Keeping family, civilian employment and military obligations is a tough balancing act.

Keeping family, civilian employment and military obligations is a tough balancing act.

Most of us work a regular 8-5, 40+ hour a week job for our civilian employer. If your job is like mine is that 40+ quickly turns into 50+ at the blink of an eye. While that can be stressful, in itself, throw into the mix family obligations, school, and reserve duty and you’ve got some plate spinning going on.

Spinning plates are the best analogy for how I make it work. To spin a plate the performer gets it going quick enough on the stick to keep it self-sustaining for a bit and walks to another. Reservists have to do much the same thing with all of our personal responsibilities. To do that it takes planning, organization and understanding from our support network (family, employers, friends).

While I am far from perfect (yeah, I’ve had some plates wobble or slip) this is the best way I’ve learned to keep everything in balance:

  • Develop a method to keep yourself organized and up date
    I am a MAJOR advocate of smartphones/PDAs.  My feeble brain is only able to hold so much, but by keeping my dates synchronized with my work computer I keep everyone in the loop.  My friends and family refer to my PDA phone as “my brain” which is quite accurate.  So some might ask, about what happens if I lost the phone.  Sure I’d be annoyed, but I’m very careful to sync every day and backup once a week.  So its just a matter of getting a replacement and rolling on at that point.
  • Involve your support network in the experience
    This is more important than most people realize.  Letting family know when you will be gone and when you expect to return seems like common sense, but the rest of your support network should know too.  That doesn’t mean you violate OPSEC regulations and share a bunch of details just give the pertinent info.  And here is a good tip, when you travel, take a camera and when you return share those photos and the experiences with your family and co-workers.  They not only get to see what you do, but how you’re able to support the nation because of their support.  It helps ease tensions from creeping up from your absence from work when others can see why.  It might sound silly but everyone wants to be on a winning team and feel like through their support of you, they’re making a contribution.

  • Don’t take things for granted
    Just because you are a reservist, doesn’t mean you are above the law or get a free pass. Its important to be gracious to your support network and let them know how much you appreciate their support in letting you continue to do what you do. And when you mess up, (cause it can happen from time to time) be magnanimous about it and own up to it.  Find solutions to the problems instead of perpetuating them.
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