Dear Career --
After much consideration, I've just accepted a position that means living 3.5 hours away from my supportive [service member] husband. We have a seven-year-old daughter.
At this point, it looks like we'll be separated for three years. I'd love some tips and tricks you might have for managing this separation.
-- Geographic Bachelor in Georgia
Dear Geo --
First, congratulations on your new career opportunity. While I know you must be excited about what's coming for your career, I can see you're a bit apprehensive about the separation your family is about to experience.
Now to the tips:
Own your decision and practice your answer. This may seem like a very small thing, but I start here because I'm positive you'll be asked over and over about where your husband is and why or how you decided to become geographic bachelors. You may even be challenged by some folks who don't agree with your choice. I think it could be very important for you to be able to answer consistently and with a smile as to how important this decision was for everyone in the family. That consistency and confidence can help you on a day-to-day basis, and I truly believe it will help your daughter as well.
Prioritize family time. I'm the friendly career-cheerleader at every turn but, in this case, family time is supporting the career journey. The reality is dedicated family time will likely have a positive impact on your career as well because you'll be more likely to enjoy what you're doing and commit to the position longer-term. This family time could be the in-person time you spend together, but also any set times that you and your husband set aside to talk, for him to talk with your daughter on the phone or other distractions. Very important: No working during family time.
Consider an alternate work schedule. I don't know what industry you're working in, but if you haven't already, I'd recommend thinking through whether an alternate work schedule that allows you more travel might be possible -- especially in the summer. I realize, of course, that your daughter will have school but, if your position allows and your supervisors will approve, a compressed work week may allow you the opportunity to get on the road a bit earlier when you are making the trip to see your husband. In the summer, it may allow significantly more time as a family.
When my husband and I lived as geographic bachelors about the same distance apart as you're describing, I worked four nine-hour days and one eight-hour day, which allowed me every other Friday off. This meant on those alternate weekends I could leave town Thursday night rather than waiting until after work on Friday. Those additional days were key to us getting a little more time together.
Don't forget about your military connection. When living further from the duty station, it may be tempting to step away from all things military (other than your husband, of course). I would recommend that you find a way to stay involved, even with a lesser frequency. Keeping that connection open may not only help your daughter on your next PCS, but may also help you when you're ready to start networking for that next position. (You had to know I'd work networking and In Gear Career into the equation somehow)!
Best of luck! Career