Sunday, April 13, 2014

Military Spouses and Sacrifice

There is an anonymous article on Facebook (that was written for Military Spouse Magazine's online community) that discusses a woman's journey as a military spouse. She claims she is "that" military spouse. "That" military spouse means that she doesn't take an ounce of credit for her husband's career, and after 25 years she has never made a single sacrifice. She "doesn't understand" why spouses feel like they have served or sacrificed over the duration of a military career. After 25 years, in her opinion, she has done nothing more than if she had been married to anyone else with any other career.

When reading the article, it is important to see where this woman is coming from. She makes it clear very early in the article that she has always wanted a "traditional" family role. A role where she is the mother and homemaker and her husband is the breadwinner and provider. There is nothing wrong with that and she is absolutely entitled to be satisfied and fulfilled as a person. I'm happy she's happy.

Where she loses me is the tirade about her husband's career is his. She does not take credit for his accomplishments. Read: she doesn't wear rank, she doesn't feel like spouses make an ounce of difference in promotions, she just supports from the perimeter. The trouble? With that statement she essentially made the sweeping generalization that spouses who do feel like they have made sacrifices for their spouse's careers are essentially taking credit away from their military member.

Making a sacrifice and taking credit are not, by any stretch of the imagination, the same thing.

Military spouses make sacrifices. I have sacrificed two wonderful jobs in order to follow my husband's career path. I have done it gracefully, and it has never created drama, but I have definitely been extremely sad both days where I had to turn in my resignation paperwork. Most military spouses sacrifice over 50% of their lifetime career income in order to make the transient life work. She might not feel that sacrifice because her goals are much different than mine, but make not doubt about it, the research shows that the majority of military spouses either want or need to work.

My career sacrifice in no way, shape, or form means that I am taking credit when my husband is promoted. It doesn't mean I am bitter. And it absolutely doesn't mean that I don't appreciate the wonderful things, friends, places, and opportunities that this life provides.

The reason I feel like the distinction between sacrifice and credit is so important is that military family life is unique. It requires unique support systems that must be advocated for in order to receive. Blue Star Families does a survey every year to take the pulse of the military community, to see how families are doing and what needs to be done to sustain the system as a whole. Those results are used to lobby Congress and other organization for programming, funds, mental health care, and more. If I were "that" spouse, one that feels that because *I* am peachy keen and never felt an ounce of sacrifice that I couldn't possibly "understand" why another spouse would, how on earth would we be able to advocate for one another?

It is possible to feel one way while being empathic and understanding of a differing viewpoint. If she is happy as an at-home mother, and happy with moving and being "along for the ride", she should at least be able to extend an olive branch to a woman who sacrificed a important promotion or a special home or a close family unit in order to participate in this lifestyle. And have the open mindedness to realize that sacrifices and credit are completely different beasts.

I am proud to say that I have made sacrifices for my husband. I do so because I love him. I do so because I know how important serving his country is. It is a choice I make with purpose and without anger. Does it mean that I don't feel the pang of jealousy when I see a friend who I went to graduate school with get promoted or see a friend buy their dream "forever home"? Absolutely not. I am human and have absolutely felt jealousy before. But that sacrifice is worth it.


Fe Adamsonn said...

Being part of a military family is not really easy. Sacrifices are to be made even our jobs but this is not a hindrance or a burden. There are many ways to make amends on this issue because of MyCAA education program career and being a military spouse at the same time is possible.

Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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