The United States military has been engrained in my life since day one. My father was in the Marine Corps for the first sixteen years of my life, we lived in a town that was home to Parris Island, the east coast’s Marine Corps Recruit Depot. Everywhere you looked there were either current military members or veterans within seeing distance. I wouldn’t even know how to function in a place where the military lifestyle wasn’t constantly present.
Being a military child was very hard on me. With my parents divorcing when I was 4, and my dad’s deployments of six months or more at a time, I wasn’t able to form a close relationship with him until after he retired. My mother remarried another Marine and we ended up moving a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much aware of the life experiences I had getting to live in all different areas of the country. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. However being only 8 years old at the time it wasn’t easy having to move around while also knowing my dad was deployed somewhere else.
So I never imagined myself marrying someone in the military. I swore to myself I never would. I didn’t want the stress of a deployed husband and I didn’t want my future kids to have to miss out on forming a relationship with their father. But you know, things happen and it just so happens that the man I decided to marry had the military on his mind.
Never say never, folks. It doesn’t work like that.
Being a military wife, a lot of people have preconceived notions about you thanks to television (thanks Army Wives) and the rumor mill running around. Sure, there will be some that fit the bill there, but the rude, self-entitled people can be found anywhere, not just in the Milspo community. You’ll have those who think you married just for the BAH, or those who think you cheat every time your husband is deployed or on field missions. You’ll have the people who assume you think you’re better because you’re a military wife. People will judge you, possibly even more harshly than in the civilian world, for whether you decide to work, go to school, or stay at home. You will be called a “Dependa” for everything from asking if a coffee shop has a military discount to wearing a military tshirt to the vanity plate on the front of your car.
Know this and accept it. But do not humor the rumors and the assumptions. Stay true to who you are. Don’t feel obligated to go to spouses’ get-togethers if you aren’t feeling them. If there’s a neighbor that you can’t stand, don’t feel like you have to be friends just because you both have the “military wife” thing in common.
Most importantly, don’t fall into the trap of being that military wife. It’s an unfortunate thing that I have already experienced from numerous people. No matter what your personal situation is, remember that you never know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Don’t report someone’s yard because they have a few weeds in their flower bed. Don’t get bitchy about how the wife up the street only wears sweatpants and tank tops with holes. And please don’t wear your spouse’s rank as if it is your own. They are the service members, not you. And respect is earned, not demanded.
There are some pretty sweet perks of this life, too though. For one, you can meet people from all over the country right in your neighborhood, especially if you live on base. If you want to find a community of people who share your interests, it just takes one post to a spouses’ Facebook group and you’ve got a ton of people looking for friends just like you. There’s also plenty of businesses that have special discounts or military appreciation days that you and your family can take advantage of.
Maybe you’re someone who gets an immeasurable amount of fulfillment from supporting your service member spouse. That’s great! Maybe you’re like me, and while you’re supportive, you also have to have something to do for yourself in order to feel fulfilled. That’s great too! No matter what anyone else tells you that your “duty” is, remember that they will never know you better than you know yourself. You are not obligated to live up to anyone else’s outrageous standards just because your spouse is in the military. You do “you”.
That’s about all I’ve got at this point for Wise(ish) Military Wife Knowledge. Just remember that just because the military is a big part of your life, that doesn’t mean it has to define you. You’re still a unique and multifaceted person with various interests. Nurture them! Trust me, it’ll keep you sane.