet my family after a long and arduous day with a joy and intentionality.  Additionally, it is so important to make time for physical activity.  I find that my time in the gym de-stresses me and enables me to give my family the quality time they deserve.


Set Goals


Another key to a healthy work-life balance is to set goals and have a plan to reach them. One of the most powerful driving forces I notice in corresponding with men and women of the Armed Forces is the power of reaching a goal. I am a firm believer in setting goals you know you can obtain and setting goals that will take time, energy, and patience to meet. Goal setting should be done both in the home with your wife, and at work. Write them down, keep them visible, and check them off as they are met. In my experience working with military families I notice a tremendous difference in positive communication when a family has clear goals that they are in agreement on reaching. Goals require sacrifice and sacrifice requires communication.

Obviously there are many areas that lead to a healthy work-life balance. These areas I discussed today are the top areas I typically see as a Chaplain and counselor to military families that get neglected. Once a family incorporates these elements into their life they normally see immediate and positive results. These may not be groundbreaking keys to success but often times we overlook the simple staples of life. Ensure your priorities are aligned, create some healthy outlets, and set some goals at home and at work. If you do, I have reason to believe God will honor each!

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