Finding a healthy work-life balance is no small feat for any working parent, especially for those with a career in the military.
Army Reserve Lt. Colonel Lisa Jaster candidly shared her experience navigating that difficult journey, in a conversation at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference.
“There’s no such thing as work and life, it is a continuum,” said Jaster, who in 2015, at 37 years old, notably became the third woman, and first female reserve soldier to graduate from the Army’s ranger school.
After graduating from West Point and serving seven years on active duty, with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jaster left the Army to work in the corporate world, including as a senior project engineer with Shell Oil. It would not be long, however, before she again answered the call to serve.
In 2012, Jaster joined the Army Reserve after a 5-year hiatus from service, working in the Army Corps of Engineers among other roles. The trailblazing soldier is also a recipient of two Bronze Star medals and the Meritorious Service Medal.
During her conversation, Jaster shared three overarching pieces of advice that guide her understanding of work life integration: understanding one’s priorities, becoming comfortable letting go of things and building up one’s team. In particular, she cites her husband, Marine Corps Col. Allan Jaster, and her kids, as being a part of her support network.
“Balancing the citizen (employee, mom, wife, sister, daughter, and individual) with the soldier is very complicated,” Jaster said in 2019. “I used to try to silo both aspects of who I am but found that so much bleeds over from one job to the other that I need to be fluid with those lines.
“What that means,” she continued. “Is that Army conference calls can happen during cheer practice, and I might need to review proposals for work while I am in the field with the Army. It means being open and honest with my spouse, my military boss, and my civilian supervisor about what I can handle and what might be coming up. Having a strong support team with regards to extended family, friends and hired help is critical to ensure nothing at home drops.”
Despite wearing so many hats, or perhaps because of it, Jaster still has no intention of slowing down. In January, she is releasing her first book, “Delete the Adjective.” It follows her impressive life experiences and her ongoing message to not limit oneself by labels like “middle-aged” or “female.”
By talking more about work-life support in the Army, Jaster shared, over time it will become easier to bring more people into the fold.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media