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How to PCS Without Taking a Break From Work

by Rebecca Alwine - July 16th, 2022

How to PCS Without Taking a Break From Work

Do military spouses get a work break during a PCS move?

Each spring we see military spouses rally to pack boxes, clean houses, drive across the country, and start over. Frequently, we see friends put in their two weeks notice and pretend not to worry about finding a job on the other side. We see those with their own businesses close up shop and focus on the move. Sometimes they start again and sometimes they don’t.

We often hear those who work remotely say something like, “I took about six weeks off for our last move, so I could get everything settled.” Well, that's not sustainable!

This year, I moved twice in seven months. We have just hit the 3-month mark at our current duty station, with a (very) slim chance of moving again in 3 months. I work remotely, and 75% of my work is freelance. Which means if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. So, taking six weeks off for each move would have allowed me to work just 9 of the last 12 months. You can see how well that would have gone over.

Here’s what I did do in an attempt to keep the balance while moving.

Reduce your work hours

It's hard to maintain a career as a military spouse. Luckily, we had enough notice for both moves for me to work slower months into our budget. I knew that maintaining all of my hours was not going to be a good idea (especially with a baby who was still not sleeping all night). I wanted to be able to enjoy some downtime and being on the road all day would not make me want to sit at night and work. So I worked ahead on deadlines I knew were coming, and I cut back on a few projects, things I could quickly pick back up when we settled.

Work unconventionally during a PCS move

I kind of always work unconventionally, and I’m sure you do too. Sometimes I woke early to work, sneaking out of the hotel room while everyone else slept so I could get an hour in before breakfast. Or sitting by the pool while the kids played. Or at the playground. Other times I worked late, or on the weekends, or put on a movie for the kids to watch. It’s not ideal, but it’s necessary.

Read more here about PCS-friendly careers for military spouses!

Take advantage of the service member's time off

Both of our last two moves had us “camping” in our house for about a week before our things came. And both of those times my spouse was on permissive TDY. So, I’d go to a coffee shop and work, or I’d go into the bedroom on a beach chair and work. It was beneficial to have the extra support of a spouse that was home and not working for a few days.

Communicate with clients

Of course, the only responsible thing to do is communicate with coworkers, bosses, and clients in advance. I do this as much as possible as it allows for schedule juggling and managed expectations. While not all of my clients are military related, they certainly could understand the stressors of moving. While some things still popped up and were last minute, they were so few that I could usually handle them.

Sometimes, say no

Saying no is the hardest part of anything! But sometimes, it’s just not a good fit. A pending move or being in the middle of the move is a great reason to say no. Let me reiterate that you don’t need to justify your no to anyone, but if you want to, you can say something like, “I’m not taking on any new projects right now as I’m relocating, but I’d love to stay in touch!” This is something I would start about a month before the move and then stop doing a few weeks after.

But one thing is sure, throughout the past two moves, my business has grown. I’ve seen more opportunities come in than I can handle. And, more importantly, my consistency and reliability have never once been questioned. I’ve had clients specifically tell me that they admire and appreciate how they can assign a project and not ever worry that it will be done on time.

So while I understand taking a break from working (and certainly do feel some envy that I can’t), I want you to know that you don’t have to. You can continue working through the packers, in the hotel rooms, and as soon as your desk is assembled. I mean, if we can withstand all the other things the military throws at us, surely we can handle this.

Rebecca Alwine

Rebecca Alwine is an Army wife, mother of three and lover of her adorable pirate dog. Over the past 15 years, she’s discovered she enjoys coffee, lifting weights and most of the menial tasks of motherhood. Her days consist of working out in her garage gym, audiobooks and pretending to cook while her Instant Pot and Air Fryer do all the work. Her motto: work smarter, not harder.