More Than A Spouse: Breaking Barriers and Building Strong Foundations


Army spouse Tonia Rivers found her calling in a field that employs more men than women—the construction industry. She busted down doors and earned certifications that made her invaluable, and now she is giving back with her charitable organization, Mothers in Construction.

For military spouses eager to learn more about the construction industry and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers, Tonia shares her journey with us so others can succeed, too!

Unconventional Careers, Life Changing Results

Don’t be afraid to say out loud what you want to pursue. Putting it out there in the universe could bring clarity.

“Being a stay-at-home mom for me was not the best choice for my mental health or financial stability for my family,” shared Tonia. “I had to cut my path in a field heavily populated by men.”

While military spouse unemployment rates have hovered near 22% for decades, pursuing an unconventional career field was another barrier, Tonia knew she would have to overcome.

“Many rules and regulations amplify employment and higher education challenges for military spouses, especially military-mandated moves that take us outside the United States.”

While Tonia attained her architecture degree before an overseas move, it took research and a courageous heart to decide how to balance the needs of her military family and her career desires. She landed on starting her own consulting business and building a pretty amazing portfolio of projects—including the 2019 restoration project of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC, when employed by a local construction firm.

“The construction industry has afforded me the ability to work on pretty amazing, once-in-a-lifetime projects that I am so proud of, and there is no feeling like riding past previous projects and having my children remind me that I worked on that building,” Tonia recalls. “It creates a sense of pride that is invaluable.”

Be Fearless and Know Your Worth

Military spouses are active contributors to their families and communities. Usually, they provide essential, unpaid support as invaluable volunteers and subject matter experts that they pour time and effort into attaining. We hear these stories every day, and Tonia knows them all too well.

“My advice is to know your worth, evaluate your abilities, and push to get the position you want,” shared Tonia. “You know what you can do. You’re making big moves daily, managing your households to support your spouse and family. Use those same qualities and abilities in your careers.”

With our More Than A Spouse campaign, we want military spouses to pursue their dreams and succeed like Tonia. From military spouse scholarships to our Facebook Professional Networking pages, we will continue to elevate the voices of spouses with the help of our supporters.

Support in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Careers

NMFA’s one-of-a-kind support and programming are impactful because of our invaluable partners, like Lockheed Martin, which actively supports military spouses and connects them with resources and tools in STEM careers.

“The construction industry is everywhere, so I have endless possibilities, and I want to encourage more spouses to think about this field,” said Tonia. “It’s an open lane with many diverse opportunities.”

Whether you’re looking at a STEM career or looking for support and advice on your military employment journey, stay connected with us. We will continue to share the stories of military spouses and the pursuit of their dreams, financial security, and quality of life so that we live in a world where military families are thriving.

Share your ‘More Than A Spouse’ story with us. We want to hear it!

By: Angela Sablan Tenorio, Content Manager