On the Friday before Mother’s Day, the nation pays special thanks to the spouses who serve and sacrifice alongside their service member spouses. There is no question that these women and men are essential to our military’s unrivaled strength. Each day at RP/6, we are fortunate to learn from military spouses who have taken the challenges of military life by the horns and created success and opportunity where many others could not.
To all of you amazing military spouses, thank you for all that you do! To celebrate your relentless perseverance, we’ve listed below just five of the countless qualities that make you fit for super hero status.
1. Military spouses are ever-optimists, and experts at adaptability.
Depending on a service member’s branch and occupation, military families move an average of every two to three years, or at least three times more often than civilian families. On top of the stress and logistics of repeatedly pulling up and replanting roots, military destinations are rarely finalists on the list of best places to live in the U.S.
When it comes time to PCS, military spouses don’t skip a beat. They take it all in stride and make their new homes on the home front. Orders to move from Fort Drum, New York, to Fort Hood, Texas? No biggie. Time to trade in that snow blower for some good beat-the-heat gear.
And, amongst it all, spouses don’t just make these destinations their home – they make them a home worth grieving over when it’s inevitably time to pack up and move again. For example, the largest Marine Corps base is located in Twentynine Palms, California, and is famous for its remote desert location. What it’s also famous for, however, is the amazing community that makes 29 Palms famous for people who “cry when they get there, and cry when they leave.”
2. Military spouses are trailblazers and transformers.
With the frequent moves and high demands of the military lifestyle, the odds are stacked against a career-minded military spouse. A Military Spouse Employment Report published in 2014 found that a whopping 90 percent of female military spouses are underemployed, meaning that they have more education or experience than necessary for their current position. The unemployment rate for female military spouses ages 18-24 was 30 percent in 2012 (nearly three times higher than their civilian counterparts), and the unemployment rate for 25-44 year old female military spouses was 15 percent (again, nearly three times higher than civilians of the same age). In addition to being unemployed and underemployed, military spouses often find themselves in career fields they had never imagined.
No bother for MilSpouses, though, as they are transformers, chameleons, and masters at reinvention. Not only are military spouses across the world defying traditional notions of employment, but they are also helping other military spouses do the same. For years, military spouses have been on the cutting edge of remote work opportunities, often referred to as telework, encouraging employers to consider remote work opportunities to ease the burden of frequently moving. Research by Globalworkplaceanalytics.com has found that the military community has the largest proportion of telecommuting employees, and that same study found that the telework trend has increased 102 percent in less than 10 years across the nation.
In addition to paving the way for more accessible work opportunities across the nation, military spouse businesses, such as All Fired Up Candle Company and R. Riveter, create career opportunities for other military spouses.
There is also an overwhelmingly amazing professional support network among military spouses. Communities exist online and locally near installations, including general employment resources such as the National Military Spouse Network and the Milspo Project, to groups that focus on specific careers, such as Military Spouse Behavioral Health Clinicians and the Military Spouse JD Network (just to name a few!). These networks break down barriers for military spouse professionals, facilitate connections in new duty stations, provide all kinds of professional resources, and keep each other motivated during the job hunt.
3. Military spouses are communication gurus.
While a permanent change of station allows the service member to bring his or her family along, circumstances may require that the family to stay behind and lead the never-coveted geo-bachelor life. In addition, deployments, unaccompanied tours, and temporary duty assignments do not provide opportunity for families to travel with their service member. Alas, military couples often find themselves in long distance relationships.
Military spouses are armed and ready. They’ve got Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, and FaceTime accounts galore. They prep for awkward situations that time changes and communication constraints create by apologizing in advance to bosses, coworkers, and friendly company. “Sorry! I may have to take a Skype call at some point because it’s the end of the workday in [insert location] and [insert service member’s name] might actually have WiFi soon!” They’ve got their go-to mantra to maintain sanity when that WiFi inevitably ceases function. They’ve got their method of remembering the silly little parts of their day to sprinkle into conversation when sharing schedules, bills, to-do’s, and I-miss-you’s gets to be too much. And, most importantly, they’ve got that time-bending mentality and means of persuasion to convince themselves, and their service member, that the end is near, and they will be together again before they know it.
4. Military spouses are super parents.
These periods of unwilling long distance can also lead to the paradoxical situation in which military spouses are both happily married and single parents all at once. MilSpouse moms and dads don their capes, mask the struggle, and ensure that their children have what they need to bear the burden of an absent parent. They juggle the demands of daily life to maintain their child’s pre-deployment routine as much as possible. During deployments, they share as much age-appropriate information as possible about their spouse’s time away from home, understand their child’s fears or uncertainties, and ensure that healthy outlets exist for them. They get creative with ways for their child to connect with their traveling parent (thanks to generous spouses, Pinterest is chock-full of awesome ideas). In other words, they do everything short of inventing the human teleporter to ensure that their families thrive.
5. Military spouses are selfless supporters.
There’s no debate that military spouses are silent heroes who sacrifice the comfort and stability of a more traditional marriage with their service member spouses. Not only do spouses support their service member during mission, deployment, reset, and transition, but they also support each other. The spouse community is filled with family helpers, emotional supporters, career coaches, and all-around military life mentors. With their overwhelmingly full plates, military spouses find time at the drop of a hat to lend a hand to a fellow spouse. No questions asked. No recognition necessary.
Together, military spouses help each other find family away from home, defy the professional odds, fill the void that absent partners leave, stay informed about their military lives, and have a darn good time together in the process.
For these qualities, and the countless others, thank you, military spouses, for your selfless service.