Geographic bachelor-ing (or “geo-baching”) is an unofficial slang term used when, for whatever reason, a military family chooses to have their family or spouse live in a different location from the service member.
Commonly, in these scenarios, a military spouse is enrolled in school or has a successful enough career they don’t want to lose, and this commitment takes them away from the base their serving spouse is assigned to. For these reasons, I know a few Air Force wives who don’t live in Altus –and more power to them for making it work.
It isn’t an easy decision, or an ideal situation, but for some – living apart is the best option.
Military Spouses Relocate Frequently
Like many others, I chose to accompany my husband when he received PCS orders to Altus AFB, OK, and I even gave up my last job to do so. It was a job that few people resign from, but I thought “I’ve already spent enough time apart from my husband.”
If we are being realistic though, you have to understand that moving is not the next step for everyone. Sometimes it’s better to stay put for the right opportunity, regardless of where the military wants to PCS your spouse. Sometimes it makes more sense to geo-bach.
Recently, I prepared to join the geographic bachelorette club. I was offered a great job in Colorado Springs, and accepted the position. Sadly, my job offer was contingent on a Department of Defense contract that was not awarded –but for several weeks my husband and I were ready to live apart for 6 months to a year.
It shouldn’t have to be that way, but it is.
Countless companies talk about how they’re a military friendly employer, or how they ‘so proudly’ hire military spouses. When you browse their career websites though, you see that they focus on either retail sales representative type jobs, part-time jobs that don’t include benefits, or jobs that require the military spouse to live in a specific location.
A few key points here:
These are not the jobs we are looking for.
These are not the jobs we are qualified for.
These jobs are not truly helping to improve the military spouse unemployment rate.
These jobs actually perpetuate the underemployment rate.
There are too many people out there with the misguided impression that military spouses should happily seek out and accept low-paying, temporary, part-time, odd jobs, in whatever duty location the military assigns their service member. They fail to take into account the fact that military spouses are physicians, pharmacists, registered nurses, education administrators, teachers, accountants, and lawyers. Many military spouses have invested time and money to further their education, just like their peers who are not affiliated with the military.
Our careers are not disposable because of who we married. Military spouses with professional backgrounds just want to put their skills to good use, and should be able to, with proper compensation. These military spouses are passionate about what they do. Military spouses with valuable work experience and education just want to contribute in the way they have been formally trained and educated. So why do companies seem to give us their leftovers?
Stop expecting military spouses to be satisfied with these mediocre ‘courtesy’ job offerings from companies who continue to poke and prod at employment gaps in our résumé, and all the places we’ve lived. “You’ve worked all over the country.” Gosh, I’m sorry. Is that a bad thing?
Recently I had a recruiter laugh at the freelance work I do, since I can’t find anything else worthwhile given my skills and experience. He giggled and said “So, currently you… just post stuff on social media?” Thanks, buddy. Clearly, you don’t understand my social media job pays more than anything else I can find in this town, so… *shrug* #underemployment
My message to these types of employers and recruiters is simple:
Stop minimizing our value to your organization.
Military spouses are constantly expected to make the best out of not-so-great living and family situations. I’d say that makes us extra creative in developing solutions. I’d say that makes us even more resilient as well.
(of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. Synonyms: strong, tough, hardy.
Military Spouses Are Resilient!
Now, I may have a bias here, but wouldn’t you want a resilient employee? Wouldn’t you want a copywriter or graphic designer who can come up with creative concepts? Wouldn’t you want an engineer who can adapt and overcome challenges, and solve problems independently? Don’t you want a new hire who has proven time and time again throughout the course of their servicemembers career, that they can bounce back strong, and finish the job? We are dedicated, capable, and dependable professionals who truly understand what it means to serve.
Newsflash to employers: You need us.
Sadly, military spouses who actively seek employment still have to jump over hurdles just to get an interim job. Something to help pay the bills. Something unrelated to their true professional identity.
It seems that some interviewers who can’t find résumé based evidence that you’re married to someone in the military will ask that question, and then more often than not, they’ll casually eliminate ‘milspouses’ from the hiring pool, citing a high turnover rate or something. Even if we check the military spouse preference box for a NAF job, based on my experience and the feedback of many others, the odds of hearing anything are slim to none. It’s almost like we are a disease.
Truth is, we are an asset to your team, whether you recognize it or not. If you want diversity in the workplace, hire a military spouse.
Meanwhile, others often say pseudo-supportive things to those of us who previously had good jobs. These well intentioned, but mind-numbingly unhelpful statements sound like “You’ll have more time to volunteer!” and “You can focus on your hobbies!” If I had a hobby here that paid me $70,000+ a year with full benefits, 401K employer matching, paid holidays, 80 hours of sick leave a year, and paid vacation time, then you bet I’d be focusing on that… In the meantime though I think I’ll work some random job that recruiters can laugh at me for later. Sounds fun.
Let’s rinse and repeat this scenario every 2-3 years.
Military spouse employment and underemployment is a serious problem that is already hurting this country economically, and will continue to be a deciding factor in whether military servicemembers opt to stay in or not.
We have to continue talking about these issues.
We have to stand up for ourselves.
We can do better.
I’ll end this post with some ‘MilSpouse’ facts.
Military spouses enjoy higher than average education levels, yet earn only about 50% of their civilian counterparts.
The cost to military families is significant because they cannot reliably depend on a second income, nor expect the spouse to earn what they would in civilian life.
Military spouse unemployment represents a largely underutilized talent pool with tremendous potential for our economy.
Military spouses with degrees face the greatest challenges in nearly every measurable employment category. They face the highest rates of unemployment and the most difficulty finding meaningful work.
Like most American families, military families want and need two incomes – something that is much harder for military families to achieve.
The lack of employment opportunities creates stress and influences a family’s decision to stay in, or leave the military – factors that ultimately hurt military readiness, retention, and recruiting.
Now some questions for you:
Are you a military spouse?
Would you ever consider geo-baching?
Do you know any military spouses who currently geo-bach?
Have you ever been asked ‘that question’ in a job interview?
(‘That question’ refers to the surprisingly direct and unusual question that I, and many of my friends have been asked during job interviews – “Is your husband/wife in the military?” “Are you a military spouse?”)
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