Balancing the Work/Home-Life Scale

BY LT. JAY McMURTREY, SC, USN, RESERVE INSTRUCTOR
NAVY SUPPLY CORPS SCHOOL

When you break down what makes the most successful officers, some thing that you would never know without personal familiarity, is they are successful in their lives at home with their families. All that you can see from their biographies are grand lists of accomplishments that make you wonder how you would have time to fit all of that into one career.

Lt. Jay McMurtrey

As we progress and hit our milestones as Supply Corps officers, we incrementally get a wider vantage point on what it takes to be successful. What defines success is different for each and every one of us, and it can be trying at times to build oneself into the picturesque officer that many of us strive for. Those who have been around awhile understand that this pursuit can come at a cost to your life outside the Navy. Unfortunately, there is no “one–size-fits-all” approach and I am continually balancing the scale after sixteen years in the Navy.

Going from enlisted to officer, and then from single to married, then divorced to re-married, each experience increased my level of responsibility to my job and family. My wife is familiar with the Navy’s fitness report that we all receive at least once a year and doesn’t hesitate to let me know when I need to refocus my attention toward my “in-home” evaluations. The biggest thing that helps balance my work and home life is the effective scheduling of time. Some of my favorite motivational speakers preach on this point as having the biggest impact in their quests to achieving success. Waking up early in the morning is an approach I have adopted. My day begins early. The house is silent from the hours of 0300-0500 and I use this time to study and get some extra work in. This allows me to focus on my family when I get home from work and not stress out my wife (who actually enjoys my company, if you can believe that). For those who have children who wake them up at all hours of the night, my early approach may not be as feasible. However, finding that crease in your schedule where you can focus on your work and education may make the difference as it does for me. Additionally, I like to prepare my lunch at home and eat at my desk during our lunch breaks. Those minutes add up and are all things I consider when trying to balance my work/home-life schedule. A modified quote from Eric Thomas that resonates with me is “…we only have twenty-four hours in a day. The only difference between success and the person who is broke is that a successful person uses their twenty-four hours wisely. I can tell you where you are going to be in 20 years if I can take a look at your schedule.”

Even though I believe myself to be one of excellent time management, I too fall into the category of having commitments that tip the scales in favor of work. Pursuing my education is a high priority, both professionally and personally, but it can be a huge detractor from spending time at home. Having family members that support and understand these commitments are essential among school, volunteering, and deployments. Those open lines of communication have made a huge difference in my overall success on the homefront.

When I volunteer, I try to make it a family affair. I have a passion for giving back to my community and it’s something that I can share with my wife. Volunteering allows me to accomplish multiple things simultaneously while balancing the work/home-life scale on the homefront.

Lt. McMurtrey and his wife.

Deployments are a part of our lives as Sailors; and as leaders, they give us the opportunity to flex our metal as supply officers. Deployments are professionally challenging, yet rewarding. However, they can also be the most stressful time for our families who carry on without us. During my deployments, I wasn’t always the best at communicating with my family. This, among other things, contributed to problems in my personal life. I was newly married for my first deployment, and the in-port schedule was taxing. When combined with deploying, trying to balance too many tertiary things (such as home remodeling and attending school) proved to be too much to endure.

Anyone who struggles to find balance in their work/home-life can face the ultimate threat on the home front – divorce. I am not one that escaped that threat. I was taught that in every battle there is a victory. In hindsight, divorce ultimately was best for me. It opened an opportunity for the right person to enter my life, added to my depth of experience, and allowed me to empathize with my Sailors who may be going through a similar experience.

My approach in accomplishing a healthy work/home-life is cautiously simple. Understanding work commitments, both in the near- and long-term, while openly communicating them with my family, has served me well. I couldn’t do what I do without my wife’s support. She helps me find the correct balance for life and maintains a healthy relationship between my home and Navy family.

May/June 2017