Op-ed: The true cost of being a military spouse
Photo: Lance Cpl. Stephen Stewart/USMC
Being a military spouse is a job. A job that requires grace and standing on your head while sewing new rank onto your spouse's 15 sets of uniforms. It's a job that commands that you hold your head high while certain people question or scoff at the value of your position.
Let me tell you a story that you probably already know a little too well.
A young girl is told by her parents that she can do anything, that she can be anything she wants to be, as long as she sets her mind to it. She works hard in school and graduates at the top of her class. She sets her sights high and has high career aspirations.
In college, she meets the man of her dreams. This young man, too, has big dreams. His dreams involve serving his country and protecting their freedom. As college comes to an end, the young man receives orders to be stationed overseas and the young girl must make a choice – chase after the career that she has been working towards all these years or choose the man that has unexpectedly entered her life and has become her life. She chooses love. Five years later she takes a moment to reflect and decides that if she could go back in time, she would still make that same choice all over again. She would choose love. She would always choose love.
That does not mean that it has been an easy journey. Life as a military spouse has been a bumpy ride – a worthwhile ride, but a bumpy ride nonetheless. In the early days of being a military spouse overseas, I struggled with the transition from being independent to being a dependent. I no longer had an identity other than being a dependent. I had my husband's social security number memorized better than my own. I couldn't even pay my own cell phone bill without my husband present or a power of attorney.
I went through various stages of grief. At first I was angry. "Do you have any idea what I have given up so you can pursue your dreams?" Then I was sad. I would ask through tears, "What is my purpose?" After some time, I made it to acceptance. I understand that I am supporting the greater cause. Every choice that I have made until now has led me to this point. I am successful, but in a very different sort of way than I believed in growing up. Before, I thought success was measured in career status and income level. Now I understand that there are different kinds of success. I have a loving husband, a beautiful baby, and a home that we can call our own.
Every day military spouses everywhere are working hard, often in single-parent-type circumstances, to find a way to make our career goals fit into our unusual lifestyle. It's a cost that's difficult to comprehend before you experience it.
Giving up the dream job for a PCS.
Finding out your career field is nonexistent at a new duty station.
Not knowing how you are going to balance everything while he's away this time.
Even though I am in the acceptance phase of my journey, it doesn't mean that snarky remarks from others don't hurt. Someone very close to me said the other day, "Enjoy your day at home. I'm on my way to work because I don't have a husband that supports me." Others have made comments about how it must be nice to be a stay-at-home wife (and now mom). While they would never say it to my face, I have heard people comment about other military spouses being lazy or not doing anything with their lives. These comments are usually made from a combination of both humor and misunderstanding. It's time to stop making assumptions based on the surface-level appearance of each other's situations. Every military spouse has a story and we have all made sacrifices to live the life we are living.
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