Dear “Just a” Military Wife,
My phone dinged the other day and I found myself habitually reaching for it, swiping the screen, and reading your email. You asked me how to feel part of the military community, how to get support– after all you were just a National Guard wife.
It’s a refrain I’ve heard often in the short years I’ve been a military wife.
“I’m just an enlisted spouse.”
“I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”
“I’m just a…”
And sometimes it sounds different.
“I don’t feel like a real military spouse– we haven’t gone through a deployment.”
“I’m not strong enough. I’m not brave enough. I’m not…”
But what it really means is: I don’t think I’m good enough.
The military life experience is so varied and wide that it’s impossible to put in into a box. Well, except for one very specific box:
Are you married to someone who serves in the military?
If you answered yes, then you’re a military spouse.
It seems like there are so many different measuring sticks used by different people. But the biggest measuring stick is the one we construct and use ourselves. We keep adding inches to the ruler: A military spouse has to be strong all the time. A military spouse needs to be able to do everything on his or her own. A military spouse never complains. A military spouse… A military spouse… A military spouse…
And we never, ever measure up. Ever.
I’m as guilty of it as anyone else. Especially at the beginning of my military spousehood (is that a thing? It is now!), I felt worthless, clueless, and completely out of touch with other people experiencing what I was. I could list all of the things I hadn’t experienced and didn’t know about military life. I could look at all of the things people said on the internet that I should do or should think or should know. I forgot all of the things I had done… all the things I had to offer, military community or not.
I forgot that I wasn’t just a military spouse.
I was a military spouse.
I was also a teacher. A sister. A wife. A daughter and granddaughter. A friend. A dreamer. A reader. A writer. A lover of chocolate cookies (baked or unbaked, whatever)…
A lot of other things. But all of those things made me, me.
I wasn’t just a anything.
And neither are you. Your sacrifices may look different than mine. Your life experience may look different than mine. Your spouse’s service may look different than my spouse’s.
But that’s okay. Difference doesn’t diminish your place in this community. It doesn’t diminish mine either.
I know you feel alone. You feel less than. You feel out of touch with the military community. Maybe you’re far away from a base. Maybe you’re worried about not fitting in. I felt that way 100-million percent. Seriously. The first few months of being a military spouse I was the loneliest I had ever been in my life.
But by chance, I attended a military spouse event.
It changed my life.
That’s not a joke. It’s not hyperbole. I met friends who have been integral in my growth as a person and professional. I saw that I wasn’t so different from the rest of the military community. I witnessed the strength of capable women and men who took the punches life gave them (and a few of them were direct hits on the chin from the military) and thrived.
They weren’t different from me. They were like me.
They weren’t just military spouses either.
And the truth is, there’s not a single military spouse who is just only that. Or just one thing, no matter what it is.
You’re not just a anything either.
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