Military Spouses Should do Things a Little Differently
Military spouses are a very diverse group of people and we should consciously choose to be kind and inclusive towards each other. Through positive efforts, we can create a sense of unity across our military family community. This starts by deliberately making all military spouses feel included.
Let’s leave our differences aside and focus on what we share in common—the military spouse experience—to help unite us. Let’s look out for each other and advocate to the fullest on each other’s behalf. Let’s celebrate our uniqueness, which helps add the perfect piece to the larger military spouse quilt. Let’s depend on each other like there is no tomorrow. When we are together, we are stronger.
What military spouses have in common is that they love someone in uniform, but otherwise, we come from a wide range of backgrounds, birth-places (including foreign-born), and political opinions. Our nation’s 640,000+ military spouses include men, as well as women. Some military spouses are focused on raising families, others on pursuing education or careers. Some are trying to do all three. Some prefer to stay in their bubble, others are social butterflies. Some like to get out there and advocate for military spouses as a group, others like to mentor one another in private.
Despite this broad diversity, a lot of people attempt to throw military spouses into one box (or perhaps into the junk drawer we all have somewhere in our homes) and just call us “dependents.” This word has been the object of many heated discussions and many military spouses do not like to be called that.
It’s about time we put a positive spin to that word. Yes, we are dependents. Not because of the boxes they want to put us into, but because we, military spouses, depend on each other. We depend on each other to keep our sanity during deployments; we depend on each other to deal with the hardships of the military life; we depend each other to advocate on our behalf for what is just. We simply depend on each other on everything relating to the military aspect of our lives. This is because nobody else can understand the demands that this crazy life places on families, except for another fellow military spouse who went through a similar experience.
You can depend on your fellow military spouse to keep your sanity during deployments when everything could go wrong does go wrong. Maybe this sounds familiar: your spouse is deployed for the entire year. You desperately watch the news to see if they mention his or her location. You are trying your hardest to keep it all together and your kids start acting out and ask you questions that you are nowhere near prepared to answer “Mommy, we have no guarantee that Daddy will come home safely, right?” Your supervisor has no heart and no clue what you are going through during a deployment and only makes life harder on you; your co-worker knocks on your office door just to tell you that yet another American was killed in the country that your spouse is in. Your house falls apart and your car stops working; your distant relatives are concerned about your spouse and keep asking you if he is going to be okay; your civilian friend tells you she understands what you are going through because her husband is out on a business trip for the weekend. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
In this mess of the deployment, only a military spouse would understand what you are going through. You can depend on a military spouse to lend a shoulder to cry on.
But we can only truly depend on each other when we feel included among other military spouses and feel like we are part of the bigger team. Let’s join forces and be the best military spouses we can be. Let’s treat each and every military spouse as one of our own and not make even a single military spouse feel like an outsider. Let’s not let anything divide us. Our husbands’ ranks do not matter. Whether we work outside the home, are studying for a degree, or take care of our families at home, we all share a common position as military spouses. Our different heritages, our different religions, our places of birth (and many of us are foreign-born) are best mentioned when we are celebrating each other and our diversity.
I am a proud military spouse of almost two decades, and a mom to my two military kids who have lived through too many years away from their father. I am also a foreign-born naturalized citizen and a fierce patriot. Most of my experiences with other military spouses have been extraordinarily supportive, especially when I most needed the help. But a few times I did I feel like I was on the outside of our military spouse community, an experience that can be quickly remedied if everyone remembered what we hold in common—we are the patriot military spouses married to a service member who proudly serves this wonderful country.
So this year, let’s go out of our way to make each other feel welcome. When we are together, we are stronger. Leave no military spouse behind!
Have you ever felt like an outsider when you are with your fellow military spouses? How do you think that we can be more inclusive of each other and make all military spouses feeI welcome?
Posted by Ozlem Barnard, military spouse, attorney, and NMFA Volunteer