Step back so another can step forward

I was raised in a very traditional household, and I expected that I’d continue the tradition.  I’d work all day at a full time job, and come home.  My wife would mind the house, and prepare the kids.  That’s how our parents were, our grandparents were, our great grandparents were, and so on.

My wife and I are both University educated.  She went to University after High School, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree.  Then she worked for 4 to 5 years before we met.  I joined the Marine Corps at 17 years old.  I got out at 21 as a disabled combat Veteran with a couple of years old drinking problem.  I eventually gave up smoking, and drinking before I graduated with my Bachelors degree.

That’s when I met my wife.  I met her in the Philippines when I was a US Department of State student intern at the US Embassy in Manila.  We dated for a year, and then got married.  Before we got married we shared an apartment, and she worked.  I got a job overseas on a contract with the Department of Defense.

That’s when things got awkward.  What do we do now?  My wife had a career, and she wanted to work.  She didn’t want to be a stay at home wife, and she wanted to be earn a living.  I was making 6 figures a year, and worked in a combat zone.  We got married while I was working in Iraq when I was on a vacation.  At that point we had to decide what would we do next.  Would I quit, and go to the Philippines?  Would we both quit, and we go to the US?

Before we had to make that decision, I was able to transfer to Oman, and she came with me.  I was in Iraq from 2007 until 2009.  I was in Oman from 2009 until 2011.  Then we transferred to Qatar from 2011 until 2014.  My wife and children were with me from time to time while I was in Oman, and Qatar.

I didn’t have to quit, but unluckily for her, she did.  She couldn’t hold a job in the Philippines, and be with me in the Middle East.  So we discussed that she’d take a short break until we figure things out.  That short hiatus turned into an 8 year break.  We moved from country to country, and traveled.  She couldn’t have held a job with all that moving, so we were becoming that traditional type of household I grew up knowing.

Then we decided to change things up.  In 2013, we started my wife’s immigration paperwork to move to the US.  In 2014, we dropped everything.  I quit, and we gave things away, sold things, and prepared for the biggest move of our lives.  We had a house, land, and other things in the Philippines that my in-laws are now taking care of.  We set our sights on the US, and came with nothing more than a few suitcases.

I went from making well into the 6 figure salary range every year, great company benefits, and the prestige of a technical job, to nothing.  We knew it would be hard, so we decided to live small.  We set up a budget, and a saved up.  We hit many ups and downs in our transition to the US.  We moved to place near my family.  A place with very little jobs, and the available jobs are mostly in the low paying service industry sector.

We took financial hits with medical expenses, dental expenses, home repairs, emergency vehicle repairs, buying appliances, etc.  I went from having a company car, company paid cell phone, company gas card, company paid apartment, great medical plan, no debt….  To nothing and to top it all off, I was back in some debt again.  Not much because we own our home, but it still hit us hard.  There have been other obstacles and struggles as well, too many to name.  It seemed that everything that could go wrong, could go wrong and obstacles stacked up, one after the other.

I went from turning down lucrative jobs around the globe while I was working to being over qualified for the jobs I applied for back at home.  Other jobs were entry level, and I wasn’t qualified for them because I had the wrong kind of work experience.  I must have applied to over a hundred jobs.  I’d get selected to interview sometimes, but I wouldn’t hear back from anyone with job offers. One job that did contact me back offered me a temporary summer position.  Things were looking bleak.

The whole time this is going on, my wife has been dealing with transitioning to the US, as well as other issues.  Things haven’t been easy for either of us.  She was turned down by the one job she applied for.  We realized that it would be better if she didn’t work because any money she made would go straight into daycare.  So she entered into a continuing education, job certification course at the local community college.

We are going against the grain because I’m going to become the house parent.  Maybe not a full time house parent, but the one who spends the most at home.  Which is hard, because I grew up believing that I needed to work, and to bring home the bacon.  I needed to be the main provider.  I needed to spend more time at work than with my family.  Now?  My wife would be working, and I’d be spending more time at home.

I eventually landed a part time job.  My wife was accepted into a months long course.  The part time job is on a Marine Corps base we live by.  I have a government job, and it’s great.  When my wife graduates, she’ll be working the job with longer hours.  I will continue to do what I do now.  I will take the kids to their practices, games, and recitals.  Private dance academy as well as local recreation league sports such as soccer, basketball, and softball.

This goes against everything that I’ve ever known.  But I look at my wife, and know that I need to take a step back so she can take a step forward.  She has a degree, and had a career.  When we got married, she gave it all up to follow me.  Now that I did things in the past to keep us afloat in the future, I have a part time job, and have a VA pension coming in?  I can let her do what she wants to do the most.  She can pursue a career.

At first we didn’t think it would work, but the more we talked about it the more we liked it.  I can work part time, and be there for the kids before school, and after school.  Remember, I was away for months at a time when I was in Iraq, Oman, and Qatar.  I love being there for them now.  My wife is still for them now, but she can be out of the house now while they are in school.  I don’t blame her, I’ve sat home alone a few times.  It’s not fun.  Now that the kids are all school aged, she won’t have to sit around the house with nothing to do.  The break I talked her into taking can now be over.

Most people wouldn’t understand the husband stepping back so the wife could step forward.  We could step together, but it would affect the kids.  We can’t both be out of the home and let our children do the activities that will help them develop.  Their future is very important to us, and so are my wife’s feelings.

I still feel weird about it.  I feel even weirder having to explain it to others.  I usually have to explain the back story of my time working in the Middle East, how we paid everything off, and I have a pension coming in while I work part time so it’s not like I’m being a bum.  To also tell them that we’re focused on our kids well being, and development by letting them participate in extra curricular activities, and my wife is pursuing her goals.

I’ve been asked many times why we live small, and why am I not going to work full time.  It gets frustrating.  People have told us that we are crazy.  We are going about it the wrong way.  That we need to focus on us both having full time jobs.  The kids will be alright with after school care.  I tell them that we’re in the position to do what we want now.  I’m going to put my wife, and kids first.

It also helps that I  can tell people now that I’m an Author of six books and I’m working on my seventh.  That I’m also working on setting up a studio in the house so I can make podcasts, youtube videos, and other online media.  That’s another benefit of our decision.  I have free time now to work on other endeavors that I only dreamed about in the past.  I’ve always dreamed of originating media and original content, and now I’m doing it.  My wife always dreamed of having a career, and now she is working at it.

We are no where near the level that we used to be when I had a huge salary.  We’re still struggling, and getting through each day, day by day.  We still have lows, but we have highs as well.  Things are changing.  Because we stuck it out through all of the hardships, my wife is now a Certified Nursing Assistant II at a hospital.

Pursuing your dreams isn’t easy.  It’s a lot of work.  It may not be fun getting to your end goal.  People may not understand it, and they may ridicule you.  But when you accomplish that goal?  Nothing compares to that feeling.  I already accomplished my dream of creating original media content.  Now it’s my wife’s turn while I continue my pursuits.  We’re going against the grain.  We started from scratch in a new country with barely anything in our bags.  We’ve fought through the low points, and persevered during the struggles.

When no one else believed in what we were doing, we kept at it.  Things are almost at that point when it all pays off.  Almost, as long as we keep working at it.  Yes I’ll be the more stay at home parent out of both of us, and make less than my wife at our actual jobs.  But that doesn’t matter to me.  I’m putting my wife first so she can pursue her dream, and I’m putting my kids first with her so they can be the best ballet dancers or athletes they can be.  It’s not all about me.  I don’t have to short change them by being the only one with goals and aspirations.  I found my happiness, and I love helping them find theirs.

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